A branch of the Arkansas History Commission (State Archives), NEARA's mission is to collect, preserve, and make available, source materials pertaining to the history of northeast Arkansas and its people. The development and operation of NEARA occurred through a partnership between Arkansas State Parks and the Arkansas History Commission. Arkansas State Parks provided funding for the facility's design and construction, and will provide ongoing maintenance; the Arkansas History Commission will manage the facility's day-to-day operations.
The new structure (open Spring 2011), designed to blend with historic buildings in Powhatan, contains approximately 4,000 square feet overall, and includes a large, fire-proof vault, an archival processing room, and a public research room. The vault features Spacesaver movable records storage shelving, as well as state-of-the-art environmental control and fire suppression systems. The building also includes an office area, a vestibule, and restrooms. The restrooms serve visitors to nearby historic structures within the park. As a special component of the building, a time capsule is incorporated in the vestibule to preserve memorabilia for future generations.
NEARA offers a variety of research resources related to northeast Arkansas. Holdings include traditional archival material such as letters, diaries, maps, photographs, newspapers, and broadsides. Books, periodicals, and other print resources create a general Arkansas history reference library. The core of NEARA's initial holdings included approximately 500 cubic feet of Lawrence County government records, donated by the Lawrence County Historical Society. These county records are among Arkansas's earliest documentary resources. Records from numerous counties in the region are also available on microfilm. As the "Mother of Counties," Lawrence County was established in 1815, prior to the creation of Arkansas Territory (1819). The county encompassed most of north Arkansas, and was later subdivided into more than thirty modern counties in both Arkansas and Missouri.