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 Kristen Merryman

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

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

DigitalNC works from home: expanding photograph descriptions

As work from home continues for all of us at the Digital Heritage Center, we are getting the opportunity to dive into some long shelved cleanup projects from our migration into the TIND content management system.

One that we are excited to work through right now is creating better, individualized, description on sets of photographs that previously were only described in a single record.  In our previous content management system, ContentDM, there was a hierarchy built into the system that supported parent and child records that had different metadata.  So for example, a batch of photographs that one wanted to title at the parent level as “Wilson, NC Businesses” could also have individual child records that had titles such as “Food Lion, 1975.” 

screenshot of a content management system

 The object description (minimized here) is the child level record and applies only to the main image seen above, while the description is the parent level record and applied to every image on the right.


 View of a “compound object” photograph set in the new system – the separated out descriptions are mostly lost here.

When we moved into our new content management system, those individual titles were dropped down to a file description that did not go in the main record or was easy to view.  As a result, we made the decision to break up those batches of photographs so that each one shows up individually in a search with its own set of metadata.  That has required pulling down a spreadsheet of the parent level metadata and then converting it to apply individually to each photograph and re-uploading it into TIND.  This has also allowed us to add useful metadata such as geolocation coordinates to images of particular places which could be useful someday if we enable mapping technology in our content management system. While a bit tedious, we believe this is broadening access to some really great photographs from our partners and made them more accessible on our site. 

Search results

Search results view for a group of photos now individually listed – previously were all grouped under one vague title

Screenshot of a metadata record for a tobacco warehouse

This photograph now has more specific metadata describing it, including geo-coordinates, which makes it more useful to users.

Projects like this keep us busy working from home despite being a digitization shop – maintenance is always an important part of this work and this unexpected time away from our scanners is giving us the ability to focus on our existing materials a lot closer. 

Want to see all our image collections in DigitalNC?  Visit Images of North Carolina here.

Air-O-Mech issues now on DigitalNC

News header for the Air O Mech newspaper

The Air-O-Mech is a newspaper published at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (known at the time as Seymour Johnson Field) during World War II. It is now on DigitalNC thanks to our partner Wayne County Public Library. The paper’s first issue was published on January 8, 1943 and asked readers to submit a name for the paper and have a chance to win $5 if their name was selected. The initial paper also quotes Brigadier General Walter J. Reed’s support of the paper, with him stating “This field newspaper widens the scope of our news service. It will let you know about changes in Army regulations which concern you. It will describe the services available to you and your dependents through the Red Cross, the Army Emergency Relief and other agencies. It will tell you about your fellow soldiers, and pass on to you information on what is happening on the field.”

The headlines in the paper display both the humor of those stationed at Seymour Johnson as well as the seriousness of serving during the war, alternating between things such as “Hold Your Hats, Gang, All-Girl Revue is Here!” and “GI Wash Day Blues to End” (on a story about a new laundry facility opening) to “In our time of trial give us strength.” On the whole though, the paper definitely leans towards a light-hearted take on life on the base, and even includes in one issue a handy guide on how to get married in Wayne County where the base is located and the excitement over a new soda fountain being installed in the service cafeteria

The issues now on DigitalNC cover January 1943 to January 1944 and joins a number of other military newspapers on our site.

To learn more about our partner Wayne County Public Library, visit their partner page here and their website here.

12 Days of NCDHC: Day 9 – We’ll Host Items You Scan

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 9: We’ll Host Items You Scan

Many of our partners have done scanning on their own.  However, as we like to joke here at the NCDHC, the scanning is the easy part!  It is getting those materials online for the public to view that can be really complicated.  Hosting materials online is a key part of our expertise and we are happy to take any items you’ve scanned yourself and load them into DigitalNC for you.  We have helped partners who have just scanned a yearbook or two, as well as partners who have embarked on large scale community projects such as DigitalKM, or who have had to migrate their digital collection from their own system, as in the case of Harnett County Public Library

Screenshot of a scrapbook in a content management system

One of over 200 scrapbooks Transylvania County Library scanned themselves and sent to us to host on DigitalNC

If you are interested in sending us materials you’ve scanned yourself, we have some guidelines for how we’d like to receive it.  

  • All scanned images must have a minimum image quality of 300 dpi, and preferably come as TIFFs, although we will take JPEGs. There can’t be any watermarks on the images.
  • We’ll need at least minimal metadata with a title and unique filename for each item.  We will be happy to share a template for you to fill out to send along with the objects and can discuss any questions that arise with that template.  This page on metadata requirements is also a handy guide to check.

The scanned items and their corresponding metadata can be sent via FTP, a cloud based storage site such as Dropbox or Google Drive, or you can send us an external hard drive or thumb drive.  Once we receive the items, we add it to our normal queue and get them online.  

Check back on Thursday as we reveal Day 10 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!

12 Days of NCDHC: Day 5 – The 50-Year High School Yearbook Embargo

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 5: The 50-Year High School Yearbook Embargo

Yearbooks are a major part of the work we do here at DigitalNC.  For many partners, it is the first format that they bring us for scanning and for many of our users, it is what brings them to our site.  So one might think we would take any and all yearbooks.  However, for high school yearbooks, we have a 50-year embargo, which means right now in December of 2019, we are only scanning high school yearbooks from 1969 and before. 

Why?  Well for a couple of reasons.  The first is privacy.  We do not have a similar restriction on college yearbooks because 99% of those featured in a college yearbooks are 18 and older when the yearbook was printed and had a reasonable level of consent to be included.  High school yearbooks feature minors and so we have the 50-year restriction for privacy reasons.  The other is simply a method to stem the tide of yearbooks that would otherwise come through our door!  As North Carolina’s population grew and yearbooks became increasingly a normal part of the high school experience, there are literally thousands for the 1970s through 2000s out there.  This embargo allows us to control that flow somewhat, as we only have a limited capacity for yearbook digitization each year.

Page from a yearbook that says "our generation is the spirit of '69, activities, personalities, crowds

Front page of the 1969 Independence Senior High School yearbook

That said, on January 1, 2020, we’ll be happy to scan any 1970 yearbooks you may have in your collection.  Some of our partners already send us a whole new round every spring and we invite any of our partners with yearbooks to send us a new batch as we enter a new decade of digitization. (And what a decade it should be! We are excited about the fashion and hairstyles we will be seeing very soon!)

Check back on Friday as we reveal Day 6 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!

12 Days of NCDHC: Day 3 – We’ll Come to You

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 3: We’ll Come to You

In 2017 we introduced a new initiative – DigitalNC on the Road! in which we pack up our scanners and laptops and travel to partners to scan items in their collections.  One of our favorite parts of being part of the NCDHC is getting to see our partners’ institutions (and get in a little NC sightseeing and tasting too!)

People sitting around a table scanning materials

NCDHC staff scanning at Johnston County Heritage Center

Several partners so far have taken us up on the offer including City or Raleigh Museum Johnston County Heritage Center, Winston Salem African American Archive, Gaston County Public Library and Graham County Public Library

The length of time we will come for is flexible.  Some partners we just visit for a day, other partners we come to for two or three days to really work through a collection.  The process to visit starts at least a month beforehand where we meet with you via the phone to discuss what collections we can work on, how many materials we can get through, and discuss initial metadata needs.  As far as resources needed once we arrive – a few tables and chairs and outlets near those tables is really it.  We have been in community rooms, board rooms, and research rooms for our scanning setups!  We welcome the public to view us and ask us any questions they might have.  Our blog post announcing the initiative gives a good overview of how the process works.  We have done photograph collections, news clippings, student history projects, and slides as part of our on site visits.  Starting in January however we’ll have new scanners that will also allow us to easily do bound materials, including yearbooks.  

Three people talking around a table of archival materials

Lisa chatting with board members from the Winston Salem African American Archive

We are also happy to come visit and just talk through the collections you have and what might be candidates for digitization back at NCDHC in Wilson Library, and if you’re ready, take some of those materials back for us.  

If you’re interested in talking with us to set up an on site visit let us know.  We’re always up for a road trip across North Carolina!  

Check back on Wednesday as we reveal Day 4 of the 12 Days of NCDHC!

Materials dating back to 1876 now online from Union County Public Library

In a new batch of items from partner Union County Public Library, which they digitized themselves, there are materials that date all the way back to 1876.  A catalog for Monroe High School from 1876 details all the classes one could take at the school, which was a white, private, co-educational school that advertised not only to those who lived in Monroe, but in the surrounding area, including South Carolina.  In the first section of the book it lists the enrollment at the school and hometowns of each student.  The cost for 20 weeks at the school was $10-$16 tuition plus $50 for room and board.  page listing the students enrolled at Monroe High School

Other materials from this batch include several Chamber of Commerce publications promoting Monroe, NC, a feature on the new library in Monroe, and the minutes of the Union County Medical Association from 1902 to 1922.  The Medical Association minutes are particularly interesting in mentioning about a black doctor, Dr. J.S. Massey, being a member in 1903 in what was otherwise an all white organization.  This would have been during a time of increasing segregation and aggression by whites against black in North Carolina following the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision and the 1898 race riots in Wilmington and the shift in the government in 1900 to a white supremacist Democratic leadership. 

There is also a yearbook from 1954 from Union High School that was located in Lanes Creek Township.  

To view more materials from Union County Public Library, visit their partner page.