A Blog Post by Michael Fondren
I’m originally from Foreman, Arkansas. I earned my B.A. History degree at Southern Arkansas University in 2015 and my M.A. Public History degree at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2018. After working as a Project Archivist at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, I came on as a Processing Archivist here at the SCDAH in October 2019.
What do you do as a Processing Archivist?
In general, I take physical records and arrange, house, and describe them for public research. I also take shifts at the reference desk to help patrons find the records they are looking for. I occasionally process electronic records as well.
Why did you want to be an archivist?
I originally wanted to go into teaching, but I was unsure whether I wanted to teach in a middle/high school setting. I talked with one of my professors at Southern Arkansas University who suggested a Public History program in Little Rock. While working on my M.A., I interned at the Arkansas State Archives for a processing and digitization project. I noticed that I really liked to research historical manuscripts and organize them the same way one pieces together a jigsaw puzzle. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to place my program focus on archival management and worked at a university archive as a graduate assistant.
Do you have a favorite collection or document and why is it your favorite?
I’ve been going through secondary sources to learn more about South Carolina’s history. I am currently studying the post-Reconstruction era of the late 1800s. My thesis discussed the local and state history of prohibition in Arkansas, so I was very interested to learn about the state dispensary and this government proclamation.
As a compromise between wet and dry voters, Governor Benjamin Tillman and the General Assembly passed a measure to run a state and county dispensary system in 1892. By 1894, Governor Tillman and the dispensary system were already having issues with private whiskey sellers, corrupt constables, and violence between the two. In April 1894, Governor Tillman produced this proclamation to have sole control of municipal police and marshals to handle the situations in several towns throughout South Carolina to keep the dispensaries running.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I really enjoy the idea of finding very interesting bits of information about a person, place, time, or organization and piecing together to see the mindset of the content’s creator(s). It’s fun to discover what items you can find in a set of records and to share that discovery with patrons’ research interests.
Who is your favorite historical figure or time period?
My favorite time period in history would be the Progressive Era of the early 1900s. It was an interesting time over a broad number of reforms like local prohibition, education improvements, women’s suffrage in local elections, agriculture schools and economic aid, and others that had various results throughout the states and arguably impacted a slow change to the political leanings of the American two-party system. I found the many possibilities and changes that happened in these local communities and states as fascinating to research and study.