How to Research

Hoeltzel girls from the Roslyn Hoffman Pritchett family pictures.
Hoeltzel girls from the Roslyn Hoffman Pritchett family pictures.

The Arkansas History Commission has a wealth of resources for researchers interested in the history of Arkansas, from territorial days to early statehood to the civil war to reconstruction to the twentieth century and into the present. Whether you are a family historian, author, scholarly researcher, businessman or producer of films, CD-ROMS, books, magazines or exhibits, the vast holdings of Arkansas' state archives can probably meet your research needs.

Before you dive into researching with the Arkansas History Commission, determine what sorts of materials you are looking for. Our website offers a good guide to the materials available at the AHC, and can help you be prepared when you come to visit us. If you find materials on our site that interest you and that you would like to see, please make a note of its title and call number, to help the archivists in our research room to retrieve it quickly for you. CARAT, our Catalog of Arkansas Resources and Archival Treasures, contains the databases that show what we have.  Each section of CARAT focuses on a different group of materials:


    • Manuscripts: Contains the search for our 4000+ manuscript collections of personal, business, and organizational papers, the search of our 200+ small manuscript collections, and our subject-based vertical file. The main manuscript collections are cataloged with full-text searchable finding aids.
    • Newspapers: Contains the search of our 3000+ titles of Arkansas newspapers, the earliest of which dates from 1819. You can search by full or partial title, or simply filter your search by city or county and leave the title field blank to see all the newspapers we have for a specific area. All of our newspapers are available on microfilm in our research room.
    • County Records: Contains the AHC's collection of marriage, probate, tax, and court records from each of Arkansas's 75 counties.  They are not indexed down to name level - our county records database corresponds to our microfilmed county records, and will show what sorts of records we have for which years, for each county.  For example, if you wanted to see from which years we have Pulaski County marriage records, type "marriage" into the text search, and choose Pulaski County. Make a note of the county and roll number, and you'll already know what microfilm to request when you visit our research room.
    • Military Records: Contains the searches of the military records within the AHC's collection. Each search is indexed down to name level and can tell you what military records we have for a specific person, but the records themselves are not digitized.
    • Books and Maps: Our online catalog contains the complete listing of the hundreds of thousands of books in our collections, as well as our maps, pamphlets, and digitized photographs.  Those photographs that have been digitized and to which the AHC owns the copyright privileges are available for purchase, though the other materials are only available for use in our research room.
    • Photographs:  Contains the searches for our 500,000+ photographs. The general photograph file is a keyword search of the largest section of our photograph collection - typing in a search term brings up all photographs with that term in its description.  The Shrader Negatives and Thomas Harding collections are searchable by name, business, and city, as both studios specialized in portraits.
    • Land Records: Contains the search for the AHC's collection of state land records. These records range in date from 1853 to 1956, and are searchable by first or last name. The information given from the search results (including box and file #) will help the archivists in our research room to retrieve the materials for you.
    • Biodex: Contains a general name-search over many of the AHC's materials, such as newspapers, vertical files, county records, and more, but is in many cases incomplete.  The Biodex is a work in progress and will be added to regularly.