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February 20, 2023

Lion Voices: UAFS Archivist Shelley Blanton

Shelley Blanton is an Archivist at the UAFS Boreham Library. She graduated from Northside High School, here in Fort Smith, then continued her studies at UAFS obtaining a Certificate of Proficiency in Workforce Leadership, Associates in General Studies, and a Bachelors in Organizational Leadership. She then earned a Master's Certificate in Archival Studies at East Tennessee State University.

Shelley began her professional journey at UAFS as a student worker in 2011. Her favorite thing about her current career is being able to learn something new every day! “History is the greatest of stories; it is a tale that spans the entire human experience, and one in which we all have a part to play,” she says.

She is most proud of the growth of the Pebley Center. During her first year, the center averaged about 40 patrons annually and was staffed by student workers for just 15-18 hours a week. “The passion of working with archival documents drove me to get my masters certification in order to properly care for them, which led to the campus creating an archivist position so that we could become a full-time repository to serve our campus and community,” she said. “We now serve an average of 600+ patrons a year and are open 40 hours a week. We serve students, faculty, staff, and public patrons.”

Something that Shelley believes people might not know is that she and the Pebley Center offer research help, tips on how to preserve family histories, and strategies for growing the archive. They also collect, preserve, and make available research materials for Sebastian, Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Scott, and Polk counties in Arkansas and Leflore and Sequoyah counties in Oklahoma. Shelley joked about her role as a history-keeper, saying, “I was once asked to describe what I did for a living in five words or less. I said, ‘I look for dead people’ to which someone replied, ‘You win.’”

Shelley is the proud mom of three, Timothy, Talia, and Tyson, and she is also a proud grandmother to her two grandchildren, Aiden and Jezreal. She loves holidays, because “who doesn’t like a reason to celebrate?” Shelley finds humor in everyday life, saying, “being able to laugh at oneself takes some of the sting out of life.”

The Pebley Center and Boreham Library are her favorite things to highlight when speaking about UAFS. Preserving the history of this region is truly her passion. “Researching the past and finding the answer to queries from my patrons makes me happy.”

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