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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Partners Share Their Stories: Ocracoke Preservation Society’s Past President

We are one of 29 finalists for the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Now through April 13, IMLS is asking the people who have been impacted by the Digital Heritage Center to share their stories. If you have a story you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us or share via social media by tagging us on Facebook (@NC Digital Heritage Center) or on Twitter (@ncdhc).

Today’s story comes from Philip Howard, past president of the Ocracoke Preservation Society. The materials we’ve worked with OPS to digitize have helped the Society’s ongoing efforts at historic preservation. 

Page includes the text "Have Fun! Fish! Hunt! Sail! Swim! Camp! Ride! Dance! Eat! Sleep! Relax!" along with photographs of people engaging in fishing and other oceanside activities.

“As a chronicler of Ocracoke Island history [through his blog and newsletter] and one of the founders and a past president of the Ocracoke Preservation Society,  I am acutely aware of the importance of access to historic documents for research. The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center has digitized and placed on their web site numerous letters, brochures, booklets, photographs, and newspaper articles relevant to Ocracoke Island. These important documents are now readily available for anyone interested in Ocracoke’s history. In addition to being used in research for magazine & newspaper articles and books, they have played an important role in providing supporting documentation for the preservation of several homes and other significant structures in Ocracoke’s historic district.

One specific effort is the Society’s work on behalf of the Island Inn. A local group is hoping to purchase the property to protect it for the future and open it up for community use. Resources digitized and available on DigitalNC.org have helped them document that building’s known and hidden history.


Fans Share Their Stories: Professor Bobby Allen, UNC-Chapel Hill

We are one of 29 finalists for the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Now through April 13, IMLS is asking the people who have been impacted by the Digital Heritage Center to share their stories. If you have a story you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us or share via social media by tagging us on Facebook (@NC Digital Heritage Center) or on Twitter (@ncdhc).

Today’s story comes from Professor Robert C. Allen, Professor in the Department of American Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and faculty lead of the Community Histories Workshop. Dr. Allen shared the thoughts below in support of our Medal application and we reshare them today with his permission.

Looking down a main street in Gastonia, NC, showing a line of striking men and women while crowds watch from the sidewalks.

Textile Workers Marching in Gastonia, NC, 1929. From the Gaston County Museum of Art & History

“Since 2013, I have been working closely with the N.C. Digital Heritage Center on ‘Digital Loray,’ the most ambitious public humanities program ever undertaken by UNC. This project uses the adaptive reuse of an iconic industrial structure—in this case, Gastonia’s Loray Mill, one of the largest cotton mills built in the state—as a catalyst for a long-term community history and archiving initiative. The ‘heart of this open-ended project is an archive of more than 2500 digital objects, brought together in a single interface from the UNC North Carolina Collection and other Wilson Library collections, other institutional archives, community cultural heritage organizations, churches, and individual community contributors.

“The NC Digital Heritage Center was absolutely instrumental in our ability to undertake this kind of deeply collaborative community history work. It worked with the Gaston County Museum of Art and History—the primary cultural heritage organization in the county—to identify, digitize, and publish material from its collection that could be ‘added’ to Digital Loray. Three community members had saved many documents, photographs, maps, mementos, and other material from the mill at the time of its closing in 1993. Working with the N.C. Digital Heritage Center, we encouraged them to donate this material to the Gaston County Museum of Art and History, which, in turn, allowed the center to facilitate the digitization and publication of these unique artifacts…

In short, I could not extend my teaching, graduate training, and the work of my unit into communities in North Carolina without the invaluable assistance of the N.C. Digital Heritage Center. But I am not the most important beneficiary of its effectiveness and leadership: it enables hundreds of small museums, public libraries, historical societies, and other cultural heritage organizations to add a digital dimension to their work and, in doing so, to preserve and share the histories of their communities. These perennially threatened local organizations can undertake what otherwise would be impossibly expensive and technically complex digitization projects without the need for technical specialists or third-party software and hosting solutions.

“The N.C. Digital Heritage Center should be a model for other states. It deserves much more attention on a national level than it has received, particularly in the realms of public history, digital history, public humanities, and digital humanities. I have reviewed and attended presentations about ‘sexier’ and much better resourced projects over the past few years, but none I think has had a greater or longer-lasting impact than the quiet but profoundly important work of my colleagues in the N.C. Digital Heritage Center. I congratulate them and thank them for all they do to make my university a great resource for the people of North Carolina.


Fans Share Their Stories: Taneya Y. Koonce, Genealogist and Researcher

We are one of 29 finalists for the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Now through April 13, IMLS is asking the people who have been impacted by the Digital Heritage Center to share their stories. If you have a story you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us or share via social media by tagging us on Facebook (@NC Digital Heritage Center) or on Twitter (@ncdhc).

Today’s story comes from Taneya Y. Koonce, a native North Carolinian, information professional, and a well known genealogist. She shares her research and methods on Taneya’s Genealogy Blog and her new Koonce surname site. One of her projects includes indexing names from digitized yearbooks to help improve searchability by transcribing names. Taneya shared the thoughts below in support of our Medal application and we reshare them today with her permission.

Screenshot of the home page for the yearbook index, including a description of the site and search boxes.“My interest in the NCDHC stems from my passion for researching family history and genealogy. I am a native North Carolinian and over the past 12 years I have been an active participant in the online genealogy community as I’ve researched not only my own family tree, but aided in the research of many others. I have high visibility in the genealogy community and maintain leadership roles in the national USGenWeb Project, a volunteer-driven group that provides free resources to individuals researching their family heritage. I am currently the Assistant State Coordinator in the North Carolina-focused component of the project (the NCGenWeb) and work closely with researchers from across the country who have family roots in the state. I spearhead several projects designed to further maximize the reach and impact of the NCDHC work (such as an online index to graduating seniors listed in the yearbooks from the digitized yearbook collection), and have become intimately familiar with the Center’s collections.

“When the NCDHC began, I was immediately excited by their emergence and the potential for the wealth of resources that would be made more broadly available to those with North Carolina-related family history and historical interests. The digitization of state materials offers increased access for many such as myself, who are unable to visit the physical locations where these resources are housed. The breadth of material the NCDHC makes available – yearbooks, newspapers, images & memorabilia, city directories, and audio-visual resources, are a cross-cutting representation of the many format types historians, educators, and genealogists leverage for our respective fields of inquiry. Staff at the Center also incorporate industry-leading approaches to content delivery; such as the reader used for displaying historic newspapers which is an adaptation of the Library of Congress (LOC) platform for their monumental ChroniclingAmerica.gov site. The NCDHC is just one of the few institutions that have adopted the LOC reader; a move which embodies the Center’s willingness to offer innovative solutions to site visitors. NCDHC participates in the Digital Public Library of America, contributes code to GitHub, and most recently has been purposeful in expanding the diversity of collection materials. These efforts are demonstrative of the Center’s strive for excellence. The Center has worked with steady focus to expand the geographical representation of the digital collection and currently has material from libraries, archives, schools, and cultural institutions from across the entire state – a quite admirable feat. Through their social media platforms, the Center also regularly engages in discourse with their constituents, providing timely and thoughtful replies to submitted questions; I’ve found their customer service to be at the highest caliber.”


Partners Share Their Stories: Richmond Community College in Hamlet

Cover shows a group of men and women in casual clothing smiling at the camera. Text: Join us this fall at Richmond Tech!

Cover of the Fall 1986 College Connection.

We are one of 29 finalists for the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Now through April 13, IMLS is asking the people who have been impacted by the Digital Heritage Center to share their stories. If you have a story you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us or share via social media by tagging us on Facebook (@NC Digital Heritage Center) or on Twitter (@ncdhc).

Today’s story comes from Carolyn Bittle, Dean of Learning Resources at Richmond Community College in Hamlet. We have worked with RCC to digitize their yearbooks and other campus publications. Carolyn’s story is an example of digitization of print resources garnering attention and renewing interest in the college’s history.

I can say that since Richmond has been able to get some of our archival material digitized and online, it has increased interest from our administration.  

As a result of getting our older copies of the College Connection online, with your help, we are in the progress of “ rebirthing”  the College Connection [as RCC Connect]. The publication stopped in the spring of 2009, and now we are working on bringing it back into publication.  Hopefully, this will be available mid-March. The success stories, and class offerings were favored during its early printings, and it reached a lot of people in our two county area.  

So thank you for helping to get our publication back up! 


Partners Share Their Stories: Mauney Memorial Library in Kings Mountain

We are one of 29 finalists for the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Now through April 13, IMLS is asking the people who have been impacted by the Digital Heritage Center to share their stories. If you have a story you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us or share via social media by tagging us on Facebook (@NC Digital Heritage Center) or on Twitter (@ncdhc).

Today’s story comes from Sharon Stack, Library Director at Mauney Memorial Library in Kings Mountain. We have worked with Mauney to digitize a variety of materials, including an H. Lee Waters film of Kings Mountain in 1942 (shown below). Even more, we have enjoyed partnering with them as they expand their own digitization capacity through an LSTA grant joint project with the Kings Mountain Historical Museum. Sharon shared these thoughts in support of our Medal application and we reshare them today with her permission.

Two men and two women seated on the ground, with their legs crossed at the ankles and feet towards the camera.

Kings Mountain High School Students from the 1953 yearbook, courtesy Mauney Memorial Library.

Unique. Special. Important.
Tucked away. Forgotten. Inaccessible.

For the Mauney Memorial Library and the Kings Mountain Historical Museum, those words describe the archival and museum holdings of our respective collections. The NC Digital Heritage Center has been a lifeboat for these collections. Our partnership is simple. When staff are traveling near Chapel Hill, NC we 
take our collections and have the Center digitize and publish them. Now, years later, collectively we have built a body of work that is reaching critical mass. With funding from an LSTA grant, we are working with the Center to host the museum and library’s photography collection. This will give Kings Mountain and North Carolina residents’ unprecedented access to the library and museum’s holdings. These materials are helping us to weave a digital story to entice and engage residents to learn more about their hometown and the fundamentals of its soul and the people and events that created it. It is an honor to write this letter of recommendation for the IMLS National Medal on behalf of NC Digital Heritage Center. Lisa Gregory and her staff take very complex processes and make it easy for the professional working in the field to digitize and publish collections. They are easy to work with, accessible for questions, and technical expertise. They go the extra mile to finding solutions to make materials available electronically. This depth of service is what sets the NC Digital Heritage Center apart. For a small town North Carolina library and museum, the Center helps us to make our collections: 

Unique. Special. Important.
Findable. Memorable. Accessible.

The NC Digital Heritage Center is deserving of this recognition of the best at work in libraries and museums today.


We’re a Finalist for the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service!

2018 FinalistNational Medal for Museum & Library Service, with image of medalWe’re honored and excited to announce that we have been named one of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) finalists for the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service!

We are one of 29 finalists for the medal, which is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to their communities.  

We share this recognition with each of our 227 partners, who have worked to increase access to North Carolina’s many voices by sharing their collections online. With over 35,000 visitors to DigitalNC.org each month, they have definitely succeeded! 

The winners will be announced later in the Spring. Until then, IMLS will be celebrating these 29 finalists and their impact on the nation. We encourage you to tell us how the Digital Heritage Center has impacted your life and work on Facebook or Twitter. Use the #IMLSmedals and #ShareYourStory hashtags. 


New Opportunity for Digitization Assistance with the Digital Heritage Center and State Archives of North Carolina

Men standing around and on top of a truck full of bags of tobacco.

Truck Load of Tobacco Weighing 23,188 lbs. From Braswell Memorial Library.

We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with the State Archives of North Carolina on an initiative that will help current and new partners prepare and transport their materials to the Digital Heritage Center for scanning. Participants will attend workshops on describing materials and getting them ready for digitization. The State Archives will also provide for transport of materials to and from the Digital Heritage Center. We’re hoping this will be especially helpful for those furthest from Chapel Hill. The State Archives’ blog includes information about the program and a link to the application. The application deadline is March 16. Please let us know if you have any questions or need assistance filling out the application.

This program is funded through a grant awarded to the State Historical Records Advisory Board and the State Archives of North Carolina and, as such, the opportunity won’t be around forever. It is open to current Digital Heritage Center partners as well as any institution or organization eligible to become a partner. We hope you’ll share the word with organizations who may be interested.


New scrapbooks add to the history of Central Piedmont Community College

A view of the CPCC Campus and Parking Lot, circa 1979.

CPCC brought in planetarium curator Ray Shubinski to teach an astronomy class in 1980.

A new batch of several scrapbooks containing news and goings on at Central Piedmont Community College from May 1978 to Dec 1980 are now online on DigitalNC. These scrapbooks join previously digitized ones dating back to the late 1940s that cover the founding and first few years of CPCC. Included in the new scrapbooks are newspaper clippings, newsletters, photos, and advertisements.

Looking through the scrapbooks shows us what sorts of interesting programs and events were hosted on campus at that time. For example, when PBS broadcasted Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in October 1980, CPCC brought in Ray Shubinski, the planetarium curator of the Charlotte Nature Museum (now Discovery Place), to teach an accompanying 13-week course. At the time, the course cost $10.75.

To read more about Central Piedmont Community College in the 1970s, you can browse the scrapbook collection here. To learn more about CPCC, visit their partner page, or take a look at their website.


Six Months Later and We’re Not Done: Underrepresented Voices on DigitalNC

About six months ago we asked our partners to help us increase the diversity of voices shared on DigitalNC. We had an outpouring of interest, and partners have shared a number of rich collections from the African American and LGBTQ communities. Here’s an update of what has been added to DigitalNC as a result of this call.

Excerpt of a census page that includes school house census details and student names.

This 1903 Census Report for Morton Township, Alamance County, lists names, ages, and the names of parents of African American students. 

Alamance County Public Libraries shared a wide variety of materials documenting African American communities in that county. Two groups of photographs, the Heritage of Black Highlanders and Asheville YWCA Photograph Collection, are parts of larger collections held by University of North Carolina at Asheville

Several partners added African-American newspapers to those already shared online at DigitalNC. 

We’ve also been working with University of North Carolina at Charlotte to share issues of Q-Notes, which covers updates, events, and issues of the LGBTQ community.

Diversifying DigitalNC isn’t a one-time event – it’s ongoing every day. If your institution has or will be targeting collections that document racial, ethnic, or geographic communities who are underrepresented on DigitalNC, and you’re interested in sharing these materials online, get in touch.


NCDHC Strategic Themes, 2017-2019

We’re pleased to announce the Digital Heritage Center’s first set of strategic themes, which we’ve just released. These themes reflect what we’ve heard from partners and other institutions around the state over the last year. They join our longstanding but slightly revised Mission and Values statements.

If you’ve followed our work for awhile, these themes will be familiar. But there are nuances here that will drive some of our newer initiatives, such as scanning on location and increasing the diversity of voices available through DigitalNC.

Let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to working hard to help our partners share North Carolina’s cultural heritage.

NCDHC 2017-2019; empower cultural heritage professionals by offering services and training;, strengthen community identities through history and culture; increase access to information for all through freely available online resources