DigitalNC: North Carolina's Digital Heritage

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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We Run on IMLS: Who and What Supports NCDHC

We Run on IMLS BadgeDigitization is faceless work – you rarely see the hands that carefully place fragile scrapbooks under the camera and click capture, or hear the voices debating the best description of that great photograph a partner sent us. And we don’t stick a price tag on each item, parsing out how much our funders contributed to get that item online. 

So today’s post is about two things I think don’t get noticed often enough. The first thing is money. All of the accomplishments of the Center have been supported in very large part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through Library Services and Technology Act funding disbursed by the State Library of North Carolina. In other words, we run on IMLS. Digital libraries often include funders in footers or on “About” pages, but I decided to take this opportunity to bring it up front. Together, IMLS, UNC-Chapel Hill, and the State Library of North Carolina are the why, how, and whether DigitalNC exists. The power of this funding partnership is in its efficiency, its statewide view, and the way our work boosts what’s being done by counties and towns in their local institutions. It’s how our partners supercharge their collections, moving them beyond shelves to your screen. And we really hope it sticks around

A Wayne County scrapbook page that includes the gloved hand of the student scanner.

A rare shot that includes the gloved hand of a student worker as they gently lift up a document to capture the letter underneath.

The second thing is people. Behind each of the hundreds of thousands of images on are multiple individuals from multiple communities, who want YOU to see, share, build upon, question, and participate in North Carolina’s culture, wherever you are. These are the caring librarians, archivists, curators, or history-minded individuals with a passion not only for preserving their community’s history but also for giving that history legs. These are the full-time NCDHC staff who answer questions, juggle schedules, write code, and try to best serve users. These are the 20 student workers who have scanned, and scanned, and scanned over the last six years, whose professional development we have fostered and who were exposed to information-rich, quirky, poignant, and various special collections from all over the state.

Our goal is to make the materials front and center so you don’t see us or think about us.  But next time you find that great article on your hometown’s history, we hope you’ll think about who helped get it there and the funding it took to make it happen.

Announcing a 6-Month In-Depth Digitization Effort at NCDHC: Underrepresented Communities

The Wilson Tau Gamma Delta Sorority, Date Unknown

Here at the Digital Heritage Center we’ve been talking about what we can do to increase representation of underrepresented communities on Serving these communities in ways that respect their priorities and beliefs has become a focus for many libraries, archives, and museums, and we hear partners and other DigitalNC fans asking us about this as well.  We have a few ideas in the works that we’ll be talking about over the next year.

I’m writing today about one of those ideas. We’d like to try a 6-month in-depth digitization effort during which we focus on working with you to share items in your collections representing traditionally underrepresented communities. This may be groups including but not limited to African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos/as, American Indians, LGBTQ. If you feel sharing those items online would be useful to your users, we’d like to make that happen.

Our goals with this idea are to (1) bring partners together in a shared initiative (2) discover new collections and (3) better represent the diversity of North Carolina on

If you are eligible to work with the Digital Heritage Center, have something that fits with this effort, and would like to collaborate, contact us.

Have other digitization priorities? No problem! This won’t preclude other projects you had intended to plan with the Center. 

Thanks for considering participating in this effort, and please share this post broadly.

Call for Nominations – North Carolina Newspaper Digitization, 2016

Young Man on Bicycle for Newspaper Delivery, photo by Albert Rabil, April 23, 1951. Courtesy the Braswell Memorial Library.

Young Man on Bicycle for Newspaper Delivery, photo by Albert Rabil, April 23, 1951. Courtesy the Braswell Memorial Library.

It’s time to announce our 5th annual round of microfilmed newspaper digitization! As in previous years, we’re asking cultural heritage institutions in the state to nominate papers from their communities to be digitized. We’re especially interested in:

  • newspapers published 1923 or later,
  • newspapers that are not currently available in digital form elsewhere online, and/or
  • newspapers covering underrepresented regions or communities.

If you’re interested in nominating a paper and you work at a cultural heritage institution that qualifies as a partner, here’s what to do:

  • Check out our criteria for selecting newspapers, listed below.
  • Verify that the newspaper you’d like to see digitized exists on microfilm. Email us ( if you’re not sure.
  • Send us an email with the name of the newspaper you would like to nominate, along with the priority years you’re interested in seeing online. Please talk briefly about how the paper and your institution meet the criteria below.
  • Be prepared to talk with the local rights holder(s) to gain written permission to digitize the paper and share it online. We can give you advice on this part, if needed.

Nominations will be taken through the end of 2016. However, don’t wait! We typically get many more requests than we can accommodate. Please contact us at or 919-962-4836 with any questions. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Criteria for Selecting Newspapers to Digitize from Microfilm

Titles to be digitized will be selected using the following criteria:

  • Does the newspaper document traditionally underrepresented regions or communities?
  • Does the newspaper include significant coverage of the local community?
  • Does the newspaper come from an area of the state that has little representation on DigitalNC?
  • Are the images of the pages on microfilm legible, or are there significant sections where it is difficult to read the text?
  • Is the institution willing to obtain permission from the current publisher or rights holder(s) to digitize older issues and make them freely available online?
  • Is there a demonstrated demand for online access to this paper?
  • If the newspaper is digitized, will the nominating library promote the digital project through programs and announcements?

Calling all North Carolina High School Alumni Associations


Davie County Training School Reunion (1980s) Courtesy Davie County Public Library.

Yearbooks and other types of school memorabilia are some of the most popular types of items we digitize. They bring out nostalgic feelings, in addition to being sources of information about individuals and communities.

Some of the most prolific preservers of school memorabilia are High School Alumni Associations, and we’re pleased to announce that the Digital Heritage Center will now work with them to help share their collections online.

For the last 6 years, the Digital Heritage Center has served cultural heritage institutions throughout North Carolina. While many Alumni Associations may not have a brick and mortar presence, they are often entities with long histories and an active and coordinated membership. We are looking forward to helping them share their history online, along with the libraries, archives, museums and other institutions we currently partner with.

It’s important to us that users of can get in touch with the institutions that hold the collections we digitize over time. To that end, we’re happy to work with Alumni Associations that are organized and persistent. To participate, the Alumni Association must be associated with a North Carolina high school and have at least a few of these characteristics:

  • have contact information (phone, email, address) belonging to the association and not just held by an individual or individuals,
  • have been in existence longer than 5 years,
  • be incorporated as a 501(c) organization,
  • hold regular meetings or events,
  • maintain an online presence (an updated website or active Facebook page),
  • operate with some sort of governance structure.

If you’re part of an Alumni Association and are interested in becoming a partner, please read about how to participate and get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!


Cove Creek High School Class of 1949 Reunion (1997) Courtesy Watauga County Public Library.

200 Partner Institutions – A Digital Heritage Center Milestone


Celebrating 200 Partners

When people ask me to sum up the Digital Heritage Center, I usually tell them what we do. We provide digitization and digital publishing services to cultural heritage institutions throughout North Carolina. And has some pretty healthy stats to back it up.

2.7 million scans online

87,590 total objects, including…

Over 57,000 newspaper issues

More than 6,100 college and high school yearbooks

16,000+ photographs

505 scrapbooks

Beyond this, the site receives about 280,000 pageviews per month, 58% of which come from users in North Carolina. That’s a lot of our state’s history being shared online, 24/7.

But really, the heart of the Digital Heritage Center is people. It’s the hard work and expertise of our staff making North Carolina’s history available online. It’s the guidance and support we get from the staff at the State Library of North Carolina, which provides most of our funding, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, which hosts the Center and its technology. Above all of this, it’s the partnerships we have with cultural heritage professionals from Bryson City to Ocracoke. That’s why I’m so pleased to announce that this month, we add the following number:

200 partner institutions

in 119 communities,

in 73 counties

Since opening its doors in 2009, the Digital Heritage Center is showing the nation that North Carolina has a strong and collaborative cultural heritage community. This state has so many deep, rich, compelling — and quirky collections. They are stewarded by staff who have a passion for preservation, and a genuine love of providing access to users near and far. We are proud to be a part of that community, offering many institutions the opportunity to bring their collections to a broader audience for the first time.

We hope you will take the chance to explore the map above, and And we hope that you’ll find a contributing institution in your area and stop in. Thanks for reading, and for your support. And here’s to 200 more.

Cheerleaders, From Western Carolina University's 1940 edition of the Catamount yearbook.

Cheerleaders, From Western Carolina University’s 1940 edition of the Catamount yearbook.


We’re Looking for AV Materials to Digitize

Charlie Barnet and his Gospel Stars, Shared by UNC-Charlotte's Atkins Library.

Charlie Barnet and his Gospel Stars, Shared by UNC-Charlotte’s Atkins Library.

Does your organization have audiovisual materials you’d like to digitize and share online? The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is looking for nominations of film, video, and audio materials to digitize and add to’s Sights and Sounds collection.

If you’re part of a cultural heritage organization and have audiovisual materials you’d like digitized, let us know. The Center will evaluate all of the nominations (see evaluation criteria below) in an effort to select a variety of content in different formats and which represents the cultural and geographic diversity of North Carolina.

Nominating items is easy! Email us at with a description of the items you have. Please include the following:

  • number of items
  • types of formats represented
  • what the items contain, to the best of your knowledge

Deadline for nominations is April 14, 2016. We’re  happy to answer questions if you’d like more information, by emailing us at the address above or calling (919) 962-4836.

Selection Criteria for Audiovisual Digitization

  • Is the film, video, or tape believed to be unique to your collection, or are there copies at other institutions?
  • Do you have equipment available to play the media you’re nominating?
  • Is the media believed to be at least 40 years old?
  • Are you willing to have the media sent to a vendor to be digitized?
  • Is there a catalog record or anything describing the content of the media?
  • Does the media cover a time period of historical significance?  (For example: Civil War, Great Depression, World War II).
  • Was the media created by, or does it contain significant content by or about one of North Carolina’s historically underrepresented communities?
  • Is the media from a county or region that is already represented on or other digital library projects?
  • Is there a demonstrated demand for online access to the media?  If so, are there examples, such as requests from users or community members?
  • If this media is digitized, is the contributing institution willing to promote the media through press releases and other announcements or programs? Honored with 2015 North Carolina Genealogical Society Award

NCGS 2015 Award Winners

NCGS 2015 Award Winners at the Annual Luncheon in Raleigh. (left to right) Helen F. M. Leary, CG (Emeritus), FASG; Ginger R. Smith; Pam Toms, Awards Chair; Vickie P. Young, NCGS President; Sharon Gable; Maryann Stockert Tuck; Judi Hinton; and Lisa Gregory

On Saturday, at the North Carolina Genealogical Society Annual Meeting luncheon, we were honored as co-winners of the NCGS 2015 Award for Excellence in Web Presence.

We work hard to make sure our site represents the materials shared by our 180+ partners in a professional and easy-to-use manner, and are thrilled at the recognition from NCGS. It’s our hope that genealogists everywhere continue to find our site helpful for their research. We share this award with the State Library of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, without whom our work wouldn’t be possible. Even more, we share this award with all of our partners, who are making their collections more accessible for users all over the world through

Call for Nominations – North Carolina Newspaper Digitization, 2015

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is continuing its popular newspaper microfilm digitization program this year, and is again looking to public libraries in the state to nominate papers from their communities to be digitized. To date, over 30 institutions have suggested titles to be added to the Newspapers collection on

This year we will continue to focus our efforts on newspapers from the 20th century, especially those that cover North Carolina during the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, and the Civil Rights era.

The Digital Heritage Center is committed to documenting the cultural and geographic diversity in our state and will be especially interested in working with libraries or communities whose collections are not already represented on

Please contact the Digital Heritage Center at or 919-962-4836 with any questions or nominations. We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions and working with you over the next year and beyond to share these important materials online. We’ll be taking nominations now through the end of 2015.

Criteria for Selecting Newspapers to Digitize from Microfilm, 2015

Titles to be digitized will be selected using the following criteria:

  • Does the newspaper document traditionally underrepresented regions or communities?
  • Does the newspaper include coverage of significant statewide or national events?
  • Does the newspaper include significant coverage of the local community?
  • Are the images of the pages on microfilm legible, or are there significant sections where it is difficult to read the text?
  • If the newspaper is still being published, has the library obtained permission from the current publisher to digitize older issues and make them freely available online?
  • Is there a demonstrated demand for online access to this paper?
  • If the newspaper is digitized, will the nominating library promote the digital project through programs and announcements?
  • Was the paper filmed by the North Carolina Department of Archives and History?

Digital Charlotte Event March 30 Celebrates Local Digital Libraries



If you’re in the Charlotte area and interested in local history and digital libraries, please mark March 30 on your calendars: we will be holding an event to celebrate and explore digital library efforts in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Here are the details:

Event: Digital Charlotte: Celebrating and Exploring Local Digital Library Projects
Date: March 30, 2015
Time: Talk at 6:30, followed by a reception
Location: UNC Charlotte Center City Campus, 320 E. 9th St.
Parking information:
Admission: Free and Open to the Public
Questions?: Write or call 919-962-4836

“Digital Charlotte” will feature a talk by Julie Davis, Project Director, Digital Loray, and Public Historian in Residence at the Loray Mill, who will speak about the role of public history in the redevelopment of the Loray Mill in Gastonia. The talk will be followed by a reception during which guests can see demonstrations of digital projects from local libraries including UNC-Charlotte, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Johnson C. Smith University, and Davidson College. This will be a terrific opportunity for local genealogists and history buffs to learn more about the rapidly-growing number of online resources devoted to local history. We are also encouraging Charlotte-area librarians, archivists, and students to attend and participate.

This event is being held as part of our work on a recent grant from the Digital Public Library of America. The grant funding has enabled us to expand our services for libraries, archives, and museums around the state. The DPLA is the primary sponsor of the Digital Charlotte event. Additional support is being provided by the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.

Please contact us if you have any questions. We hope to see many of you in Charlotte!

Polk County News Now Available Online and Digital Heritage Center Welcomes Partner Number 170


We are very pleased to welcome our 170th contributing institution, the Polk County Public Library. The library, located in Columbus, N.C., recently nominated early 20th-century issues of the Polk County News and Tryon Bee for digitization. We’ve completed the work and there are now over 800 issues of the paper available online in the North Carolina Newspapers digital collection.

The Polk County News is available for the years 1902 to 1922, covering a period of rapid change in rural North Carolina. Typical of other small-town papers of that era, the News was more than just a source of local events and ads. Earlier issues carried national and international stories, serialized novels, and columns specifically for children and women. Later issues focused more on items of interest to local farmers, including regular columns on agriculture and household items. All of the papers include the social columns and local tidbits that cover the minute comings-and-goings of residents, making these old papers incredibly rich resources for anyone studying community and family history.