Thursday, May 15, 2008

Arkansas Studies Institute

If you have been in the downtown Little Rock area recently, you probably noticed the construction going on near the Main Library. Maybe you said "What in the world are they doing there?" or you saw the sign and thought "What exactly is an Arkansas Studies Institute?" (Or maybe you were just angry because part of the street was closed and it ruined your entire day. Yeah, we are sorry about that.) Well, don't worry. We are here to answer your questions.

The Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) is a joint project of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR).

The Institute will be housed in three buildings located in the River Market District and adjacent to the CALS Main Library. The Institute will be the state’s most comprehensive free-standing facility dedicated to the study of Arkansas. Here students, scholars, and tourists can gather to learn more about the people, places, and events that shaped the past and guide the future of Arkansas.

Drawing of the Completed ASI.

CALS has long been involved in revitalizing the River Market District. The development of the ASI complex will continue that tradition through the renovation of two historic buildings on President Clinton Avenue. A new archival storage building is being constructed on the site. The ASI will house several organizations including the Butler Center of Arkansas Studies, staff from UALR’s Archives and Special Collections department, UALR’s Urban Studies Institute, and the Arkansas Humanities Council. In addition, the Clinton School of Public Service, which offers the nation’s first master’s degree in public service, will have classrooms, faculty offices, and a student commons area in the ASI.

Research materials in the ASI will include the papers of six Arkansas governors, including those of Bill Clinton, which are currently in the custody of CALS, and those of Carl Bailey, Winthrop Rockefeller, Dale Bumpers, Frank White, and Jim Guy Tucker, which UALR maintains. Vast amounts of other Arkansas-related material from the Butler Center and from UALR’s holdings will be publicly available in the ASI. Also in the building will be a museum and historical gallery, four art galleries, and numerous public meeting spaces.

The ASI represents a major initiative to interpret and experience Arkansas’s past, present, and future. The Institute will unite major collections of invaluable documents, photographs, lesson plans, and art from the Butler Center and from UALR. Not only will future historians benefit from this gathering but many other people from Arkansas and from other places as well will get to share the beauty and history these two restored buildings and a spectacular new one offer in the heart of downtown Little Rock.

Contributed by Kathryn Heller, Programming and Outreach Coordinator (with the input of David Stricklin, Head of the Butler Center).
Click here for a virtual tour of the ASI.


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