One of the oldest existing state agencies, the ARKANSAS HISTORY COMMISSION was created by the General Assembly in 1905. Inspired and guided during its early years by John Hugh Reynolds, the Commission serves as the official state archives, responsible for collecting and preserving source materials related to the history of Arkansas.
Dallas T. Herndon, the first director, was employed in 1911 and served for forty-two years. During most of his tenure the offices and archives were located in the present State Capitol. In 1951, when the Old State House was restored, the History Commission moved into a part of the west wing of that building. Under Herndonís successor, Ted R. Worley, a three-story annex was added to the west wing. Dr. John L. Ferguson became director of the History Commission in 1960 and served forty-five years. Dr. Wendy Richter succeeded him in May of 2005.
Today, the agency preserves state and local history of Arkansas by collecting manuscript materials, census records, military records, family histories, and various county, state and federal records. The History Commission, which in 1971 became part of the Department of Parks and Tourism, moved into its present quarters in the One Capitol Mall Building in 1979. A branch facility, the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives located at Historic Washington State Park, was added in October of 2005.
As the Commission has grown, so has its patronage, serving over 10,000 researchers annually in recent years. The history of Arkansas can be uncovered through manuscripts, books, microfilm, newspapers, maps, and photographs. Unique materials are referenced in the biographical, place and subject files.
The History Commission is composed of seven members appointed by the Governor with approval of the State Senate. Members serve seven-year terms staggered so that one expires each January. Members may be appointed for additional terms.