Dr. Lisa Speer, an Arkansas native who has been director of special collections at Southeast Missouri State University, has been named the new state historian.
LITTLE ROCK — Dr. Ray Granade, chair of the Arkansas History Commission, and Richard Davies, Director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, announced today the hiring of Dr. Lisa K. Speer as the new State Historian and Director of the History Commission. Speer succeeds Dr. Wendy Richter, who resigned in December, 2012. The Arkansas History Commission is the official state archives, with research facilities in Little Rock, Powhatan, and Washington, Arkansas.
Born in Fayetteville, Dr. Speer grew up near Malvern, graduated from Glen Rose High School and then from Ouachita Baptist University in 1988 with a degree in History. She earned an MA and PhD in American History from the University of Mississippi, where she worked as Curator of the Mississippi Collection in the University’s Archives and Special Collections. She then earned an MA in Library and Information Studies with archival certification from the University of Alabama, where she worked as an archival technician. For just over a dozen years, Dr. Speer has directed the Special Collections and Archives at Southeast Missouri State University.
Speer has published a half-dozen articles in scholarly journals and in the archival, library, and historical realms, authored at least forty book reviews, and produced essays for a forthcoming Mississippi Encyclopedia. An experienced presenter to academic and scholarly audiences, Speer is equally skilled in communicating to local historical, preservationist, and genealogical societies. She is an active member of the Society of American Archivists, serving on its membership committee and is a reviewer for Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries and American Reference Books Annual.
“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to serve the people of Arkansas as State Historian and Director of the Arkansas History Commission and State Archives,” Speer remarked. She continued, “I appreciate the confidence that the Commissioners have placed in me. During my interview, I was so impressed by the Board of Commissioners, all of whom made time to attend the interviews. That they would choose me from what I have been told was a strong field of candidates is humbling, indeed. The Arkansas History Commission has so many wonderful initiatives underway, like the “Documenting Arkansas” digital project and the Arkansas Records catalog, begun by my esteemed predecessor Dr. Wendy Richter. I look forward to continuing these initiatives and working with the talented and dedicated staff of the Arkansas History Commission to further the outreach and expansion of the AHC in Arkansas and beyond! As a native Arkansan, I’m also personally very happy to be returning home after being away some years. There truly is no place like home. “
Commenting on the Speer’s choice by the Commission, Dr. Granade stated: “The Commission searched for a rare combination of historian and archivist to be State Historian and Arkansas History Commission Director. We needed someone with background in and connections with all three of the archives, library, and history worlds. Dr. Speer was not only the best qualified applicant from a professional standpoint, she also interacts well with a wide variety of the public. She is someone who obviously wants to serve the people of Arkansas and whose priority is to serve the best interests of all Arkansans.”
“Speer has the education, experience, and personality to lead not only the archives, but will be a capable and effective advocate for Arkansas history,” said Richard Davies, Director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Liz Robbins, Commissioner from Hot Springs and Executive Director of the Garland County Historical Society, stated that “…her talents as a scholar, archivist, and administrator will help the AHC serve the state, historians, and genealogists. The AHC is an outstanding organization and we are confident that her leadership will guide it to even greater achievements.”
Chosen unanimously by the seven-member Commission from a pool of 20 applicants, Speer will start work at the Commission on June 3. Jane Wilkerson will continue as Interim Director of the History Commission until Speer begins her duties.