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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Viewing entries posted in 2020


Oral histories and other audio-visual materials now online from Methodist University

42 audio recordings, including 35 oral histories, and 1 silent video showing Methodist University (then College) in the late 1970s or early 1980s are now online.  Thanks to our colleagues in the Southern Folklife Collection, these audiovisual materials were digitized utilizing funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

three adults sitting at a table

Video still from a silent video taken on Methodist University’s campus in the late 1970s or early 1980s

The oral histories including the batch are with various faculty and other staff who worked in the early days of Methodist University’s history.  There are also 9 other audio recordings that include building dedications as well as fun items such as promotions that ran on the radio for theater productions at the school and a feature called Methodist College Report.  

To learn more about our partner Methodist University, visit their site here.  To learn more about our partnership with the Southern Folklife Collection, read this post.  And to view and hear more audiovisual materials on DigitalNC, visit our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection.


Oral histories from Mount Airy and Surry County now online

21 new oral histories detailing the lives of those who lived in Mount Airy and Surry County are now online thanks to our partners Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and Surry Community College.  The digitization of the oral histories from Mount Airy Museum was done by our colleagues in the Southern Folklife Collection and the work was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

screenshot of a piece of yellow paper with the interview transcript

First page of the transcript from the Margaret Leonard, Evelyn Coalson, and Esther Dawson interview. The women are sisters and were interviewed in 1997.

The participants were primarily interviewed in the 1990s about their lives in the Mount Airy and Surry County region dating from around 1910 until 1970s.  The Spanish Flu pandemic, World War I, World War II, race relations, the Civil Rights movement, and the Great Depression are all topics covered in these oral histories, which feature men and women and Black and white people.  

While these oral histories were digitized last fall and winter, with the COVID-19 situation this spring, they provided a very useful option for enhancement while our staff worked from home.  We have been able to add transcripts for each of the oral histories that didn’t have them, as well as enhanced metadata, making them even more accessible than before for our users.

To learn more about our partners on this, visit their websites at Surry Community College and Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.  To learn more about our partnership with the Southern Folklife Collection, visit our post here.  And to view and listen to more oral histories on DigitalNC, visit our North Carolina Oral Histories exhibit.  


DigitalNC on the web: Black Wide-Awake

We love being sent or just stumbling upon, projects on the web that utilize materials digitized through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.  We thought since they have done such a great job highlighting us, it’d only be fair to turn around and highlight a few we’ve found recently.

Today’s featured website is “Black Wide-Awake” which highlights “documents of historical and genealogical interest to researchers of Wilson County, North Carolina’s African American past.”

The site, written by Lisa Henderson and with posts dating back to 2015, utilizes a wide variety of digitized historical resources to document everything from African-American schools in the Wilson area, wills, correspondence, and newspaper articles related to the enslaved people in Wilson County, to official records including marriage, birth, and death records from the black community.

Some of the DigitalNC resources that are featured on Black Wide-Awake include many of the photographs and other materials from the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum’s collection.

Shoe shine kit

Shoe shine kit from the Oliver Nestus Freeman collection, featured in this post on Black Wide Awake.

Wilson City Directories

black and white photograph of two adults picking cotton in a field

Photograph from the 1947-1948 Wilson City Directory, featured in this post on Black Wide Awake.

Yearbooks from Darden High School, made possible by our partner Wilson County Public Library

senior page from a yearbook

Senior page from the 1948 Charles H. Darden High School yearbook, the first yearbook from the school, featured in this post on the website.

Many newspaper article clippings from DigitalNC are also included.  A post discussing the white supremacist views held and pushed by editor of the Wilson Advance, Josephus Daniels, is a recent post that connects directly to the current commentary going on regarding Black Lives Matter and reassessing how we look at our history. 

blog text and newspaper clipping

Post on Black Wide Awake pointing out the racist statements the editor and publisher of the Wilson Advance, Josephus Daniels, made regularly in a call to take down any statue or other dedication marker to him in North Carolina.

The work done on this website is a fascinating look into how resources on DigitalNC can really help illuminate a North Carolina community’s past.  Thanks for using us Ms. Henderson!  We encourage anyone with an interest in genealogy and local history, particularly for the black community in North Carolina, to visit the site.  

If you have a particular project or know of one that has utilized materials from DigitalNC, we’d love to hear about it!  Contact us via email or in the comments below and we’ll check out.  To see past highlighted projects, visit past posts here


R. B. Paschal Diary Transcript Now Available

Thanks to our partner, Chatham County Public Library, a transcript of R.B. Paschal’s diary entries dating from 1860-1861 and 1863-1864 are now available on our website.

In 1854, R.B. Paschal was elected the Chatham County Sheriff and served six consecutive terms.  In addition to his career as sheriff, Paschal served in the House of Delegates in 1865 and North Carolina Senate in 1866. Entries are brief and focus mainly on the weather, daily activities mostly related to farming, and sometimes news of the war.  The diary as a whole gives a window into how the Civil War affected Chatham County directly, with accounts of local men who were arriving back from fighting or taken prisoner of war.  It also includes accounts of Paschal overseeing the trade of enslaved people in Chatham County, a reminder of the duties assigned to the position of sheriff.  Place names and people’s names, white and black, are included in the diary.   

A page of R.B. Paschal's diary entries from late August to early October.

A page from the R.B. Pashcal diary transcript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about the Chatham County Public Library, please visit their website

More information about the diary and R. B. Paschal can be found here.


Eastern Carolina News New to DigitaNC

DigitalNC is happy to announce that we are now home to 51 late 19th century issues of Eastern Carolina News. We would like to thank our partners at Trenton Public Library for contributing this new title to our digital newspaper collection.

This weekly newspaper was based out of Trenton, N.C., located on the eastern side of the state in Jones County. The tagline was “A Paper for all Classes of People Who Want the Latest News”. Front pages contained articles on current local and nationwide news, including the news-about-town section “A Week in Trenton”.

Eastern Carolina News also had interest pieces. An example is “Two of the Queerest Craft Ever Constructed,” an article on the Argonaut submarine and, a “craft electricity has made possible,” the roller boat.

Also of note are the reserved spaces for messages from groups supporting the temperance movement, titled either “Temperance Corner” or “Temperance Topics”. Prohibition was ramping up for a nationwide debate in the late 19th century, eventually culminating in the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1918.

For a complete look at the new issues from Eastern Carolina News, you can browse all the front pages by clicking here. And for more information on Trenton Public Library, you can visit their home page here.


New Photos Added from Johnson C. Smith University

Five new large format photographs have been added to DigitalNC’s image collection thanks to our partners at Johnson C. Smith University. A historically black university, Johnson C. Smith University has been a fixture in Charlotte, North Carolina since 1867.

As these new photos are all from the early 1900s, you may notice an institution name change between the image titles. First established as Biddle Memorial Institute, Johnson C. Smith University was known as Biddle University between 1876 and 1923 before arriving at its current name.

Several of these images capture traditional university moments, such as graduation, class photos, and reunions.

Of note is a panoramic photo taken during a 1929 rivalry baseball game. This candid shot of the crowd avidly watching an Easter Monday match between Johnson C. Smith University and Livingstone College depicts just how well attended baseball games were at the time.

As would have been well known in the early 1900s, white baseball teams barred black players from joining their leagues, effectively segregating the sport. Black communities thus formed their own professional baseball leagues, culminating in a national organization known as the Negro National League, organized by Andrew (Rube) Foster in 1920. Baseball continued to be a popular and lucrative enterprise for the black community throughout the mid-1900s, splitting into western and eastern circuits. The last of the leagues folded in 1962. While Johnson C. Smith University no longer has a baseball team, spectators can still enjoy following the women’s softball team, the Golden Bulls.

To see the newest photos in their entirety, click here. To view all images from Johnson C. Smith University, click here. And to learn more about Johnson C. Smith University, you can visit their home page here.


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!