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


Yearbooks from Several Eastern NC High Schools Just Added

high school aged students sitting or standing near the ocean, some with fishing poles

From the 1960 Quarterian, Swan Quarter’s High School Yearbook

Today we’re highlighting recently added yearbooks from a number of eastern North Carolina high schools from the 1940s to early 1960s. We lack a lot of yearbooks from the easternmost counties in North Carolina so it’s always a pleasure to add more. This batch includes a range of schools in a variety of counties:

Beaufort County

Chowan County

Dare County

Hyde County

Tyrrell County

Washington County

These yearbooks were contributed for digitization from a private individual, and the Outer Banks History Center is acting as contributor. Take a look at other high school yearbooks from the Outer Banks and nearby counties on our high school yearbooks page.


Flooded: Oral Histories Documenting Hurricane Floyd Now Online

Flooded book cover with a color image of a mailbox surrounded by water

We’ve recently worked with Braswell Memorial Library (Rocky Mount, N.C.) to digitize oral histories, written stories, and a manuscript all created for the book Flooded: Reflections of Hurricane Floyd. Compiled by the Friends of Braswell Library, Flooded represents the culmination of an effort to document what happened in Nash and Edgecombe counties twenty years ago today. On September 16, 1999 Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina and caused catastrophic flooding throughout the eastern part of the state. Fatalities, displaced families, and property loss marked its passing.

The collection includes interviews with and stories from firefighters and other emergency personnel, city officials, and residents. Many of the interviews include both audio and a transcript. You will also find the original copies of stories included within Flooded, as well as a pre-print version of the book.

Thanks to Braswell Memorial Library and its Friends group for bringing this collection for digitization. Explore the entire Flooded collection or all of the materials we’ve digitized for Braswell Memorial Library.

 


Earliest NC African American Newspapers Added to DigitalNC

Today’s post is the result of a chance quote and a successful collaboration. We’re pleased to add to DigitalNC the earliest newspaper published by and for North Carolina African Americans – the Fayetteville Educator along with another early African American newspaper, the Charlotte Messenger.

Mastheads for the first issues of the Educator and Messenger

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s partners have shared a really robust collection of African American papers, and we’re always searching for more. In addition to what’s on DigitalNC, we’re familiar with other well known early papers like the Star of Zion – one of the oldest (1876) as well as the longest continuously running paper in the state. On DigitalNC you’ll find another early paper, the National Savings Bank. Published in 1868, the paper featured advertising and news related to the banking industry. It was published for African Americans from a number of locations around the U.S., including New Bern. The content is mostly syndicated across all of its issues and it was intended for a national audience.

Engraving, head and shoulders view, of William C. Smith

An engraving of William C. Smith from Penn’s The Afro-American press and its editors.

Earlier this year, while reading about African American newspaper editor, William C. Smith, we ran across this quote:

He was one of the founders of The Fayetteville Educator, the first newspaper edited and published by colored men in North Carolina.*

The Educator wasn’t a paper we had run across before. After a few inquiries, we found two institutions who were familiar with the paper. The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte has been stewarding original copies of the Educator – possibly the only extant copies – as well as the Charlotte Messenger for years. They had shared microfilmed copies of both papers with one of our partners, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, which had cataloged that microfilm into their catalog allowing us to find it online. Thanks to the cooperation of both of those organizations, we’re happy to share these newspapers on DigitalNC today.

The Fayetteville Educator

Founded by William C. or W. C. Smith, the Fayetteville Educator ran for a single year – September 26, 1874 through September 25, 1875. The first issue states that the paper’s “efforts will be directed to training the intellectual and moral sentiment of our youth” and that it is “printed and edited by colored young men.” The paper does include reports of the actions and events of the A. M. E. Zion church in North Carolina as well as many moral and anecdotal stories, poetry, and lifestyle recommendations for young men. However, it is also Republican in sentiment during a time when the North Carolina Republican party was trying to stave off disenfranchisement of the African American community by their Democrat counterparts.  In the first issue, the paper states that, while “indebted” to the Republican Publishing Company, the paper hoped that “others of different political faith show that they too are friendly.” The paper was eventually suspended because it considered its work complete and because it lacked patronage to continue:

A snippet from the last issue of the Fayetteville Educator, entitled "Close of Volume."“We are confident that we have done our duty, having stood by the party during the hottest campaign of the last decade, and witnessed success, even in redeeming our own and surrounding counties, we are assured that our work has not been in vain. We regret that our patronage is not sufficient to insure another year’s success…” September 25, 1875, page 2, pictured at right.

The work Smith refers to was keeping governmental control out of Democrat hands. Unfortunately, he called a premature success as less than a month after the final issue Democrats slyly eked out a narrow majority in the Convention of 1875. In the following years North Carolina Democrats implemented a number of laws that either overtly or obliquely upheld racism in the state’s political and social systems.

The Charlotte Messenger

While the Educator was never revived, William C. Smith went on shortly thereafter to begin another newspaper, the Charlotte Messenger. The same book cited above, which mentioned the Educator, describes the Messenger as a paper that fought “against intemperance, immorality, and all other evils coming its way.”** Reading from the salutatory message on the second page of the first issue you’ll see many similarities from the Educator.

In presenting this little sheet to our people, it is hoped that they will appreciate it as an honest effort on our part to promote the moral, intellectual and material standing of our people. We are aware of the difficulties and responsibilities attending the publication of a newspaper; but seeing the great need of an organ in this section to defend the principles of the Republican party; the need of an exponent of the rights of the colored people, we have undertaken the task and shall depend upon the wisdom and kindness of our friends to encourage and support us.”

A snippet from the November 24, 1888 issue of the Messenger, commenting on the Charlotte Chronicle newspaper.The Messenger began on June 17, 1882 and continued at least until 1891. The microfilmed issues that we’re able to share last from the June 17, 1882 issue through January 5, 1889. Issues include syndicated news from big city papers and other areas of the south, as well as the traditional repeated poetry, short stories, and advice found in many newspapers at this time period. But you’ll also find the regular “Fayetteville Notes” and other areas of that paper highlighting local news. Temperance is a continuous theme, as are other tenets of the Republican party at that time. The editors occasionally commented on news printed in the Charlotte Chronicle, the Messenger’s contemporary, like the example at right which mentions the 1888 election of President Benjamin Harrison.

We hope you’ll take a chance to delve into these two papers and the other African American newspapers on DigitalNC

_____

* I. Garland Penn. (1891) The Afro-American Press and Its Editors. p. 270

** –. p. 272


Explore Over 100 Scrapbooks Documenting Transylvania County Communities

Brown cover of the 1970 Sapphire Whitewater Community Scrapbook with the title in scriptFrom Balsam Grove to Brevard, we’ve recently added over 100 scrapbooks documenting communities and organizations in Transylvania County. These scrapbooks were scanned by the Transylvania County Library, which forwarded the scans to us for DigitalNC. They represent a number of organizations, many focused on community development. 

scrapbook page with four snapshots of signs around town and "Beautification" written at the top

From the 1958 Balsam Grove Community Scrapbook

Community development scrapbooks from the 1950s-1960s are common throughout North Carolina. These typically document efforts at beautification of homes and public areas, upgrading infrastructure like hospitals and sanitation, and fostering community spirit through local gatherings. The image at left from a Balsam Grove scrapbook is a good example of the types of information and photos you might find; it shows newly placed town signs.

These scrapbooks include photographs, many with descriptions and captions, along with newspaper clippings and ephemera from programs and events. Search all of them along with other items from Transylvania County at the Transylvania County Library’s partner page.


Call for Nominations – North Carolina Newspaper Digitization, 2019

Front page of The Carolinian newspaper from November 06, 1948, declaring Truman Wins.

An issue of The Carolinian (Raleigh) newspaper from November 6, 1948.

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

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

If your institution is in one of these counties, please consider nominating! These are counties that currently have little content represented on DigitalNC. Bertie, Bladen, Camden, Caswell, Clay, Gates, Hoke, Jones, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Swain, Tyrrell.

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 (digitalnc@unc.edu) if you’re not sure.
  • Be prepared to talk with the 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.
  • Send us an email with the name of the newspaper you would like to nominate, along with your priority years for scanning. Please talk briefly about how the paper and your institution meet the criteria below.

Nominations will be taken on an ongoing basis, however don’t wait! We typically get many more requests than we can accommodate. Please contact us at digitalnc@unc.edu with 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 or largely syndicated content?
  • Does the newspaper come from an area of the state that has little representation on DigitalNC? (Titles that have not previously been digitized will be given priority. Here’s a title list and a map showing coverage.)
  • Are the images on microfilm legible, or is it difficult to read the text?
  • Is the institution willing to obtain permission from the current publisher or rights holder(s) to digitize issues and make them freely available online?
  • If the newspaper is selected for digitization, will the nominating institution promote the digital project through programs and announcements?

*Updated 8/9/2019 to add county list.


The Daily Record Project: “Remnants” of a Pivotal Paper in North Carolina’s History

About two years ago, we had the honor of hosting a group of students from Wilmington who were studying one of the most politically and socially devastating moments in the state’s history–the Wilmington Coup and Race Riots of 1898. Their efforts centered around locating and studying the remaining issues of the newspaper at the center of that event, the Wilmington Daily Record. Owned and operated by African Americans, this successful paper incited racists who were already upset with the political power held by African Americans and supporters of equality. During the Coup, the Record’s offices were burned and many were killed. Thanks to these students, their mentors, and cultural heritage institutions, you can now see the seven known remaining issues of the Daily Record on DigitalNC.

Our main contact on this project has been John Jeremiah Sullivan, a well known North Carolina author and editor. He originally approached us back in 2017 to enlist our help and, since then, has been working with a cohort of supporters, volunteers, and students to dig deeper into the Daily Record and to raise further awareness of its history. Today we’re excited to share the Project’s latest efforts in Sullivan’s own words below. 

Group portrait of middle schoolers and adults outside in a field

Daily Record Project Historians, taken by Harry Taylor in May 2017 at the Cape Fear Museum

Highlights

  • Over the past few years, Wilmington middle school students have been combing through newspapers, periodicals, manuscripts, and other publications contemporaneous with The Daily Record searching for content from the Record that is quoted in those sources.
  • Their efforts yielded numerous quotes, which have been assembled into what they’re calling a “Remnants” issue of the Record.
  • Literary content, biographical information about the Record’s editors, Wilmington political news and more can be found in this issue.
  • For the first time in one place you can read content that was published in issues of the Record that may no longer exist.

The Daily Record Project

by John Jeremiah Sullivan

For the past four years, Joel Finsel and I, in conjunction with the Third Person Project, have been meeting weekly with groups of Wilmington 8th-graders to learn as much as we can about the Wilmington Daily Record, the African American newspaper destroyed at the start of the race massacre and coup d’état that turned Wilmington upside down in November of 1898. At the heart of the original Daily Record Project was an attempt to locate any surviving copies of the paper. Books and essays about the massacre always include a sentence along the lines of, ‘Sadly no copies remain,’ but it seemed impossible that they could all have disappeared. After three years’ hunting, we were able to identify seven copies–three in Wilmington, at the Cape Fear Museum (the staff historian there reached out to make us aware of their existence), three at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, and one at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh. (The latter is a mostly illegible copy of the issue containing Alex Manly’s editorial of August 18, 1898, the article seized on by white supremacists as a pretext for stirring up race-hatred in the months before the massacre.) These seven copies, thanks to the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, can now be examined online by anyone with an Internet connection. For the first time in more than a hundred years, it is possible to read one of the most famous and important African American newspapers of the late-nineteenth century. 

“When those seven copies had been thoroughly read through and annotated, and it did not seem that any more were going to surface (at least not in the near future), we found ourselves faced with the question of “What next?” Should we discontinue the project? We had no desire to do that—it had been too much fun and we were learning too much. We had developed rewarding relationships with the three middle schools that sent their students to study with us: Williston School, D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, and the Friends School of Wilmington. The Daily Record Project had become a kind of field laboratory for excavating more information about the events of 1898 and Wilmington history more largely. The last thing we wanted was to shut that down. 

Adult at the front of a room addressing middle school students seated at large tables.

John Jeremiah Sullivan addressing the Daily Record Project class at DC Virgo Preparatory Academy, 2019

“We had noticed, in the course of studying the seven copies, that there did exist, in various sources from that period, isolated fragments of text from various issues of the Record that may no longer exist. We were finding these fragments in other newspapers. Just as publications do today, papers were reprinting one another’s material. Sometimes it was in the form of a quotation—several paragraphs, or even just a sentence. Sometimes whole articles were being re-published. In a couple of cases, the text survived by way of advertisement: a traveling circus, for instance, had liked what the Record said about it when it passed through Wilmington, and used that paragraph in announcing future appearances. We started wondering how many of these “ghost” stories might exist. The more we looked, the more we found. We enlisted the 8th graders to help us search. They turned up even more stuff. The range of sources we were using expanded. From old newspapers we moved on to magazines and books and pamphlets and letters. Often the writers or editors doing the quoting were critical of, or even hostile to, the Record and its politics. In attacking pieces from the Record that had offended them, they were unwittingly preserving more of that newspaper’s copy for future generations. 

By the time it was over, we had a folder containing scores of these “remnants,” as we were calling them, enough to create an entire new issue–a “ghost issue”–of the Daily Record, and that is what we have done. 

To create the actual issue, we worked with a brilliant graphic designer in New York named Stacey Clarkson James, who for many years had been the Art Director at Harper’s Magazine. I had worked with Stacey at Harper’s many years ago and have collaborated with her many times since. She exceeded even our high expectations by designing a newspaper issue that is not so much an imitation of the original Daily Record as a resurrection. She went in and crafted, by hand, a typeface that matches the now-extinct one used by Alexander Manly and the original editors. Then she laid out the pages according to the old 1890s press-style, even dropping in advertisements that we knew to have appeared in the Record. At the top it says REMNANTS. We gasped when we saw it. 

“On the second page, above the masthead, can be seen a list of sources we used. There are a lot of them. The very size and range of the list shows the scope of the Record’s notoriety in its day. It was being read in many parts of the country. 

“Maybe the most interesting thing about this issue is that, because it consists only of material that other publications found interesting enough to re-print, it winds up forming a kind of Greatest Hits compilation (though all of these “hits” have been buried in other papers until now). It’s a fascinating issue to read. There are articles on politics, culture, and social life, as well as strange unplaceable pieces, like the one about a man in Arkansas who caught fire in his orchard and just kept burning. No one could put him out. We still aren’t sure what that one means. 

“Two of many things worth highlighting within the “Remnants” issue:

Photographic portrait of Charles W. Chesnutt

Charles W. Chesnutt, Charles Chesnutt Collection, Fayetteville State University Library.

“First–at the center of the issue is Charles Chesnutt’s short story, “The Wife of His Youth.” Chesnutt was, of course, one of the first great African-American fiction writers, and the novel that many consider to be his greatest work, The Marrow of Tradition, is a re-telling of the events of 1898, set in a fictionalized Wilmington that he calls Wellington. Chesnutt had many and deep ties to this city, more than most scholars are aware. (His cousin, Tommy Chesnutt, was the “printer’s devil” or apprentice at the Daily Record–you can find his name on the masthead on page 2.) “The Wife of His Youth” is probably Chesnutt’s best-known story. What’s curious is how we learned that it ran in the Daily Record. In Chesnutt’s published correspondence, there is a letter to Walter Hines Page, his editor at the Atlantic Monthly. It’s basically a letter of complaint: Chesnutt is telling Page that Alex Manly had reprinted the story (serially) in the Record, without having asked permission. At the time of that writing the Record had already been burnt and Manly had fled Wilmington, so Chesnutt essentially says, I guess we can give him a pass… But the complaint contained valuable information, because it tells us that the Record had an ongoing literary dimension. Manly was likely running stories and poems quite frequently—one of the seven surviving copies also contains a short story, “The Gray Steer” by one Frank Oakling. It’s on page 3 of the August 30th, 1898 issue. 

Photographic portrait of Alexander Manly

Alexander Manly, in the John Henry William Bonitz Papers #3865, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Second–readers will notice that at the end of the “Remnants” issue, in the last couple of columns on the last page, there is a series of articles from not the Wilmington Daily Record but the *Washington* Daily Record. These represent probably the most exciting discovery we made during this most recent session of the Daily Record Project. The way the story of 1898 traditionally gets told, the massacre and coup d’état marked the end of the Manly brothers’ journalistic careers: they left the city, their ambition blighted, and sank into relative obscurity. The reality could not have been more different. It turns out that the Manlys went almost immediately to Washington, D.C., and re-established the Daily Record there. Before a year was out, they had the press up and running. They operated the Daily Record for four more years in the capital, then handed it off to another editor, who ran it for another six or seven. One of their articles included here is a stirring anti-imperialist denunciation of American military intervention in the Philippines. Another describes the renaissance in African-American literary activity that was felt to be happening around the turn of the century. As far as we can determine, these few pieces represent the only extant copy from the *Washington* Daily Record, for its entire decade-long run. 

“There is much more worth unpacking, but we want to allow visitors to the NC Digital Heritage Center’s website to have the fun of doing that themselves.  

“Long live the Daily Record. Thank you for reading. 

“There are a lot of people to thank. First, the incredible 8th-grade students participated in the “Remnants” session of the Daily Record Project. It was a privilege to work with them and be around their energy: 

  • Ridley Edgerton
  • Bella Erichsen
  • Dymir Everett
  • Love Fowler
  • Malakhi Gordon
  • Heaven Loftin
  • Katy McCullough
  • Juan Mckoy
  • Shalee Newell
  • Isis Peoples
  • Nakitah Roberts
  • Gabe Smith
  • Maria Sullivan
  • Latara Walker
  • Ramya Warren

“Second, the adults (teachers, administrators, chaperones, donors, friends, and Third Person Project members) who contributed every week to making this year’s work possible: 

  • Rhonda Bellamy
  • Dan Brawley
  • Laura Butler
  • Stacey Clarkson James
  • Michelle Dykes
  • Clyde Edgerton
  • Brenda Esch
  • Joe Finley
  • Cameron Francisco
  • Sabrina Hill-Black 
  • Mariana Johnson
  • Trey Morehouse
  • Tana Oliver
  • Donyell Roseboro
  • Elliot Smith
  • Beverley Tetterton
  • Larry Reni Thomas
  • Candace Thompson
  • Leyna Varnum
  • Tony Ventimiglia 
  • Florence Weller
  • The Cape Fear Museum
  • NC State Archives
  • The Schomburg Center 

“And finally, a shout-out to the Digital Heritage Center. Thanks to you, more than 120 years after white supremacists tried to erase the Daily Record, people are reading it again.”


Discover Charlotte – A City in Motion

film title printed over charlotte sunrise

In partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library we’re pleased to share this 1968 film entitled Discover Charlotte – A City in Motion. Created by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and narrated by famous journalist and North Carolinian Charles Kurault, this promotional film boasts about Charlotte’s industrial and economic growth.

air traffic controller in tower with view of tarmac and planeIn color with an upbeat soundtrack, Discover Charlotte lauds the motion of Charlotteans, beginning with a look at the city’s role in trucking, rail, and air transport. Turning to the banking industry, the film shows people processing large amounts of checks and cash and using adding machines at lightning speed. Shots of the Charlotte Record newspaper offices include coverage of Record employees learning via Teletype that Gene Payne, the Record’s cartoonist, had won a Pulitzer. You’ll see pilots and passengers at the Charlotte Douglas airport, Arthur “Guitar Boogie” and the Crackerjacks playing at the WBT station, computers whirring in a new data processing center, workers constructing a Duke power complex, and researchers examining newly woven textiles.

Most of the film features scenes of middle and upper class white Charlotteans in work, social, or religious settings.  In Charlotte, there is “a church for every man” and there are brief views of a number of religious institutions including Covenant Presbyterian Church, Dilworth Methodist Church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Other events and activities shown in the film include

  • Festival in the Park at Freedom Park,pit stop with race car being gassed up and tires changed
  • the Mint Museum Drama Guild rehearsing a play,
  • a wedding reception for an unnamed white couple, 
  • a Carolina v. NC State basketball game,
  • a Charlotte Checkers hockey game, and 
  • a NASCAR stock car race.

There are also views of two university campuses, Johnson C. Smith and the relatively new UNC-Charlotte.

Filmed during the Civil Rights movement, there are only brief allusions to racial tensions. There is a snippet of white police officers talking about “riding with Negro officers,” which cuts to a group of black men and officers talking about a local march. The end of the film describes Charlotte’s participation in the Model Cities initiative and its “total attack on poverty,” efforts that were meant to eradicate urban blight that, as in many cities in America, ended up displacing and/or destroying minority-owned homes and businesses. The film ends with drawings of a planned expressway, widened streets, parks, new hotels and high rises.

This is one of a number of items Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has shared on DigitalNC. You can see more on their contributor page or learn more about their North Carolina collections on their website.


Nine More Yearbooks from Burke County Added to DigitalNC

two page book spread with photos of football players and newspaper article clippings about football game scores

Burke County Public Library has contributed nine additional yearbooks from Burke County high schools to their online yearbooks collection, which now spans the 1940s to the late 1960s. These latest yearbooks come from Drexel High School, Francis Garrou High School, Morganton High School, Oak Hill High School, and the first yearbook in the collection from West Concord School.

Click to view the newest additions, or browse all of the high school yearbooks from Burke County.


Three Yearbooks Added from Wake and Wayne Counties

Headshots of six women arranged in an oval, from the 1922 Tarpitur

We love filling in gaps in the DigitalNC yearbook collection as new volumes are uncovered. Today’s post mentions three such volumes from Wayne and Wake Counties.

Wayne County Public Library contributed the 1922 Tarpitur, one of the earliest volumes on our site from Goldsboro High School. You can also view all of the yearbooks we have available for Goldsboro High School.

We’ve also added the 1945 Latipac from Needham B. Broughton High School and the 1958 E’corde from Cardinal Gibbons High School, both in Raleigh.

Looking on the High School tab on our Yearbooks page is an easy way to discover what years we might be missing. Contact us if your institution can help fill in gaps!


What Should You Do With Your Scanned Photos? What We Suggest for Libraries, Archives, and Museums

We frequently get asked by institutions “what should I do with my scanned photos/documents?” This is a great question but not an easy one – digitization/scanning is the easy part.

What these institutions are often asking is how they should keep track of the files they created during scanning (scans) and the information about what they scanned (metadata). In addition to tracking, they’d like to know what their options are for sharing the scans and metadata with an online audience.

When you see websites like ours with extensive collections of scans paired with metadata (like in the screenshot below), there’s usually a piece of software behind it that keeps track of the scans and the metadata and then matches them up for online display. That’s what a content management systems (CMS) does, if you’ve heard that term before. The benefit of using a CMS is that it makes sure the scans and their metadata remain paired over time, and often allows users to do fun things like search, sort, and filter.

Color photograph of a woman in a WWI uniform.

Screenshot of an item on DigitalNC, as presented by a content management system called TIND.

There are different types of CMSs for different types of industries. This post focuses on options for cultural heritage institutions, because CMSs made for cultural heritage institutions generally address the things we care about most. They make sure metadata is shareable, that scans can be described really well, and that you can express one-to-many relationships (think: many scans linked up to a single metadata record).

If your institution is considering implementing a CMS, here are the very first steps we suggest considering.

First, Plan 

  • Decide on your goals. Do you want your scans to be available online? Or are you just looking for software that will manage your scans and metadata locally? Who will use the end product – your staff, your patrons/users, or both? Your answer will help guide where you go next.
  • Do some prep work. Like any other service your institution wants to maintain, figure out (1) how much money you have to spend both now and on an ongoing basis, (2) who will need to be involved in installation and support, and (3) what staff expertise you already have related to technology.
  • Talk to your administration and coworkers. What are their goals and needs for scanning and sharing those scans, if any? It’s a lot harder to implement a system if you don’t have the buy-in of others where you work. 
  • Be realistic. Start small and build up your capacity. We’ve never heard of someone saying “our first scanned collection was too small,” but we have heard a lot of people say “I bit off way more than we could chew.”

Options for Keeping Track of Scans Locally

If you just need to keep track of scans and metadata locally for staff use, you can do this easily with a spreadsheet and a really consistent file naming structure. The spreadsheet could include things like a title or description, maybe a physical location, any other helpful keywords or dates, and the file or folder names for the scans. Staff can search the spreadsheet for what they need, and then find the file or folder name so they can pull up the scans from storage.

If you’d like something more sophisticated for keeping track of scans and metadata locally for staff use, there are programs that allow you to tag and describe scans that live locally. If you search for “photo management software” or “photo organizing software” online you’ll discover a number of options. We’re not terribly familiar with these; just be sure that you can export whatever you put into the software before committing.

Options for Putting Scans Online

If you decide you’d like to put your scans online, here are some choices you can consider.

A Content Management System Already in Place

Examples Include: LibGuides (screenshot below), library catalogs, museum databases

Screenshot of a public library's LibGuide site.

Screenshot of a LibGuide with extensive information about North Carolina maps.

Typically Chosen By: Institutions who already have a CMS that they can stretch to serve their needs.

The Positive Side: You may be able to start sharing your scans faster because the CMS is already adopted and paid for by your institution and familiar to staff and online users. 

Possible Challenges: LibGuides, library catalogs, and museum databases do not always follow best practices and standards for digital collections. For example, it may not allow you to attach multiple scans to a single record, or it may not export your metadata in a structured way. In other words, you may be fitting a “square peg into a round hole.” In addition, if the features you want to use are secondary to the system’s main purpose, the vendor or developer could drop those features later. 

Recommended? Depending on your resources and needs this can be the best solution. Just be aware of the possible down sides mentioned above.

A Social Media or Photo Sharing Website

Examples Include: Facebook, Flickr (Screenshot below), Tumblr

Screenshot of a yearbook cover photo on Flickr

Screenshot of an item on Flickr.

Typically Chosen By: Private individuals, small organizations with limited technical staff, institutions seeking to engage with broad communities where those communities already congregate online.

The Positive Side: These reach broad, built-in audiences. There is frequently no cost up front.

Possible Challenges: These do not adhere to best practices and standards for digital collections, which can cause a lot of work later on. Sites like these can shut down or change their terms of service with little or no regard for or warning to users. There are ads displayed near to your files, over which your organization has no control. It’s frequently impossible or extremely difficult to get your files and metadata back out of these sites.

Recommended? Not recommended as the main mechanism for managing and storing your files and metadata. These sites are best used only for outreach and engagement.

Hosting your Content on DigitalNC.org

Typically Chosen By: Institutions of all sizes who prefer not to host their own software, possibly due to local IT limitations or as a result of strategic priorities;  institutions who would like their scans and metadata searchable alongside others from around the state.

The Positive Side: Your content reaches a broad, built-in audience. It would be searchable with similar digital collections from around North Carolina. Currently no cost to institutions.

Possible Challenges: We do the uploading and editing for you, and it takes place within a broader schedule. We’d ask you to create images and metadata that follow our standards before we could upload. (These could be positives, depending on your perspective.)

Recommended? Sure! Depending on your resources and needs this can be a great option.

A Content Management System Hosted by an External Company

Examples Include: CONTENTdm (screenshot below), hosted Islandora, ArtStor’s JSTOR Forum, Omeka.net, Past Perfect Online, or TIND (which is what we use, see screenshot at the beginning of this post)

Photograph of a man and boy with two dogs, along with metadata below it.

Screenshot of a hosted instance of CONTENTdm.

Typically Chosen By: Institutions of all sizes who prefer not to host their own software, possibly due to local IT limitations or as a result of strategic priorities.

The Positive Side: Many systems like these are built with best practices like consistency, standards, and integration with other systems. They will allow users to search your metadata, and often offer things like filtering, file downloading, and other desired user services. Your organization does not have to set up or maintain the software locally. You can establish a brand and dedicated site for your digital collections.

Possible Challenges: They require staff with specialized training in the system, and the ability to pay a vendor both initially and on an ongoing basis. You’re limited to the services or features the vendor chooses to offer.

Recommended? Sure! Depending on your resources this can be a great option.

Hosting Your own Content Management System

Examples Include: Self-hosted Islandora, Omeka (screenshot below), Samvera, Collective Access

Screenshot of a colorful campus map along with metadata.

Screenshot of a self-hosted instance of Omeka.

Typically Chosen By: Institutions with programmers on staff, dedicated IT support, and collections that require a lot of customization.

The Positive Side: Like the hosted systems above, these are also often built with best practices like standards and interoperability. They will allow users to search your metadata, and often offer things like filtering, image downloading, and other user services. When you host your own system you can frequently customize more features.

Possible Challenges: They require staff with specialized training, and a robust and flexible IT support infrastructure. They’re more time intensive and costly to maintain.

Recommended? Sure! Depending on your resources and needs this can be a great option.

Final Thoughts

In the end, there isn’t much that’s an “always wrong” choice. There are only choices that have different consequences down the road. We encourage people to choose the systems that adhere to digital collections best practices, because those best practices come from people who’ve made choices they regretted. In the end, it’s most important to choose a solution that meets your needs and fits the resources you have now and those you anticipate having in the future. Above all, always be sure that your scans and metadata are backed up and can be extracted from the system you choose!

Did we miss anything? Leave us a comment below.

If you’re considering one or more of these and have questions, get in touch. We’re happy to give you advice for what to ask a vendor or point you to similar institutions who may have already adopted what you’re considering.