As families across the state prepare for the beginning of the new school year, taking advantage of back-to-school sales, perusing supply lists and meeting with teachers, the Arkansas State Archives is taking a moment to look back at the history of education in Arkansas by launching a brand-new digital collection, “Time for Class – Arkansas Schools Through the Years.”
The materials in this digital collection have been digitized by archivists at the Arkansas State Archives (ASA) main offices in Little Rock, the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA) in Powhatan, and at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives (SARA) in Washington, to bring awareness to the ongoing history of education in the state, from its early beginnings to its ever-progressing present. The history of education in Arkansas is a complicated one, and has long been fraught with changes, controversy, and legal concerns. Over the course of two centuries, the state has migrated from private, subscription courses and a sparse array of individual, one-room school houses teaching multiple grade levels at once, to a standardized and wide-spread network of school districts spanning the state. In an effort to provide their children with a solid education, communities and government bodies created educational standards and laws to protect the physical, mental, and moral safety of the schoolchildren in their care. These laws and standards have evolved as times have changed, and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
Examples from the new digital collection include late 19th and early 20th century class portraits, guidelines for teachers overseeing 1st through 7th grades in one-room school houses, the school director’s oath of office, court cases alleging misuse of tax funds intended for the local school, a 19th century women’s college curriculum, petitions for the creation of new school districts, and appeals against school district consolidation. This freely-available online digital collection, the twenty-first of such digital collections made available by the Arkansas State Archives, does not embody anywhere near the entirety of the archives’ holdings on the history of Arkansas’s public school education, but showcases examples of the great variety of education-related materials held by the archives and its branches. The “Time for Class – Arkansas Schools Through the Years” digital collection is only in its beginning stages at the moment of its launch, but will continue to grow as new historical documents and photographs are added. Check it out, as well as the numerous other Arkansas history digital collections offered by the Arkansas State Archives at: ahc.digital-ar.org .
The Arkansas State Archives is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and is responsible for collecting and maintaining the largest collection of historical materials on Arkansas in the world. The State Archives has two branch locations; the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives is located in Powhatan in Lawrence County, and the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives is located in Washington, Hempstead County.
Other agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage include the Arkansas Arts Council, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, and the Historic Arkansas Museum.