Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Columbia High School and Tyrrell High School Yearbooks Now Available

Thanks to our partner, Tyrrell County Public Library, a batch of yearbooks from two Tyrrell County high schools are now available on our website. This batch includes yearbooks from Columbia High School and African American high school, Tyrrell High School, spanning from 1941 to 1962. 

Columbia High School

Tyrrell High School 

Freshman title page

Columbia High School’s 1954 yearbook freshmen title page with an image that shows a student walking the plank with the tempestuous seas of high school below.

For more information about the Tyrrell County Pubic Library, please visit their website.

For more yearbooks from across North Carolina, visit our yearbook collection.


Over 200 films from Appalachian State University now on DigitalNC

Three adults playing instruments on a stage

Appalachian Mountain Girls and the Kruger Brothers at Mountain Music Jamboree

Thanks to our partner Appalachian State University and our friends at the Southern Folklife Collection, 243 films documenting music and religious traditions in the Appalachian mountains and surrounding region are now on DigitalNC.  The digitization of the materials for preservation and online access was funded through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The films come from two collections at Appalachian: William R. and John W. Turner Concert and Dance Videos and the C. Howard Dorgan Papers.  The Turner collection consists of films and audio recordings taken at bluegrass and old time music festivals, fish park gigs, and concerts in primarily the North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia mountains.  The Dorgan collection contains films and audio taken at churches, mostly of Baptist affiliation, in Appalachia.  Sermons, singing, and revivals are all documented in the films.  

Thanks to the hard work of the staff of the Southern Folklife Collection these films are now much more accessible for both our partner’s use and a wider internet audience.  

To learn more about our partner Appalachian State University, visit their Special Collections’ page here


New Batch of Catalogs and Bulletins from HBCUs Now Available

Thanks to our partner, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a new batch of catalogs and bulletins from Chowan University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Shaw University are now available on our website. This batch fills in previously missing issues from 1898 to 1970.  All 5 schools are historically black college and universities and this helps fill in gaps on DigitalNC from HBCUs in North Carolina.

Picture of College of Arts and Sciences graduates.

Picture of Biddle University, now Johnson C. Smith University, College of Arts and Sciences graduates.

For more information about the universities, please visit their websites below. 


Moving Forward With Equitable Metadata: Changing Exclusive Terminology

To continue the steps taken to promote equal representation throughout DigitalNC’s collections, as initially brought up in the recent blog post We Can Do Better: Making Our Metadata More Equitable, the NCDHC staff is becoming more committed to inclusivity through changing exclusive terminology. For this update, we’re specifically looking at the gendered and presumptive terms used in the title and description metadata categories of our visual collections. These changes, while perhaps small in effort, are a big step towards reimaging how we can be better stewards of history, especially to those individuals who are brought into our collections without an identity.

As alluded to, many of the images we digitize and upload to DigitalNC come with little to no background information. This means that we have to decide how to both title and describe the people or events depicted. Unfortunately, inherent bias always presents complications when it comes to description. Language holds enormous power and influences how we perceive an image, whether we realize it or not. While we have to use words to make images searchable, we, in doing so, use our own subjective viewpoint to give that image meaning.

For example, here is an image along with the accompanying title and description on DigitalNC:

Image of a screenshot of a tin type photo in paper a paper frame of an unidentified adult. The description included partially reads "Tin type portrait in paper frame of a man."

Old title and description of what is now “Unidentified Adult”.

As you may have noticed, the title and description state that this individual is a man. If you were writing this description, would you also assume that this person is a man?

Here is another image on DigitalNC:

If you were to add a description of the individuals in this photo to illustrate their age, how would you phrase it? Do you see four children or do you see three children and one adult? Does the title of the image influence your opinion?

Here’s one final image:

Screenshot of a black and white group portrait of a group of adults, mostly in military uniform. The old title that accompanies the image is "Group of Military and Civilian Men Posed with Woman on Steps" and the old description is "Black and white group portrait of a group of men, mostly in military uniform, one woman in front."

Old title and description of what is now “Group of Military Personnel and Civilians Posed on Steps”.

From the caption, it is assumed that the woman is not in military uniform and is separate from the group in some way. Would you agree with this assumption? Do you think she might have a role in this photograph that is misrepresented in this title or description?

As you can tell, describing an image that everyone would agree to is tricky when given little to no context.

On top of that, we also have to make sure that these words are purposeful; purposeful means that, in addition to thinking about how you would search our collections, we have to acknowledge how the individuals or events in an image want to represent themselves. We may never know how these unidentified people would describe themselves or what gender they identify with, but deciding to use inclusive terminology is the most respectful way of making sure we are not misinterpreting, and therefore misaligning, the people or events in our collections.

In an effort to diminish the subjective viewpoint, here are the new changes you will be seeing in the visual collections on DigitalNC:

  • If family relationships are given information about the individuals in the image, gendered terms are used.
  • When there is no information given about the individuals in the image, gender neutral terms are used.
  • We will strive not to make assumptions about the individuals in the photograph when there is no contextual verification.

For example, in this photo of the Westbrook Family, we are aware of the names and relationships of the family members, so we have the description arranged as:

Left to right: Geneva Elenor (Woodall) Westbrook (wife of Eldridge Troy Westbrook); Geneva Louise Westbrook (Cox) (daughter); Mary Elizabeth Westbrook (Flowers) (daughter); Annie Maude Westbrook (daughter); Ivan Earl Westbrook (son).

We can indicate the individuals as mother, daughter, and son because this information was given with the photo.

However, in this photo to the left, no identifying information was given with the photo, therefore the title and description remain gender neutral:

A color photograph of two adults standing side by side, holding beverages, in front of an indoor fireplace.

This photo also provokes the third point- assumptions without context. At first glance, an image like this could bring to mind a couple; that, because they are standing close together and could be presumed a man and woman, they are married. With no way to prove that beyond our own biases, we choose to only note what is actually occurring in this photo.

So, are we losing anything in this process? Hopefully not much, if anything. Images will still be searchable by major subjects- you can browse through all of them here. Plenty of images are also attributed to collections and exhibits, such as the Asheville YWCA Photograph Collection, to make research easier. And, of course, you can always use the advanced search to rifle through all our images.

Subjectivity can’t be ruled out completely and we will still be making choices that will affect the viewing of an image. This update is a work in progress and you will no doubt see some inconsistencies on DigitalNC, but we hope that this explanation gives some insight into our equitable metadata mission. And if you ever see a familiar face or have information on an image, don’t hesitate to comment (there’s a comment box at the bottom of every image on DigitalNC) or reach out!


New Batch of Swain County Yearbooks Available on DigitalNC

Thanks to our partner, the Marianna Black Library, more yearbooks from Swain County High School are now available on our website. This batch includes yearbooks from the years 1945-1958.

The cover of the 1957 issue of the Swain County High School yearbook.

For more information on the Marianna Black Library, please visit their website.


2006 Issues of The Charlotte Post Online Now

The Charlotte Post masthead from the week of September 28-October 4, 2006.

The Charlotte Post, September 28, 2006.

A small but meaningful addition of 33 issues of The Charlotte Post have been added to DigitalNC’s online collection, further expanding the digital access of this contemporary (and ongoing) newspaper. All 33 issues are from 2006, ranging from March 16 to November 2. Thanks to our longstanding partners at Johnson C. Smith University for allowing us to share these images.

Article on how Livingstone College senior Goldie Phillips started a cooking business to raise money for graduate school. Photo of Phillips in a chef uniform is also in the article.

Goldie Phillips started her own company, Island Flavors, to raise money for graduate school, April 20, 2006.

Known as “The Voice of the Black Community,” The Charlotte Post not only delivers relevant national and global news, but focuses on black topics in and around the Charlotte, N.C. area. Creating space to vocalize achievements from the community, such as printing an entire supplement showcasing the black high school graduates of Mecklenburg County, as well as navigating issues normally left untold by U.S. news outlets, such as mental illness in the black community and the racial income gap, The Charlotte Post fills in an inequality information gap for all to benefit from.

The 2006 issues of The Charlotte Post sectioned off the newspaper by topic, including Religion, Sports, Arts and Entertainment, Business, Real Estate, and Classifieds. Covering a variety of subjects, The Charlotte Post maintained consistent features in each section, such as “Sounds,” by Winfred Cross. In Arts and Entertainment, Cross reviewed new music releases, like India.Arie’s Testimony, Vol. 1.

For a look at all of the issues DigitalNC has online from The Charlotte Post, click here. To view all materials from Johnson C. Smith University, click here, and to visit their website, click here.

A section of front page articles, including a photo of Stan Law, community vice president at Dowd and Stratford-Richardson YMCAs.

Front page articles, April 20, 2006.


Biography of Charlotte Community Activist and Second Ward High School Yearbooks Now Online!

Thanks to our partner, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we now have a batch of yearbooks and a digitized book available on our website. The yearbooks span the years 1966-1968 and are from Second Ward Senior High School in Charlotte, N.C. The book is a photographic history of Charlotte native T.D. Elder, entitled T.D. Elder Living Images: Charlotte’s Triumphant Warrior for Black History.

Second Ward Senior High School was established in 1923 as the first public high school for black students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. Before this school was established, black students in the area had to move to other areas in order to get a high school education. In the early 1970s, the school was closed and the building was demolished. As was the case in most Southern cities, formerly all-black high schools were usually torn down or repurposed after school segregation legally ended. Black students were then bused to formerly all-white schools in order to achieve integration. However, the legacy of the school lives on as an important symbol in the history of the black community of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. For more information about Second Ward Senior High School, visit this online exhibit by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library.

The cover of the 1968 edition of the Second Ward High School yearbook.

Thereasea Clark Elder was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 2, 1927. For over eighty years, she served her community as a nurse and community activist. In her lifetime, Elder established both the Greenville Historical Society and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Heritage Committee. A number of Charlotte institutions have been named in her honor, including the Thereasea C. Elder Community Health Leadership Academy and the Thereasea Clark Elder Neighborhood Park. For more information about Thereasea Clark Elder and her groundbreaking life and work, there is a 2014 article from the Charlotte Observer dedicated to her story, which can be accessed here.

The cover of T.D. Elder Living Images: Charlotte’s Triumphant Warrior for Black History.

For more information about the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, please visit their website.


Pamlico Community College Catalogs Now Online!

Thanks to our new partner, Pamlico Community College, we now have a batch of course catalogs available on our website. The catalogs span the period of 1975-2008, in which the college went through three different names.

Pamlico Community College was founded in 1962 as a branch of the Lenoir County Industrial Education Center. In 1967 it was renamed Pamlico Technical Institute and moved from its location in Bayboro, N.C. to Alliance, N.C. In 1971 it received initial accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was renamed Pamlico Technical College. In 1976, the college moved to its current location in Grantsboro, N.C. In 1987, it became Pamlico Community College, as it is known today.

Cover of the Pamlico Community College General Catalog for 1995-1997.

For more information about Pamlico Community College, please visit their website.


1969 and 1970 Vaiden Whitley High School yearbooks now online

Thanks to our partner, the Wendell Historical Society, several yearbooks from high schools in Wendell, North Carolina are now available on our website. This batch includes the 1969 and 1970 issues of the Vaiden Whitley High School yearbook.

The cover of the 1969 issue of the Vaiden Whitley High School yearbook.

For more information about the Wendell Historical Society, please visit their website.


More yearbooks from Guilford and Wilkes counties now online

Thanks to our partner, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a batch of yearbooks from high schools in Guilford and Wilkes counties are now available on our website. This batch includes yearbooks from Ronda High School, Pleasant Garden High School, Millers Creek High School, McLeansville High School, Sumner High School, Alamance High School, Southeast High School, Walter Hines Page High School, and Summerfield Public School. The issues in this batch span the years 1948-1964.

The cover of the 1960 issue of the Alamance High School yearbook.

For more information about the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, please visit their website.