UALR’s Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC) was the subject of an episode of C-SPAN’s series “BookTV/American History TV” which aired on Saturday and Sunday, March 31 and April 1.
Watch the full episode of Book TV in Little Rock, Arkansas here.
The program featured the collection of J.N. Heiskell, a former editor of the Arkansas Gazette. Heiskell began collecting documents related to Arkansas during the 1920s and continued to do so until his death at 100 years old in 1972.
“For much of that time, newspapers were virtually the only source of news and information,” said Deborah Baldwin, associate provost of the CAHC and dean of the UALR College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. “As such, he had a tremendous interest in and influence on state and civic affairs.”
Crews from C-Span visited literary and historic sites where local historians, authors, and civic leaders were interviewed. The history segments aired on American History TV (AHTV) on C-SPAN3 and the literary events/non-fiction author segments aired on BookTV on C-SPAN2.
His collection at CAHC includes 40 manuscript collections, 200 newspaper titles, 2,500 photographs, 250 maps, and 2,400 books, making it the largest private collection of books and manuscripts on Arkansas and the trans-Mississippi West ever donated to a university in the state.
He focused his collecting on books and maps pertaining to Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. In addition, Heiskell acquired material pertaining to French and Spanish dominion over these areas. He was also interested in books on slavery by authors during that era and true crime publications.
Some of the rare items in the collection include copies of The Davy Crockett Almanacs, published between 1835 to 1856. The magazine focused on the “fantastical” exploits of Crockett, including drawings of him fighting a bear and a giant serpent. His larger-than-life persona fascinated readers in the East.
During his tenure as the Gazette editor, Heiskell covered more than 70 years of local and national news.
Heiskell and the Gazette are probably most remembered for their editorial coverage of the 1957 Central High Crisis, which earned the newspaper two Pulitzer Prizes in 1958.
The CAHC ensures that the history of the state is accessible through the collection and maintenance of archival material, promotes an understanding of the past through scholarly exchange and public dialogue, and supports academic achievement through the education of undergraduate and graduate students.