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 by Lisa Gregory


Newspapers from Northampton County Now Online

Black and white image of an entire newspaper front page.

This front page of the January 2, 1919 Roanoke-Chowan Times includes a poem for World War I casualties.

One of our goals is to increase representation of counties and communities that are under-represented on DigitalNC. Most recently we’ve been focusing on around 10 counties; one of these is Northampton County. Today we’re happy to have added newspapers from that county, thanks to an inquiry from the Northampton County Museum.

We’ve added two titles, the Roanoke Patron (9 issues from 1883-1891) and the Roanoke-Chowan Times (1,237 issues from 1892-1926). The latter actually encompasses a few predecessor titles, including The Gleaner and The Patron and Gleaner. 

The Roanoke Patron was published in Potecasi, N. C. and it targeted farmers who were members of the North Carolina Grange organization. The issues we have available report on Grange events and exhort its readers to support the Grange’s leaders and causes.

The Roanoke-Chowan Times and its predecessors were published alternatively in Lasker and Rich Square N.C. This is a traditional community newspaper, with personal news from around the county, state news, and syndicated anecdotes and stories. The years we’ve added include the turn of the century and World War I.

Right now these are the only newspapers we have available from Northampton County but we hope to see more online in the future. You can search and browse all of our newspapers on our newspaper browse page


Photographs and Memorabilia from Smithfield High School Alumni Association Just Added to DigitalNC

Colorful football program cover with drawing of running football player

Program from the High School Football State Finals, Appalachian vs. Smithfield, December 1959

The Smithfield High School Alumni Association, a new partner, recently brought over a large collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and school ephemera for digitization here at the Digital Heritage Center. Sports as well as musical and theatrical performances feature prominently in this batch. There are formal portraits alongside candid snapshots taken of students over the years. Much of the content dates from the 1940s – 1960s before the high schools in Johnston County were consolidated and integrated.

Scrapbook page with three black and white photos each containing groups of students posing for the camera

One of the many pages of snapshots of Smithfield High School students.

A history of Smithfield published in 1977 by the Smithfield Herald for the town’s bicentennial was also scanned as part of this batch.  It provides a detailed history of the town, as well as great historic photographs of the town.  

You can view all of the materials we’ve digitized for the Smithfield High School Alumni Association on their contributor page. If you’re an SHS fan or alum, you may also be interested in the SHS yearbooks that the Johnston County Heritage Center has shared through our site.


We Can Do Better: Making Our Metadata More Equitable

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a pilot project that looks at how NCDHC staff have portrayed women through metadata (the information that accompanies the images on DigitalNC) over time. This is a small step towards finding unconscious bias in our work and making our metadata more equitable. I’ve accumulated some interesting examples, and I thought I’d share them here.

Anyone who’s ever tried to trace a matrilineal line knows the frustration of women being referred to only in the context of marriage. This was the convention in historic American culture – you’ll see it in newspapers, books, correspondence – and special collections are no exception. It was pretty easy for me to start looking at bias in our metadata with a simple search on Mrs., which netted me over 2,000 results.

Screenshot of the top 3 search results on DigitalNC.org when searching "Mrs."

If you browse that search yourself, you’ll see how many records don’t include the woman’s first name. The information that’s been written on or passed down with a photograph often inherited that cultural bias towards a woman’s married state. When NCDHC staff set out to describe a photograph, if all we have is “Mrs. Lewis Dellinger” then that’s what gets transferred to our metadata. Even if we had time to do research to try to locate Mrs. Lewis Dellinger’s given name, in most cases we couldn’t be positive it was the correct identification. So there are a lot of records that can’t be improved given the reliable information we have on hand.

Still, after browsing through DigitalNC, I started seeing places where a simple and quick change could make a difference. Here’s one example:

Black and White Image of white woman smiling and facing the camera

A screenshot of how this record looked initially, with the photograph entitled “Governor Scott’s Wife.”

Unlike many individuals in our collection, I knew this woman’s name and identity would be easy to confirm. Jessie Rae Osborne Scott was a graduate of what is now UNC-Greensboro. She taught high school, helped run a farm, raised five children, and was active in a number of charities and social causes. Other verified photographs of her are available online because she also happened to marry a governor. That fact is notable, but I’ve amended the record so that her own name is foremost while retaining the information originally included with the photograph in the description. 

When I first searched our website for the word “wife” I received 221 results; “husband” yielded 54. Because of ingrained bias, even if a woman’s name is available in the metadata her relationship to the man or men in the picture is privileged instead. Conversely, unless the woman was particularly well known or the overt focus of a photograph, husbands aren’t named as such. Here’s an example: 

Black and white family portrait with the man seated and holding a young child, and a woman standing to his left.

This photograph is entitled “Eppie N. Clifton, wife Melissa Honeycutt, and daughter Mettie.”

Note that the man is mentioned first, and the woman and child are described in relation to him. Here’s how I amended the photo’s metadata:

Black and white family portrait with the man seated and holding a young child, and a woman standing to his left.

This photograph is entitled “Mettie, Eppie N. Clifton, and Melissa Honeycutt.” The Description reads “L-R Mettie (daughter), Eppie N. Clifton (husband), and Melissa Honeycutt (wife).”

In the updated version I’m just going left to right and taking each person in turn, communicating what was written on or with the photograph. Their family relationship is still given, so that information isn’t lost, but it’s recorded in a way that’s more equal across the group.

Here’s another example I found interesting:

Black and white photo of five family members standing in front of a house.

This photo is entitled “Eldridge Troy Westbrook family and home, Bentonville Township, N.C.”

Note that the house is named after the male head of household and his name is noted in the title, but he isn’t in the photo. (The original description we were given even mentions that “ETW was living at time of photo; he doesn’t just happen to be in photo.”) I don’t want to remove the entire name of the house – it might have been identified that way among those who lived in the area – but I can easily improve the equity shown to the individuals who are actually shown in the photo without losing any important information. See what you think. All I did was keep the surname, and move the male’s name down to the description. I also put the familial relationships in parentheses instead of having them precede each name. I think this might subtly shift how people see this photograph and those pictured within. To me they seem less like they’re just hanging around waiting for ETW to arrive.

To sum it up, here are the types of changes we will regularly make to help improve the equity of our metadata:

  • We’ll note the full known identity of all of the photograph’s subjects in the title, moving from left to right, as in the example above.
  • When a couple’s only known information is a surname, we’ll record the honorifics for individuals from left to right. (In other words, we won’t default to always placing Mr. first.) Example: Mrs. and Mr. Detweiler
  • If a familial relationship is recorded about those in the photograph, we’ll note that in parentheses within the description. We’ll give equal consideration to noting relationships of all genders. 

Why is this work worth doing? How we name things influences power. It changes who gets noticed in a crowd. It shifts who gets resources when they’re scarce. Every individual has a right to their own identity; we don’t believe that the fact that a woman who lived in a time when she was considered secondary because of her gender should endure the same condition today. Why should we sustain a bias that’s been proven to do harm to society as a whole?

I’m sure I’m not doing a perfect job. I’ll miss my own biases as I make corrections. But with just a few small changes researchers will be able to find people they might not have found in the past. Even more, people viewing these photographs won’t have social conventions keeping them from really seeing all of the individuals in the pictures.


12 Days of NCDHC: Day 12 – A Big Newspaper Announcement!

Today is the last day in our holiday series: The 12 Days of NCDHC. Each day we’ve posted short entries that reveal something you may not know about us. You can view all of the posts together by clicking on the 12daysofncdhc tag. And, as always, chat with us if you have questions or want to work with us on something new. Happy Holidays!

Day 12: Your Organization Can Fund Additional Microfilmed Newspaper Digitization

Sepia colored newspaper ad with boy holding folded newspaper, caption Big News!Today we are sharing an exciting newspaper announcement! Each year we offer a limited amount of microfilmed newspaper digitization funded by the State Library of North Carolina through IMLS’ LSTA program. In the fall we issue a call for title nominations, and we receive many. Because we serve the entire state, we geographically spread around our efforts. This means that we are rarely able to do an entire run of a community newspaper, which can be frustrating for researchers and our partners. 

Last June our Advisory Board approved a pilot project where NCDHC partner institutions can pay for additional microfilmed newspaper digitization. We’ve done this with two partners successfully so we are opening up this pilot project more broadly. Here are some details:

  • To participate your organization must be eligible to become an NCDHC partner.
  • This project only includes North Carolina newspapers on microfilm. That can either be microfilm your institution is able to lend and/or microfilm available in the collection here at UNC Chapel Hill (you can search the catalog for holdings). If it’s something you’re lending, just know that it may be off site for as much as 6 months.
  • We don’t have a limit on how much we can do and there’s no nomination to submit. If the request is large, we may have to complete it in batches.
  • If we haven’t worked on the newspaper before we’ll have to have permission from the current rights holders or you’ll need to complete a copyright review. We can talk further about this; just contact us.
  • During this pilot we are asking you to pay exactly the same amount the vendor charges us. Your organization would not need to pay for the ongoing hosting on DigitalNC.org or our staff time and effort, all of which is jointly covered by UNC Chapel Hill and the State Library. 
  • The cost is currently $0.25 per page, which covers the necessary images and markup. The only other cost is for shipping the film to and from the vendor. We usually estimate between 800-1200 pages on a microfilm reel, though that can vary widely. 

A note about cost – we know that there are companies or individuals scanning microfilm that charge less. Our cost includes a specific type of markup in order to make the newspapers full-text searchable on our website.  If you do decide to go with a cheaper option elsewhere, still consider giving us a call. We can share some questions to ask the vendor to make sure you get your money’s worth and end up with a usable product.

We’re really happy to help accommodate additional demand. We aren’t discontinuing our other newspaper digitization efforts – we plan to continue issuing the call for nominations each fall, and we will continue to scan print student newspapers and very limited runs of community papers. But if seeing your community’s newspapers online is a priority and you’re interested in pursuing this funded option, get in touch!


11 Days of NCDHC: Day 11 – We’re Consultants

This holiday season join us here on the blog for the 12 Days of NCDHC. We’ll be posting short entries that reveal something you may not know about us. You can view all of the posts together by clicking on the 12daysofncdhc tag. And, as always, chat with us if you have questions or want to work with us on something new. Happy Holidays!

Day 11: We’re Consultants

Woman seated before a computer while instructor bends close and points to floppy disk

Secretarial Science student using a computer, contributed by Central Carolina Community College.

When NCDHC first began about 10 years ago, one of the main goals was to serve many institutions from a single location. The benefit of this approach means that resources and expertise can be consolidated. Instead of setting up a local digitization program, an organization can test the digitization waters by working with us before tackling their own projects, or they can choose to accomplish all of their digital collections goals through NCDHC.

We love to see institutions supporting their own digital collections almost as much as we dislike seeing people reinvent the wheel. We are happy to share advice on best practices in digitization, metadata, and hosting digital cultural heritage collections online. We can visit collections to look through materials and to talk about the commitment involved in a digital collection. We can present to stakeholders on the importance of thinking long term when beginning a digital collection.

Because of our statewide reach, we are able to help connect institutions who have similar or complementary goals. We frequently give advice related to applying for grants, particularly the State Library of North Carolina’s LSTA grants. If we don’t know the answer, we probably know someone who will. More than anything, we want to see successful and sustainable digital collections, even if they’re not on DigitalNC. So if you have a question or three, get in touch.

Check back on Monday as we reveal Day 12 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!


12 Days of NCDHC: Day 10 – Community Scanning Days

This holiday season join us here on the blog for the 12 Days of NCDHC. We’ll be posting short entries that reveal something you may not know about us. You can view all of the posts together by clicking on the 12daysofncdhc tag. And, as always, chat with us if you have questions or want to work with us on something new. Happy Holidays!

Day 10: Community Scanning Days

color image of three individuals facing camera and smiling, in traditional Hmong dress

Hmong New Year festival in Newton, North Carolina. The photograph was scanned at a community scanning day hosted by Catawba County Library and the Historical Association of Catawba County.

Community scanning days are a popular way for many of our partners to bring historical materials into their collection from their community without needing to take physical possession of the objects.  Instead, the community is invited to come in with their personal collections related to the town, or a particular historic event, or from a particular group, and have it photographed or scanned.  Information about the object, as well as information about the owner, is recorded at the time of scanning as well.  Then, depending on the infrastructure at the institution, the digital files and associated metadata are saved for research in the reading room or somehow made accessible online.  Community scanning days are often a really good way to engage the community with their local history collection while at the same time filling in holes in that collection.  

Where does the NCDHC come in?  Well, we can help with these events in a variety of ways.  One way is to come and offer technical support the day of the event, including bringing our scanners and doing a lot of that work.  We are also happy to consult with partners who are planning such events and pass along metadata templates and scanning specifications we would suggest using.  We can take the images and metadata from the scanning day and host those on DigitalNC.  If you are interested in us hosting the materials, we do ask that you talk to us before your scanning day so we can be sure the image quality and metadata collected fit with our system.  This page on our site is a good run down of what we’ll provide during and after scanning days.  

We have had the pleasure of working with several institutions already with community scanning days, including the Hmong Keen Kwm: Hmong Heritage Project by Catawba County Library and the Massey Hill Heritage Discovery Project by the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County.  

If your institution is looking to do a similar scanning project, please get in touch!  

Check back on Friday as we reveal Day 11 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!


12 Days of NCDHC: Day 8 – Audio Digitization

This holiday season join us here on the blog for the 12 Days of NCDHC. We’ll be posting short entries that reveal something you may not know about us. You can view all of the posts together by clicking on the 12daysofncdhc tag. And, as always, chat with us if you have questions or want to work with us on something new. Happy Holidays!

Day 8: Audio Digitization

photo of a hand holding a cassette tape

A cassette tape with a recorded oral history with Jackie Evans, dated 5/31/2001.

The NCDHC digitizes most of our partners’ materials here at Wilson Special Collections Library, which is part of UNC Chapel Hill Libraries. There’s a Digital Production Center with a variety of equipment that can handle most any print formats as well as three-dimensional objects. Until quite recently the only types of items we sent out to a vendor for digitization were microfilmed newspapers, moving image formats, and audio formats. Thanks to a partnership with the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) in Wilson Library, many audio formats can now be digitized right here on site. 

The staff of the SFC are renowned around the country for their work on audiovisual preservation and digitization. On a daily basis they are transferring at-risk formats from Wilson Library’s collections to digital. Thanks to grants from the Mellon Foundation, this work has gotten an additional boost over the last few years to expand beyond Wilson. NCDHC partners can now have audio formats digitized at any time. The SFC has already worked with partner institutions to digitize audio formats that include oral histories, music performances, and even a tobacco auction. 

If you’re a current or potential partner and would like to talk about audio digitization, just contact us.

Check back on Wednesday as we reveal Day 9 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!


12 Days of NCDHC: Day 7 – Statistics About DigitalNC.org Use and Collections

This holiday season join us here on the blog for the 12 Days of NCDHC. We’ll be posting short entries that reveal something you may not know about us. You can view all of the posts together by clicking on the 12daysofncdhc tag. And, as always, chat with us if you have questions or want to work with us on something new. Happy Holidays!

Infographic: Over the last year, DigitalNC.org had 4,322,135 pageviews, 344,776 visitors, and 58% of the site's traffic comes from North Carolina.Day 7: Statistics About DigitalNC.org Use and Collections

Did you know that DigitalNC.org contains over 4 million images?? That’s a lot of North Carolina history. Today we’re sharing some of the site’s statistics as well as a nifty tool that helps our partner institutions find out how much their items are being used.

Though we don’t know too much about them, we do know that A LOT of people visit DigitalNC! The graphic at right shows the number of pageviews of and visitors to the site. We’re always proud to see that around 55%-60% of the traffic routinely comes from North Carolina. Right now we’re averaging around 1,782 sessions per day.

If you’re interested in statistics about what’s on DigitalNC, we have a Statistics page that can show you the number of items and files, and some general statistics about our contributors. 

And remember that nifty tool I mentioned? DigitalNC partners can check web views on the items we’ve scanned from their collections using Partner Analytics Reports.  There they’ll find sessions, pageviews, new users, and top items by pageviews. Here’s an example showing a three-month time period from one of our partners.

A graph showing number of sessions and pageviews, along with "top items by pageviews" for a single partner's collection digitalnc.org.

We always encourage partners to report these statistics just like any other use of their collections. Just contact us if you have questions about what you find, or for ideas on how to increase your DigitalNC web analytics.

Check back on Tuesday as we reveal Day 8 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!

*Icons courtesy of Streamline.


12 Days of NCDHC: Day 6 – Collections from North Carolina Religious Institutions

This holiday season join us here on the blog for the 12 Days of NCDHC. We’ll be posting short entries that reveal something you may not know about us. You can view all of the posts together by clicking on the 12daysofncdhc tag. And, as always, chat with us if you have questions or want to work with us on something new. Happy Holidays!

Day 6: Collections from North Carolina Religious Institutions

cover of the book "In the Beginning -- Baptists" with a line drawing of the facade of the First Baptist Church of New BernSome of our state’s oldest history is stewarded by religious institutions, and we’ve frequently been asked if we can work with them. Though most are not eligible to become an NCDHC partner because they do not have regularly open and staffed libraries or archives, we worked with our Advisory Board to devise a pilot project where eligible partner institutions can pair with a local religious institution to share their materials on DigitalNC.

Our first effort was with New Bern-Craven County Public Library and the First Baptist Church of New Bern. We received a warm welcome over in New Bern as we learned about the Church’s history. We returned to Chapel Hill and scanned some of their earliest minutes along with a history of the congregation published in 1984 (pictured at right). 

Here are the details if you’re interested in this project.

  • The partnership must be between the religious institution and a current or eligible partner institution.
  • All items we scan or photograph have to be made available through DigitalNC.org. We cannot scan items that can’t be made freely accessible online.
  • This project follows the same guidelines as all of the work we do. You can read more on our “How to Participate” page.
  • Items will have the eligible partner institution listed as the contact, and the religious institution as the home for the archive. We’ll make an “exhibit page” for the religious institution so they can easily search and browse their materials.

This is a great opportunity for local libraries or museums to build or enhance relationships with local synagogues, churches, mosques, and temples.

Check back on Monday as we reveal Day 7 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!


12 Days of NCDHC: Day 4 – Ways to Promote Your DigitalNC.org Collections

This holiday season join us here on the blog for the 12 Days of NCDHC. We’ll be posting short entries that reveal something you may not know about us. You can view all of the posts together by clicking on the 12daysofncdhc tag. And, as always, chat with us if you have questions or want to work with us on something new. Happy Holidays!

Day 4: Ways to Promote Your DigitalNC.org Collections

While Google is great, intentionally promoting your digital collections to your on-site or website visitors can make sure they’re not missing resources they need. It signals your organization’s commitment to openly sharing your collections, and can lead to some meaningful user engagement. Many of our partners put links to DigitalNC.org on their websites, in visitor or patron guides, or within their catalogs or artifact databases. Here are a few other suggestions you may not know about: 

Embed a search widget

We’ve created an embeddable search widget that gives users a quick way to do a keyword search across all of the content on DigitalNC.org. The code provided can be added anywhere that allows an iframe. 

Screenshot of a handout announcing 206 materials and 2 newspaper titles on DigitalNC from Louisburg CollegeQuickly create a flyer to hand out or post

Here’s a quick way to create a flyer that includes what we’ve scanned or photographed for your organization. There’s a screenshot of an example at right. In addition to types of items it includes the URL to your landing page and your logo. 

Ask us for some brochures

We have a bunch of them! Just contact us and we can mail you some.

Check back on Thursday as we reveal Day 5 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!