UA Little Rock students capture history of Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau

Dr. Deborah Baldwin

University of Arkansas at Little Rock public history students are working to preserve the history of Little Rock one organization at a time.

Since 1984, students in Deborah Baldwin’s class have annually created a history of a local Little Rock organization, business, or nonprofit. They have completed histories on the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), Arkansas Times, Little Rock Zoo, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Junior League of Little Rock, Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas Arts Center, and many more.

The students recently completed a history of the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, just in time to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

The project was headed by public history students Alex Soulard and Nancy Tell-Hall. Additional members of the class include Kathryn Bryles, Jessica Chavez, Kary Goetz, Andrew McClain, Devin Sorrows, and Kathryn Thompson.

“It was an interesting experience to be a project manager,” Soulard said. “My biggest takeaway from the project was the real-life, hand-on experience we received by working on a team with a real client. As historians, we largely work individually. We hardly get to work with a group of people. When you are completing a 50-year history project in four months with nine other people, you learn really good project management skills.”

The comprehensive history of the two organizations, “Fifty Years of Southern Hospitality,” resulted in a 200-page report that included 17 oral history interviews as well as extensive research into the financial, tourism, and operational impact of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I want to thank the students and UA Little Rock for preserving the history of the organization,” said Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I think they did an excellent job documenting our history and compiling it.”

The visitor’s bureau plans to use sections of the report to promote its 50th anniversary and to educate employees and visitors about the importance of the organization.

“This year is our 50th anniversary. The report communicates the value of our organization for the past 50 years,” Hall said. “We can use it as a springboard for the conversation of where our organization will go in the next 50 years.”

The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau serves as the official marketing organization for the City of Little Rock and is tasked with marketing the city as a meeting, sports, and leisure travel destination. Funding through the city’s hotel, motel, and restaurant tax, the bureau manages the Statehouse Convention Center, Robinson Center, River Market, and multiple parking facilities.

The Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission serves as the governing body for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. The seven-member volunteer consists of two elected officials from the City of Little Rock, four owners within the Little Rock hospitality industry, and one at-large seat.

The organizations will continue to strive to improve the city’s economy and residents’ quality of life through the promotion of tourism in Little Rock. Upcoming projects include the renovation of the Arkansas Arts Center and the construction of several youth sports facilities.

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