History as Alchemy

Newspaper columnists and the like usually run a “the people we lost” piece this time of year, a collection of all the notable lives that were sadly extinguished at some point during the previous twelve months. The end of the year makes us ruminate a bit upon life and death, and assembling brief obituaries is fairly easy work. We have done it occasionally here at the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas. However, looking back across the space of this past year, it seems just a bit perverse to single out the “notable people” we’ve lost while so many people continue to die from the COVID-19 pandemic. Too, earlier this month, a couple of tornadoes plowed into the northeastern Arkansas towns of Trumann, Monette, and Leachville—all part of …

Learn More

A Strange and Historic Time: Chronicling the COVID-19 Pandemic in Arkansas

We are near the end of another year affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re taking stock of the work we’ve done at both the CALS Roberts Library and the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas to document this crisis for future generations. Just as we have the chance to learn from soldiers’ and others’ wartime experiences due to the work of the journalists and photographers who captured that history in real time and the archivists and historians who preserved it, we want to offer that same chance to future students of history. To paraphrase the popular musical Hamilton, “history has its eyes on us” during this unprecedented time. As one of a number of recent community history projects, the Roberts Library/Butler …

Learn More

Striving for the Elusive Complete Set

A complete set is a wonderful thing. When I was much younger and collected comic books, I always had to fill out whatever series I was collecting. The first comic book I ever bought was G.I. Joe no. 39, and it took me years to acquire all the previous issues, especially the rare no. 2. I kept reading that series longer than I should have because I hated the idea of not having a full collection. Crossovers could be especially dangerous for my pocketbook. I was collecting Checkmate! when it crossed over with Suicide Squad and a few other series as part of the larger “Janus Directive” storyline, and if I wanted the complete crossover, I would have to buy …

Learn More

History and the Abyss: What We Know about What Happened

Most people seem to believe that history is, broadly speaking, “the study of what happened.” But this is wrong. More than anything else, history is the critical interpretation of surviving sources of information detailing what happened in the past. Some of those sources are literary: newspapers, official documents, engravings, memoirs, court records, and more. Some of those sources are the memories of people, gathered by oral historians, folklorists, and journalists. Some of those sources are more forensic, the bodies of people unearthed to reveal the nature of a crime, the details of one’s diet, and more. And some of those sources are simply part of our environment, the architecture that surrounds us and still tells us those stories of the past, or …

Learn More

Star Trek Day with the EOA

Happy Star Trek Day! Arkansas has lots of connections with Star Trek, whose original television series premiered on this day in 1966. The original series starred George Takei, who was interned at the Rohwer Relocation Center during World War II and has also made several return visits to Arkansas to promote the preservation of history relating to Japanese American incarceration. Ena Hartman of Jefferson County, a groundbreaking Black television actress of the 1960s and ’70s, made a brief appearance in the original series episode “The Corbomite Maneuver,” while stuntman Hal Needham, who grew up all around the state and later went on to direct Smokey and the Bandit, did stunts for the original series. Fort Smith native Laurence Luckinbill starred as Spock’s half-brother Sybok in Star Trek …

Learn More

The EOA at 15: The 15 Most Popular Entries of the Past 15 Months

The past fifteen months have been a tumultuous time, and Arkansans—as they’ve been doing for fifteen years now, since our launch in May 2006—have looked to the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas to provide information and context as they navigated political news, social justice protests, and an unprecedented global pandemic. The following entries were the fifteen entries viewed the most from March 2020 to May 2021. Click on the title of each for the link to the full EOA entry. Sundown Towns Elaine Massacre of 1919 Negro Boys Industrial School Fire of 1959 One Drop Rule Little Rock Nine Titan II Missile Explosion (1980) Trees Slavery Native Americans Ozark Mountains Civil War through Reconstruction, 1861 through 1874 Albert Pike European Exploration …

Learn More

The EOA at 15: CALS Staffers Pick Their Favorite EOA Entries

To help celebrate 15 years of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas—the only state encyclopedia produced and supported by a public library—we asked 15 staff members from around the Central Arkansas Library System to pick their favorite EOA entries. They picked some good ones! Like everyone else, these CALS staffers use it for research, for work, and for fun. Ellen Bard, CALS Readers’ Advisory Coordinator, says: “My personal favorite is ‘Cactus’ Vick. I like being able to gaze back at something I remember fondly from childhood. In the cold light of day I realize that he was just a corporate shill, but back then he was wondrous.  I mean, Vick was an influencer way before it was cool.” Mark Christ, CALS …

Learn More

The EOA at 15: EOA Staff Picks for 15 Must-See Photos

For 15 years since its launch in May 2006, the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas has amassed more than 11,000 pieces of media to accompany its more than 6,000 entries: photos, documents, maps, audio clips, and more. In no particular order, here are 15 EOA staff favorites (with links to accompanying entries in the titles). Jimmy Driftwood and Friends Henry Thruston, Tallest Confederate Soldier Little Rock Nine Member Elizabeth Eckford, Past and Present (we’re counting these companion photos as making up one media experience) Zerbe Air Sedan The “Petticoat Government” of Yellville The Williford Flood of 1962 Slime Mold Popeye Statue in Alma, “Spinach Capital of the World” Destruction of Bootleg Liquor in Russellville during Prohibition Titan II Missile Silo Construction …

Learn More


Support the Encyclopedia of Arkansas with a one-time donation or a recurring monthly gift.