Did you ever meet someone who worked at an historic site or a museum and wonder what educational path they followed to get there? Those are questions I get all the time as someone who works in the field of public history. I am the university archivist in Riley-Hickingbotham Library, and I also coordinate the public history program within Ouachita’s history department.
During my years in grad school, I discovered archival work. At Mississippi, I worked work with the papers of some of the state’s literary giants, like Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner. Working with Faulkner’s papers led to my first faculty positon at Southeast Missouri State University’s archives in Cape Girardeau. Most people are surprised to discover that SEMO has one of the world’s four largest Faulkner collections. By training, I am an historian, a librarian and an archivist. After I graduated from Ouachita in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in history, I earned a master’s degree (1991) and a doctorate (1998) in history from the University of Mississippi and a master’s degree in library and information studies (2000) from The University of Alabama. When I started graduate school in 1988, I wanted to teach history at a college or university, like my Ouachita mentor, History Professor Lavell Cole. He was the most amazing lecturer ever. I still get chills thinking about his lecture on the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel!
On my first day of work at SEMO, I walked into the Center for Faulkner Studies, where I met a graduate student in the Department of English, Thomas Eaton. Thomas was a non-traditional student who had moved from his parents’ cattle ranch in southeast Wyoming to southeast Missouri to work on his master’s degree in rhetoric and composition. We shared an interest in Faulkner … and in one another. On Dec. 22, 2005, we tied the knot at Francois Missionary Baptist Church near Malvern, Ark.
In 2013, Thomas and I moved to Little Rock because I was selected to serve as the state historian and director of the Arkansas History Commission and State Archives. I was honored to serve the state of Arkansas for almost five years in that capacity. In February 2018, I joined the staff of Riley-Hickingbotham Library and am delighted to be home! Thomas divides his time between Arkansas and Wyoming, my second and much-beloved home these days.
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