Preserving Arkansas River Flood History in the Moment

View of the Arkansas River during flood, taken from downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, photographed by Nader Afsordeh.
View of the Arkansas River during flood,
taken from downtown Little Rock, Arkansas,
photographed by Nader Afsordeh.

The Arkansas River flood of 2019 was being described as “historic” before a single levee was breached or structure flooded. Recognizing the impact the flooding would have on the region, CALS Roberts Library staff decided to try to find a way to preserve community documentation of the flood before the headlines stopped.

Before the water reached its crest in Little Rock, CALS posted a form on its website to solicit community photographs and videos documenting the event. Community members are able to go here to add up to ten pieces of media with information about where and when the photos or videos were captured. The library is still accepting submissions of
media from the flood.

The library has so far received over 500 pieces of media from more than 100 community members. Images and videos include everything from aerial footage, social media posts, and camera photos. With this project, the library was able to preserve media that may have otherwise been lost when Snapchat and Instagram stories disappeared, or camera rolls were
cleared.

This is the first community archiving project that the library has undertaken while an event was ongoing. Flooding is still impacting many areas of our state this summer. Archivists typically deal with history many years—if not decades—after the fact. It’s rare that an event is archived in the moment in this way.

A selection of submitted images and video has been uploaded to our digital collection and is available to view. Patrons are encouraged to view and contribute content if they haven’t done so already.

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