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


10 for 10: Celebrating NCDHC’s Birthday with Stakeholder Stories – Dawn Schmitz

Head and shoulders view of smiling archivist with collared shirt and business jacket

Dawn Schmitz, Associate Dean for Special Collections & University Archives at Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte

This year marks the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s 10th anniversary, and to celebrate we’ll be posting 10 stories from 10 stakeholders about how NCDHC has impacted their organizations.

Today’s 10 for 10 Q&A is from Dawn Schmitz, Associate Dean for Special Collections & University Archives at Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte. Since 2010, we’ve partnered with UNC-Charlotte’s Atkins Library (Library home page | NCDHC contributor page) digitizing yearbooks and catalogs, maps, photographs, and newspapers. You should also head over to Goldmine, their digital collections website, where you’ll find oral histories, maps, photographs, and other items documenting the history of the Charlotte area and UNC-Charlotte.  Read below for more about our partnership with UNC-C.

What impact has NCDHC had on your institution and/or on a particular audience that means a lot to you?

In 2017, you put out a call for nominations for digitization projects that would help document the history of underrepresented groups in our state. You immediately responded to my nomination of QNotes, a Charlotte LGBTQ newspaper that has been published since the 1980s.  As a result, this publication is now online, freely available to the community (rather than behind a paywall), and used regularly by QNotes staff, queer studies scholars and students, and the general public. To top it all off, your bloggers did an incredible job of promoting the resource, highlighting its significance for LGBTQ history. Jim Yarbrough, publisher of QNotes, wrote in the newspaper, “To see our staff’s work made available to a larger audience and future generations — it’s indescribable.”

Do you have a specific user story (maybe your own!) about how DigitalNC has boosted research or improved access to important information? 

There are so many examples of reference questions we have answered with a link to DigitalNC. One question I received from our University Communications office was particularly fun and satisfying to answer: When was our sports team first referred to as the forty-niners? Our Athletics department believed it was 1963. But using DigitalNC, I found a mention in the student newspaper two years earlier. (Charlotte collegian., November 01, 1961, page 4 )

What item or group of items on DigitalNC.org do you think everyone should know about?
It’s so hard to choose! For our alumni and the entire NinerNation, the student newspapers, yearbooks, and course catalogs are so important. I personally love the city directories for the wealth of information they contain about Charlotte in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

If you were asked to “describe what makes NCDHC great” in a few words, what would they be?

NCDHC a first-rate operation: responsive, professional, innovative, inclusive, community-engaged, and indispensable!

Celebrating 10 years NC Digital Heritage Center, with confetti background


10 for 10: Celebrating NCDHC’s Birthday with Stakeholder Stories – Erin Allsop

Headshot of smiling archivist with long straight hair and bright green clothing

Erin Allsop, Archivist, Central Piedmont Community College

This year marks the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s 10th anniversary, and to celebrate we’ll be posting 10 stories from 10 stakeholders about how NCDHC has impacted their organizations.

Today’s 10 for 10 Q&A is from Erin Allsop, Archivist at Central Piedmont Community College. Since 2014, we’ve partnered with CPCC’s Library (Library home page | NCDHC contributor page) digitizing yearbooks, catalogs, scrapbooks and photographs. Erin has also been involved with the North Carolina Community College Archives Association since its beginning in 2018. Read below for more about our partnership with CPCC

What impact has NCDHC had on your institution and/or on a particular audience that means a lot to you?

I am the archivist for Central Piedmont Community College, and cofounder of the NC Community College Archives Association. Community College history, and their archival collections, are often over-looked or discarded. Thanks to the NCDHC and their assistance, most of the Community College materials are being made accessible for future generations over time.

Central Piedmont Archives collections could not be made publicly available without the support of the Digital Heritage Center and their staff. While they provide a literal platform (database) to share our institutional heritage materials with the world, they also provide a figurative platform to advocate for greater support of community college history, and efforts of community college archivists, throughout North Carolina. NCDHC has provided a wealth of knowledge and support for these initiatives, without judgement. This means more to me than I can describe.

What item or group of items on DigitalNC.org do you think everyone should know about?

The Central Piedmont History Scrapbooks and Dental Hygiene yearbooks!!

If you were asked to “describe what makes NCDHC great” in a few words, what would they be?

The NCDHC is tantamount to the success of most (if not all) smaller institutional archives throughout our state. While their resources are a wonderful tool for us to use, contribute to, and share with a wider audience, the kindness and consideration of the staff I have interacted with makes working with NCDHC even more enjoyable. They are a team of dedicated information professionals, who genuinely want to make a difference in the world by providing the platform to those without a voice. Thank you, a million times over. I cannot wait to see what the next 10 years has in store!

Celebrating 10 years NC Digital Heritage Center, with confetti background


10 for 10: Celebrating NCDHC’s Birthday with Stakeholder Stories – Mike Legeros

Smiling individual seated on rear of fire truck with multiple cameras in hand

Mike Legeros. Photo credit: News and Observer

This year marks the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s 10th anniversary, and to celebrate we’ll be posting 10 stories from 10 stakeholders about how NCDHC has impacted their organizations.

Today’s 10 for 10 post is from Mike Legeros, historian and president of Raleigh’s Fire Museum (Museum home page | NCDHC contributor page). You can find a lot of research and additional documents at Mike’s history page as well. Since 2018, we’ve partnered with the Museum to digitize scrapbooks and history books.  Read below for more about our partnership with the Fire History Museum.

What impact has NCDHC had on your institution and/or on a particular audience that means a lot to you?

The NC Digital Heritage Center has been instrumental is helping the Raleigh Fire Museum add digital content to our archives and web site. And, in this era of COVID, they’re valuable additions to our virtual museum experience (e.g., web site), as our physical facility has remained closed. They digitized several scrapbooks of the Raleigh Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary, which operated from the 1950s to the 1970s. The scrapbooks offer an intimate and personal view of the department’s activities and members as well as their spouses. The NCDHC also digitized a pair of RFD history books, from 1984 and 2002, another fabulous addition. At a higher level, they’ve helped our staff think ahead to other future digital projects, and ways that we can help other fire museums and similar organizations preserve and present their history.

Celebrating 10 years NC Digital Heritage Center, with confetti background


10 for 10: Celebrating NCDHC’s Birthday with Stakeholder Stories – Marcy Thompson

Smiling individual behind a desk within a sunlit libraryThis year marks the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s 10th anniversary, and to celebrate we’ll be posting 10 stories from 10 stakeholders about how NCDHC has impacted their organizations.

Today’s 10 for 10 Q&A is from Marcy Thompson, Librarian in the Local History Room at Transylvania County Library. Since 2010, we’ve partnered with Transylvania County Library (Library home page | NCDHC contributor page) digitizing scrapbooks, newspapers, photos, architectural histories, and more. Over the last few years, Marcy has expanded relationships in communities throughout Transylvania County in order to document community groups. Read below for more about our partnership with Transylvania County Library.

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The Local History Room at the Transylvania County Library serves as the archives for Transylvania County. We are charged with collecting and preserving materials pertaining to Transylvania families, businesses, organizations and history including documents, photographs, manuscripts, newspapers, scrapbooks and more. The Local History Room is staffed by one full-time position responsible for the service desk, a small part-time staff and a team of volunteers, along with outreach and programming. By working with the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center we have been able to make materials accessible online through DigitalNC to people in our community and far beyond. This simply that would not have been possible without the platform, technical expertise and man-hours provided by NCDHC.

The Transylvania County Library signed an agreement with NCDHC in late 2010. Initially this was a collection of just over 200 images of downtown Brevard. The immediate benefit to our Local History Room was added publicity for the collection. Since that time we have added additional images, local newspapers, local high school yearbooks, architectural survey photos and documents, and most recently a large collection of community scrapbooks. Having all of these resources available online to the public is a huge achievement for a small rural library.

The newspaper collection, which covers 1903 through June 1940, is the material group that has had the largest impact on both library staff and users in the general public. These newspapers are available in our collection on microfilm, however they are not indexed. Through DigitalNC not only are they now available to a broader audience but they are searchable! It makes our jobs easier by being able to quickly locate information.

One example of this occurred while conducting research for a local program, display and series of articles in conjunction with the Suffrage Movement and 100th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment. Rather than spending countless hours scouring microfilm we conducted searches to learn about local suffrage events, who supported and opposed suffrage, and changes brought about as a result of women gaining the right to vote.

DigitalNC has changed the way we provide service and benefited our library by opening access to resources that would otherwise be limited to only those who visit the Local History Room at the Transylvania County Library in Brevard, NC. What truly makes NCDHC great is what they make possible every day to a world of users!

Celebrating 10 years NC Digital Heritage Center, with confetti background


Happy Birthday DigitalNC!

Celebrating 10 years NC Digital Heritage Center, with confetti backgroundIt’s DigitalNC.org’s 10th birthday! Though we had hoped to be in the office celebrating, we’re still taking time to look back at years of hard work and the collaborative spirit that makes the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (NCDHC) what it is!

To date, NCDHC has partnered with 273 libraries, museums, alumni associations, archives, and historic sites in 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and we’re growing all the time. Our website currently includes 4.2 million images and files. We share this accomplishment with every institution we’ve worked with. We’d never have gotten to 10 years without staff (permanent, temporary, and student!), our partners, or the network of colleagues all over North Carolina who have encouraged, advised, and supported our work. 

As we approached our anniversary, we realized that our website lacked a synopsis of how NCDHC came to be, and our history. So read on for a brief look at how we got started and our major milestones.

Our History

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center was one outcome of a comprehensive effort by the state’s Department of Cultural Resources (now the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources) to survey and get a broad overview of the status of North Carolina cultural heritage institutions. That effort was entitled NC ECHO (North Carolina Exploring Cultural Heritage Online) and was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (which also supports us – thanks IMLS). A major goal of NC ECHO was a multi-year needs assessment. NC ECHO staff visited hundreds of cultural heritage institutions throughout the state to collect data and interview curators, librarians, volunteers, archivists, and more. Many of our partners still remember their visits!

NC ECHO report cover with image of biplaneData collected at these site visits was combined with survey responses to reveal a “state of the state,” summarized in a 2010 report, cover pictured at right. The assessment revealed a lot but, specific to digitization, staff found that nearly three-quarters of the 761 institutions who completed the survey had no digitization experience or capacity. Members of the Department of Cultural Resources (which includes the State Library, State Archives, and multiple museums and historic sites) began brainstorming with other area institutions about a way to help efficiently and effectively provide digitization opportunities. While the NC ECHO project offered digitization grants, workshops, and best practices, an idea emerged of a centralized entity that could assist institutions that didn’t have the capacity to do the work in house. The State Library of North Carolina and UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries joined together to create such an entity: the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. The Center would be located in Chapel Hill, taking advantage of its central location and the digitization equipment and expertise already available in Wilson Special Collections Library. The State Library would provide funding, guidance, and ongoing promotion and support of the Center’s services.

At its beginning, the Center’s staff digitized small collections of college yearbooks, needlework samplers, postcards, and photographs and made them available through DigitalNC.org. They went to speak with organizations interested in becoming partners, and began taking projects for digitization. Here’s a list of NCDHC’s earliest partners, who came on board during late 2009 and 2010. 

Though we’re not positive of the exact date, we believe DigitalNC.org launched on or near May 12, 2010. Here’s a look at that original site!

DigitalNC.org home page at launch with numerous historic photographs.

In 2011, word about the Center spread. Staff started responding to demand from partners, incorporating newspaper digitization. In late 2012, also in response to popular demand, the Center began digitizing high school yearbooks. Yearbooks and newspapers are some of the most viewed items on DigitalNC, and they remain a significant portion of our work to this day. 

In 2013, NCDHC joined the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) as North Carolina’s “service hub.” The DPLA collects information from digitized collections all over the nation and provides it together in one searchable interface at dp.la. Because of our participation, users can browse and search for collections from North Carolina alongside items from institutions around the country.

Throughout the years, we’ve tried to expand services to fit our partners’ goals. In 2015, we trialed an audiovisual digitization project that incorporated the first films into DigitalNC. Today, we partner with the Southern Folklife Collection at Wilson Special Collections Library to provide audio digitization on an ongoing basis. In 2016, we added a new partner category – alumni associations – to support more digitization of African American high school yearbooks and memorabilia. The following year, we announced a focus on digitization of items documenting underrepresented communities. We also started going on the road with our scanners! For institutions that don’t have the staff time or resources to travel to Chapel Hill, we offer to come for a day or two and scan on site.

2018 Finalist National Medal for Museum & Library Service, with image of medal2018 and 2019 saw several major milestones. We were nationally recognized as an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal finalist, and we began a major software migration. Both were a tribute to the size and extent of our operation, though in different ways. As we’ve approached our 10th anniversary we’ve focused on working with partners in all 100 of North Carolina’s counties. Whether you’re rural or metropolitan, we believe your history is important and should be shared online.

One of the ways we’re commemorating this anniversary is to ask our partners and stakeholders how they think we’ve impacted them and their audiences. Join us here on the blog in the second half of 2020 as we share these brief interviews, reflect, and celebrate. Thank you for reading, enjoy the site, and here’s to another 10 years of making North Carolina’s cultural heritage accessible online!


Additional issues of Raleigh’s The Carolinian Newspaper from the Civil Rights Era now Online

April 13, 1968 front page of The Carolinian

The April 13, 1968 front page of The Carolinian, reporting on the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination.

The newest issues to DigitalNC of one of Raleigh’s African American newspapers, The Carolinian, cover the most turbulent years of the Civil Rights Era. Recently added are issues from 1959-1962, 1965-1972. These join issues from 1945-1958, 1963-1964, which are already available on our site. 

Within these new additions you will find coverage of the sit-ins in Greensboro and throughout the state, North Carolina’s protracted battle over school integration, the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.. There is ongoing reporting about both local and national efforts of the NAACP, KKK demonstrations and counter-protests, and news about boycotts and protests at the state’s historically black colleges and universities.

The paper covers local news – achievements of adults and children alike, events, crime. Milestones of integration appear as well, like the first known birth of an African American child at Rex Hospital in Raleigh.

Thanks to Olivia Raney Local History Library in Raleigh for securing permission to share The Carolinian online. You can view all of the issues currently available, as well as everything we’ve scanned for Olivia Raney on their contributor page.


The Morrisville Progress, a New Newspaper Addition to DigitalNC

Masthead of The Morrisville & Preston Progress

Today on the blog we’re happy to announce the addition of The Morrisville & Preston Progress, published in Morrisville from 1995-1999. This newspaper was contributed for digitization by Olivia Raney Local History Library, part of Wake County Public Libraries.

The Progress is a really interesting view into an area that has changed a lot in the last thirty years. During the span published in The Progress you can see a focus on development and growth, with articles describing the diminishing farm economy and the development around RDU airport and RTP. The article below, taken from the front page of the January 31, 1996 issue, talks about land being sold at a premium thanks to Morrisville’s convenient location.

Newspaper clipping "Morrisville parcels bring top prices"

The paper also covers Preston, a community in Cary. Most of that news centers around golf; Prestonwood is a large country club with an extensive course. The September 1998 issue highlights a celebrity golf tournament, the Jimmy V Classic, that brought players like Mia Hamm, Scott Wolf, and Michael Jordan among others.

Many of the early issues include a feature entitled “Our Neighbors Speak,” which posed a current events question to Morrisville and Preston residents to get their take. Topics range from proposed federal income tax changes, to college athletics, to more local concerns. In the example below from November 1995 a number of white residents were asked their opinion about rapid growth after the population of the Triangle surpassed one million.

Our neighbors speak feature with photos and Q&A

Read about Morrisville local politics (and drama!), commercial and residential development, and ongoing cultural changes in The Progress, or take a look at all of the materials we’ve digitized for Olivia Raney Local History Library on their contributor page.


New School Records and Church Minutes from Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount Added to DigitalNC

Handwritten list of names under the heading "females"

An excerpt from the 1888-1905 volume from Philadelphia Baptist Church including female members.

Today on the blog we’re announcing some additions from Braswell Memorial Library, our long-time partner in Rocky Mount (Nash County). They’ve shared a number of church and school records for digitization.

Now online are church records and minutes from Philadelphia Baptist Church in Nashville, N. C. Dating from 1888-1905 and 1920-1954, these three volumes of photocopied records include the church’s member lists, minutes, and articles of faith. The minutes include a record of members invited, those excluded from membership due to various infractions, and a record of activities like services and baptisms. The originals are held and maintained by the church.

Also included in this most recent batch are two volumes related to the history of Spring Hope High School. One is a class reunion book, which dates from a 1990 reunion held for the class of 1947. The other is the Parent Teacher Association’s Secretary’s record book from 1955-1977. Both of these offer a lot of names for genealogical and local history research: those who either attended the school, their parents, or various school staff members.

You can view all of the materials we’ve scanned for Braswell Memorial Library on their contributor page


List of Public North Carolina African American High Schools Enhances Efforts at Preserving Their History

Red and beige yearbook cover with title The Hawk 62

Cover of the 1962 Johnston County Training School yearbook.

Beginning in the early 1900s, North Carolina citizens segregated their schools. African American and Native American children were forced to attend separate schools from their white counterparts. Sometimes within the students’ own towns, sometimes a county away, these segregated schools often operated with fewer resources and poor infrastructure. 

We help cultural heritage institutions scan high school yearbooks. To date we’ve added over 8,200 to DigitalNC. Less than 5% come from African American high schools*. There are a lot of reasons for this – sometimes African American schools couldn’t afford to create a yearbook, or few members of their student population could purchase one. There were a lot fewer African American schools compared to white schools, too. Many cultural heritage institutions, due to implicit or explicit bias, haven’t collected them over the years. In addition, families may be less likely to give them up to a predominantly white collecting institution. We’re always so glad to see them come through our doors, with an awareness of the fact that they represent vibrant communities flourishing within a repressive social structure.

To highlight the rarity of these yearbooks and to possibly help locate more, we’ve created a list of the names and locations of all of the public African American high schools compiled from the North Carolina Educational Directory around the time that the schools were desegregated.

five line excerpt from the full list of african american high schools

You can see from the image above that the list includes

  • the school’s name along with any variants we’ve uncovered,
  • city,
  • county,
  • whether or not we have any yearbooks on DigitalNC.org,
  • a link to a known alumni association’s website, and
  • links to the Educational Directories where the school’s name was located.

The Educational Directory series was compiled and produced by the State Department of Public Instruction. These directories are incredibly useful for researching public school history. They list the names of schools along with locations and statistics. In the years leading up to 1964, “negro” schools were listed separately from white schools for each county, as shown in the excerpt below.

Printed black and white text in several columns. See caption for more information.

This excerpt comes from page 95 of the 1963 North Carolina Educational Directory. It notes the White and “Negro” schools of Rocky Mount, NC.

Beginning in the 1964-1965 Educational Directory – a full 10 years after the federal abolition of school segregation – schools were no longer designated as “negro” or white. Full integration in North Carolina took even longer, only completing in 1971. 

In addition to the list of schools, we’ve created a North Carolina African American High Schools exhibit page through which you can more easily browse or search the African American high school yearbooks currently available on DigitalNC.

We hope that both the exhibit page and the list are useful for those who may not know the name of the African American high school that used to exist in their county or community, or who may be looking for yearbooks from a particular school or area of the state. Both will be updated if our partners are able to locate more yearbooks for digitization. If you have questions, check our Yearbook Digitization page for more information or contact us.

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* During segregation Native Americans were a significantly smaller portion of the population compared to African Americans. Native American children were not allowed to attend white schools. In a few cases they had their own schools; in many they were sent to the “negro” schools. We use the term “African American high schools” for brevity, acknowledging that these institutions educated students with many identities. 


Seventy Additional Scrapbooks Documenting Transylvania County Communities Added to DigitalNC

Bright yellow scrapbook page with the title The Homesteaders See-Off Community Club and a line drawing of a one-story building

Cover or title page of the 1977 Homesteaders See-Off Community Club Scrapbook

Transylvania County Library has shared 70 additional scrapbooks from their extensive collection, adding to the over 100 already on DigitalNC. This latest group includes a number of community clubs and groups:

Like previous batches, these community club scrapbooks share photos and ephemera documenting town events, club members, and club activities. Many of these clubs took part in regional or statewide contests encouraging community “beautification” by landscaping roadsides, installing signs, or improving publicly used buildings or even private homes.

Scrapbook page with three black and white photographs and several clippings describing remodeled Ernest Lance home

This page from the 1955 Dunns Rock Community Club Scrapbook shows before and after photos of the remodeled Lance home.

Thanks to Transylvania County Library for scanning these at their library and sending the images for addition to DigitalNC. You can view all of the items from Transylvania County Library on their contributor page.