Taking a New Stand on the EOA’s County Histories

I started reading Stephen King in junior high school, but I didn’t get around to his 1978 book The Stand before he released an expanded version, with more than 400 additional pages, in 1990. I imagine many an author has been tempted to go back and revisit an earlier work and really spruce it up or return to life all those passages a more market-oriented editor insisted be left behind, but only King had the cultural heft to make his desire a printed reality. The expanded version was the only one I ever read, so I have no idea whether his was a good idea, although it sold well enough, to be sure, and is the version fans generally consider canonical. Many …

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The Encyclopedia of Arkansas as a Tool of Social Coordination

I’ve been pondering matters of terminology quite a bit here lately—namely, the limits of our words to capture anything like reality. This stems, in large part, from my own research into racial violence. There are fantastic debates among historians, sociologists, political scientists, and more about whether the term race riot is a useful descriptor that should continue to be employed. After all, what observable factors demarcate a riot in general, and what makes something a race riot in particular? Does not the term “race riot” contain a fair amount of historical baggage, especially the revelation in current reporting that it was the victims of the violence who, in fact, were doing the supposed rioting? How does a term like race …

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Arkansas History’s Ecosystem—and Your Place in It

The history community is like an ecosystem, with its various parts drawing energy and nutrition from other areas and, in turn, contributing energy and nutrition to other parts in ways that might not be immediately perceptible. This is a reality that confronts me nearly every day. You see, the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas does not exist, could not exist, absent the presence of numerous other institutions, such as local historical societies, university and college archives, public libraries, the Arkansas Historical Association, and many more. If the EOA were an organism, we might be one of those creatures on the seafloor, waiting patiently for the remains of fish and whales to drift their way. But that’s not really the best analogy, …

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The Encyclopedia of Arkansas Launches Redesigned Website

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas (EOA), a project of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), has begun a new phase of its life with a website redesign that improves the user experience for students, researchers, and the general public. “Since it launched in 2006, the EOA has become the premier resource on everything related to Arkansas history and culture,” said Nate Coulter, executive director of CALS. “These new changes will cement the position of the EOA not only within the state but also the nation at large.” The redesigned EOA offers: An engaging and user-friendly EOA homepage with trending/featured entries, new entries, and overview sections. A vastly improved search engine, including a combined entry and media search, refinement within categories, and …

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The Invisible Work Behind the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Work can be like the proverbial iceberg—you don’t see most of its mass because it is hidden under an expanse of water. That is to say that any job, even one with a predominantly public side, entails a lot of labor hidden from view of those being served. A teacher spends time not only in the classroom in front of students but also alone at a desk writing quizzes or preparing lectures. A server not only brings you food and refills your drink but also helps to unload delivery trucks and restocks condiments and napkins and more. Even actors who appear before the camera spend most of their time rehearsing lines, training in accents or fighting skills, and often providing …

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The Encyclopedia of Arkansas: Creating a Fertile Field

If you have watched many movies from the famed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, you have probably seen, in the bleak Scandinavian landscape he often depicts, ancient stone walls lining rural farmsteads or yards. These may seem like nothing more than a background detail while his characters in the foreground undergo exquisite crises of faith or identity, but those walls are not just utilitarian constructs but, rather, the very embodiment of generations of labor to make a living. In many locations, the Swedish soil is simply rocky, and making the land suitable for the plough entailed removing those stones, one by one, over years, decades, and centuries. I came to identify with this labor upon moving to central Arkansas. See, I …

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The Encyclopedia of Arkansas’s Ever-Growing Media Collection: New Additions

Some of the most recent additions have come from Cabot’s Museum of American History and from the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. The Museum of American History, formerly known as The Museum/Cabot High, is the only student-founded and -operated museum of history in Arkansas. The award-winning museum, which is owned by the Cabot School District, was founded in 1985 on the campus of Cabot High School and was later moved to a building in downtown Cabot (Lonoke County). It is currently closed pending relocation to a new site. The museum holds a large number of historic Arkansas photographs, many of which were rescued from impending disposal. Founded under the guidance of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas’s staff historian Mike Polston …

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The EOA at 16: We’re Taking the Wheel!

“I am sixteen, going on seventeen…” sings the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas in its best Rodgers and Hammerstein Sound of Music teenager voice. Watch out on the roads—we’re old enough to DRIVE! Born (as in launched to the public as a work in progress—aren’t we all works in progress?) on May 2, 2006, the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas is a project of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is the only state encyclopedia in the country to be produced by a library system. The CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas strives to offer a definitive, comprehensive, and accurate record of America’s twenty-fifth state. The mission of this free online encyclopedia is to collect and disseminate information on all aspects of the state’s history …

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“Through a Glass Darkly”: Adapting to Evolving Language

Language changes. This fact is rather frustrating for us editors. And the irony is that, while online resources can most capably respond to changes in usage, they can also appear the most behind the curve. When many of the nation’s newspapers, for example, decided to capitalize the word “Black” in reference to African Americans, they could go forward doing exactly that and not worry about having to change material already published. However, if you produce an online resource with thousands of entries uploaded over more than a decade and a half, entries that you work hard to keep up to date, you have to work to revise all those previous works, because any entry could be someone’s first encounter with …

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A Vision: An Encyclopedia by All, for All

Do you have the right to write for the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas? I’ve had occasion recently to visit with some of the people who were on the ground floor of creating the Encyclopedia of Arkansas in the early 2000s (I did not join the staff until 2005). Amid general discussion about what they envisioned for the EOA, and how it all ended up, I learned about a debate that preceded my arrival—a debate about who should be allowed to write for the EOA. One of the first things founding editor Tom Dillard and others did to lay the groundwork was establish separate oversight and editorial boards in order to rope in a range of Arkansas history experts to help …

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Famous Couples of Arkansas

On this Valentine’s Day, we’re thinking about love in the Natural State, turning our focus to some Arkansas couples who have made an impact on the state, nation, and world. Click on the names in the title of each to read the full entry on the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Dale Evans and Roy Rogers Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash Elton and Betty White Dale Bumpers and Betty Bumpers Lucious Christopher (L. C.) Bates and Daisy Bates Thaddeus Caraway and Hattie Caraway

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The Winter of Our Content

Content. Those seven letters essentially make up one word with two somewhat different but related meanings (and different pronunciations). The first sense is the one evoked by a “table of contents,” for example, meaning something that is contained. In the second sense, the word can be used as either a verb or adjective, as with the sentences “Content yourself with what you have” or “I am content,” denoting a state of satisfaction. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Both senses of the word stem from the Latin continere, meaning “to hold together or enclose.” Contents constitute something held together, while to be content is to be enclosed in satisfaction. From this point on, I will distinguish the latter meaning by italicizing …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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