MSH 62: Works Progress Administration (WPA) Historical Records Survey

This collection consists of 266 feet of reports, memoranda, correspondence, and other material constituting the central office and field work files of the Arkansas Historical Records Survey.

The Historical Records Survey, a nation-wide project initiated in January, 1936 as a division of the Federal Writer's Project of the United States Work Projects Administration*, began functioning in Arkansas in March, 1936. Separated from the FWP in October of that year. it continued to operate for a period under the WPA's Division of Professional and Service Project, and was subsequently placed under its Division of Community Service Programs. When the HRS was suspended, early in 1942, its 156 cubic feet of accumulated and preserved files, containing 104 transfer cases, were deposited in the University of Arkansas Library.

The HRS undertook, from its beginning, two major tasks:

  1. to describe, organize, preserve, and make accessible to the public information on all historically significant records pertaining to county government
  2. to prepare inventories,guides, calendars, and other lists of, or keys to, historical materials of a non-governmental nature, including church, private, and institutional archives.

*Originally, WPA was the acronym for the United States Work Progress Administration, 1935-1939. In 1939, the program was renamed Work Projects Administration.

County Government Records

This task involved the descriptive inventorying of all the records of county government stored in county courthouses: identifying and describing each record or series of records by title, date, content, purpose, location, and relationship to other records. Physical condition and arrangement of the files were also addressed.

The Survey also undertook to prepare, as supplements to these descriptive inventories, an historical sketch of each county, recording the date of the county's organization; how it was named; the history of its first and subsequent county seats, and of its other counties and towns; the history of its early settlers, and of its churches.

It was intended that this information would ultimately be published in the HRS' Inventory of the County Archives of Arkansas. However, only 17 of the projected 75 were printed, those covering Baxter, Benton, Carroll, Cleburne, Cleveland, Cross, Faulkner, Hot Spring, Izard, Jackson, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Polk, Saline, Scott, and Searcy counties. These can be found in Special Collections call number 352.0767 H62i.

Church and Other Non-County Records

The HRS surveyed the records held by local churches, colleges, school and public libraries, newspaper offices, city halls, state government offices, and other institutional, commercial, or private repositories in Arkansas. HRS publications resulting from these surveys include:


The files are organized in the 17 Groups in which the files were received:

  1. County Archives Inventory
  2. State Archives and Vital Statistic Inventory
  3. Municipal Archives Inventory
  4. Legal Research
  5. Public Records
  6. Inventory of Arkansas Newspapers
  7. Inventory of Civilian Organizations
  8. Church Records
  9. Index to Naturalization Records
  10. Index of Arkansas Maps
  11. Survey of Manuscripts
  12. Survey of Space for the Emergency Deposit of Materials
  13. Art Objects to be Evacuated in Case of Air Raids
  14. Statistical Research
  15. Imprints Inventory
  16. Arkansas. General

Each of these groups, as well as the contents of boxes within each group, are further described in the printed finding aid in the Special Collections Department.