One of the best kept secrets for historians, researchers and students in the Fort Smith area is tucked away on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus.


The Pebley Center, housed in room 137 of the Boreham Library, contains collections of manuscripts, books, dissertations, journals and other historical documents from around the region, making it a valuable source for anyone wanting to research western Arkansas.


Shelley Blanton of Fort Smith, the center’s archivist, said the center contains a treasure trove of primary sources.


“An archive holds secrets to the past, often published and waiting to be uncovered by a researcher or research request,” she said. “Not everything is available or accessible on the Internet, which is why archives are still valid. They complement the library and the Internet.”


Billy Higgins of Fort Smith, associate professor of history at UAFS, said the Pebley Center’s archives are indispensable.


“It’s an important asset, not just to the University but to the whole community,” he said. “And the people of Fort Smith have realized this since we’ve already been blessed with some collections that reflect their confidence in the center.”


Holdings at the Pebley Center available for access include the Drennen-Scott Collection, the William Bradford papers, slave narratives, the Camp Chaffee Collection, historical photographs of Fort Smith and microfilm of local, state and regional newspapers.


Higgins said the cultivation of the collections is a major selling point of the center.


“The key here is that the collections are professionally gathered, catalogued and preserved,” he said. “And it takes a four-year university to do this because no high school or junior college can afford to hire an archivist.”


Blanton said the center is a perfect place for researchers looking for new topics to write about or fresh sources for a current project.


“Accessing collections is a creative way to research without following the path of least resistance,” she said. “Libraries and archives are extremely important for the preservation and improvement of our culture.”


The Pebley Center accepts donated items and collections, but Higgins said the center is selective on what they accept due to space constrictions. Those interested in contributing to the center can also make donations through the UAFS Foundation.


The center was created in 2003 following a donation by Olive, Kathleen and Rosa Belle Pebley to further education about Arkansas and its history. It is closely connected with the social studies department, but all University faculty and students, in addition to community members, are allowed to use it.


The Pebley Center is open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday but observes the same closings as the library. The center’s staff offers research assistance for special projects and classroom assignments and can help with research requests for historical information. Requests can be made by calling the center at 479-788-7213 or filling out a request form at the center.


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Date Posted: 
Friday, January 31, 2014
News Teaser: 
One of the best kept secrets for historians, researchers and students in the Fort Smith area is tucked away on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus.