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 tagged "photos"


Photographs and Memorabilia from Smithfield High School Alumni Association Just Added to DigitalNC

Colorful football program cover with drawing of running football player

Program from the High School Football State Finals, Appalachian vs. Smithfield, December 1959

The Smithfield High School Alumni Association, a new partner, recently brought over a large collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and school ephemera for digitization here at the Digital Heritage Center. Sports as well as musical and theatrical performances feature prominently in this batch. There are formal portraits alongside candid snapshots taken of students over the years. Much of the content dates from the 1940s – 1960s before the high schools in Johnston County were consolidated and integrated.

Scrapbook page with three black and white photos each containing groups of students posing for the camera

One of the many pages of snapshots of Smithfield High School students.

A history of Smithfield published in 1977 by the Smithfield Herald for the town’s bicentennial was also scanned as part of this batch.  It provides a detailed history of the town, as well as great historic photographs of the town.  

You can view all of the materials we’ve digitized for the Smithfield High School Alumni Association on their contributor page. If you’re an SHS fan or alum, you may also be interested in the SHS yearbooks that the Johnston County Heritage Center has shared through our site.


We Can Do Better: Making Our Metadata More Equitable

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a pilot project that looks at how NCDHC staff have portrayed women through metadata (the information that accompanies the images on DigitalNC) over time. This is a small step towards finding unconscious bias in our work and making our metadata more equitable. I’ve accumulated some interesting examples, and I thought I’d share them here.

Anyone who’s ever tried to trace a matrilineal line knows the frustration of women being referred to only in the context of marriage. This was the convention in historic American culture – you’ll see it in newspapers, books, correspondence – and special collections are no exception. It was pretty easy for me to start looking at bias in our metadata with a simple search on Mrs., which netted me over 2,000 results.

Screenshot of the top 3 search results on DigitalNC.org when searching "Mrs."

If you browse that search yourself, you’ll see how many records don’t include the woman’s first name. The information that’s been written on or passed down with a photograph often inherited that cultural bias towards a woman’s married state. When NCDHC staff set out to describe a photograph, if all we have is “Mrs. Lewis Dellinger” then that’s what gets transferred to our metadata. Even if we had time to do research to try to locate Mrs. Lewis Dellinger’s given name, in most cases we couldn’t be positive it was the correct identification. So there are a lot of records that can’t be improved given the reliable information we have on hand.

Still, after browsing through DigitalNC, I started seeing places where a simple and quick change could make a difference. Here’s one example:

Black and White Image of white woman smiling and facing the camera

A screenshot of how this record looked initially, with the photograph entitled “Governor Scott’s Wife.”

Unlike many individuals in our collection, I knew this woman’s name and identity would be easy to confirm. Jessie Rae Osborne Scott was a graduate of what is now UNC-Greensboro. She taught high school, helped run a farm, raised five children, and was active in a number of charities and social causes. Other verified photographs of her are available online because she also happened to marry a governor. That fact is notable, but I’ve amended the record so that her own name is foremost while retaining the information originally included with the photograph in the description. 

When I first searched our website for the word “wife” I received 221 results; “husband” yielded 54. Because of ingrained bias, even if a woman’s name is available in the metadata her relationship to the man or men in the picture is privileged instead. Conversely, unless the woman was particularly well known or the overt focus of a photograph, husbands aren’t named as such. Here’s an example: 

Black and white family portrait with the man seated and holding a young child, and a woman standing to his left.

This photograph is entitled “Eppie N. Clifton, wife Melissa Honeycutt, and daughter Mettie.”

Note that the man is mentioned first, and the woman and child are described in relation to him. Here’s how I amended the photo’s metadata:

Black and white family portrait with the man seated and holding a young child, and a woman standing to his left.

This photograph is entitled “Mettie, Eppie N. Clifton, and Melissa Honeycutt.” The Description reads “L-R Mettie (daughter), Eppie N. Clifton (husband), and Melissa Honeycutt (wife).”

In the updated version I’m just going left to right and taking each person in turn, communicating what was written on or with the photograph. Their family relationship is still given, so that information isn’t lost, but it’s recorded in a way that’s more equal across the group.

Here’s another example I found interesting:

Black and white photo of five family members standing in front of a house.

This photo is entitled “Eldridge Troy Westbrook family and home, Bentonville Township, N.C.”

Note that the house is named after the male head of household and his name is noted in the title, but he isn’t in the photo. (The original description we were given even mentions that “ETW was living at time of photo; he doesn’t just happen to be in photo.”) I don’t want to remove the entire name of the house – it might have been identified that way among those who lived in the area – but I can easily improve the equity shown to the individuals who are actually shown in the photo without losing any important information. See what you think. All I did was keep the surname, and move the male’s name down to the description. I also put the familial relationships in parentheses instead of having them precede each name. I think this might subtly shift how people see this photograph and those pictured within. To me they seem less like they’re just hanging around waiting for ETW to arrive.

To sum it up, here are the types of changes we will regularly make to help improve the equity of our metadata:

  • We’ll note the full known identity of all of the photograph’s subjects in the title, moving from left to right, as in the example above.
  • When a couple’s only known information is a surname, we’ll record the honorifics for individuals from left to right. (In other words, we won’t default to always placing Mr. first.) Example: Mrs. and Mr. Detweiler
  • If a familial relationship is recorded about those in the photograph, we’ll note that in parentheses within the description. We’ll give equal consideration to noting relationships of all genders. 

Why is this work worth doing? How we name things influences power. It changes who gets noticed in a crowd. It shifts who gets resources when they’re scarce. Every individual has a right to their own identity; we don’t believe that the fact that a woman who lived in a time when she was considered secondary because of her gender should endure the same condition today. Why should we sustain a bias that’s been proven to do harm to society as a whole?

I’m sure I’m not doing a perfect job. I’ll miss my own biases as I make corrections. But with just a few small changes researchers will be able to find people they might not have found in the past. Even more, people viewing these photographs won’t have social conventions keeping them from really seeing all of the individuals in the pictures.


New materials from Rockingham and Stokes Counties are now online!

New materials from the Rockingham County Public Library are now available on DigitalNC. This batch includes photographs, remembrance books, neighborhood histories, newspaper clippings, and a football schedule poster.

Photographs include the one above of Lowes Methodist Church, now Lowes United Methodist, in Reidsville, and one of Charlie Jackson Bennett laying in state in 1953. There are remembrance books for the same Bennett, as well as Carrie Lee H. Bennett and Sylvia Bennett Brown. The funeral home where Sylvia Bennett Brown was laid to rest also created a remembrance plaque, included in this batch of items.

Other items include a variety of materials documenting the history of Mayodan and Stoneville, North Carolina, mostly from the twentieth century. The Carolina Heights neighborhood in Eden, North Carolina, is also represented here by a leaflet sharing its history. Carolina Heights was formerly in Spray, which was consolidated into Eden in 1967. To see all materials on DigitalNC from Spray, click here.

DigitalNC is thankful to our partner, Rockingham County Public Library, for enabling access to these materials online. To learn more about the Rockingham County Public Library, visit their partner page here or their website here. To see all items in this batch, click here, and to see everything contributed by the library, click here.


New Chatham County Photographs and the Story of Navigation on the Cape Fear and Deep Rivers

Thanks to our partners at the Chatham County Historical Association, DigitalNC now hosts nearly 100 new photos of Chatham County, as well as a profile of the Cape Fear and Deep River Slack Water Navigation from 1851 and the story of the Cape Fear and Deep River Navigation Company.

The Cape Fear and Deep River profile and its story are DigitalNC’s first additions to provide insight into North Carolina’s inland navigation system, though this information is complemented by several photos of the Cape Fear river on our site. The Deep River, along with the Haw River, is a tributary of the Cape Fear River. The two rivers meet just south of Jordan Lake in Chatham County, near Moncure and Haywood, North Carolina. The Cape Fear and Deep River Navigation Company was organized in 1849 in Pittsboro, NC, to enable steamboats to traverse the rivers. The company ensured navigation of the rivers by building dams and locks as a slack water system of navigation. To learn more about the company, visit Wade Hadley, Jr.’s history of the organization from 1980.

This batch of materials also includes nearly 100 new photographs of twentieth century Chatham County. Several showcase local high schools, activities at the Gilmore Hunting Lodge, dam construction, the Carolina Power and Light Company, churches in Mount Vernon, and other subjects.

To learn more about the Chatham County Historical Association, visit their contributor page here or their website here.


200 More Photos from Central Carolina Community College are Available Now!

Thanks to our partnership with Central Carolina Community College (CCCC), there are 200 new photographs on DigitalNC, making our total number of photographs nearly 4,000! These latest photographs document happenings at the college form the 1960s until 2001, focusing mainly on staff and faculty portraits and activities. CCCC originally opened as Lee County Industrial Education Center in the early 1960s, and later became Central Carolina Technical Institute, then Central Carolina Technical College, and finally Central Carolina Community College.

To learn more about Central Carolina Community College, please visit their partner page or their website. To see more photos like these from CCCC, check out the nearly 4,000 photos in the collection A Pictorial History of Central Carolina Community College.


More Materials from Johnston Community College are now Available

Aerial Photograph, 1983

Aerial Photograph, 1983

Thanks to our partners at Johnston Community College, DigitalNC is proud to make more photographs, a scrapbook and a 1988 class schedule available online. This batch follows a previous set of about 750 photographs from the college, and continues along themes of education, community, and the campuses in Smithfield and Four Oaks.

Some of the most notable photos are of campus personalities, including Dr. A. Curtis Phillips, President Donald Reichard, other faculty and staff, and several that focus on President John Tart as he was about to retire.

John Tart, his wife Marjorie Tart, and their grandchildren at President Tart's retirement party, 1998

John Tart, his wife Marjorie Tart, and their grandchildren pose by a series of cakes meant to look like the Johnston Community College at President Tart’s retirement party, 1998

The batch also includes the first scrapbook of news clippings produced by Johnston Community College. This book, filled with clippings from 1969 to 1972, is the first of many scrapbooks assembled by College faculty and staff. This book documents the origins and early days of the school, which opened as Johnston County Technical Institute in Fall 1969.

First class of curriculum students, September 1971 clipping in the 1969-1972 scrapbook

First class of curriculum students, September 1971 clipping in the 1969-1972 scrapbook

To see all of the photographs on DigitalNC from Johnston Community College, click here. DigitalNC also hosts several yearbooks from Johnston Community College from this time period–click here to view them. To learn more about Johnston Community College, visit their partner page here or their website here.


Cleveland County Memorial Library Collection of Materials from the Black Community is Now Live on DigitalNC!

DigitalNC partner Cleveland County Memorial Library provided us with a rich collection of documents, photographs, and yearbooks related to the history of Black citizens in the area. Much of the collection focuses on Black schools that were established during the era of Jim Crow and segregation. These schools were created out of necessity but did not survive integration, leaving their history vulnerable. Fortunately people like Ezra A. Bridges, a longtime educator and community activist, made it a priority to preserve items related to the Black experience in Cleveland County.

 

booklet

Biographical Information on Ezra A. Bridges.

newspaper clipping

Ezra A. Bridges at groundbreaking.

A few highlights from the collection are the yearbooks, various histories of schools in the area, and photographs of students and educators. There is a lot more in this important collection of materials that stress and celebrate Black citizens of Cleveland County and their relentless pursuit of education and proper representation. To see more from Cleveland County Memorial Library visit their contributor page.

Photo

Educator and her students.


Photographs from the North Carolina Community College Adult Educators Association Now Available!

Thanks to our partner, Randolph Community College, we now have photographs from the North Carolina Community College Adult Educators Association (NCCCAEA) available online along with issues of the Association’s newsletter. The photos span the years 1969-2001 and primarily capture moments from various conferences and banquets featuring members of the association. 

The NCCCAEA was formed in 1965 as the Community College Adult Educators of North Carolina. Membership is available for instructors, administrators, and support staff employed by the North Carolina Community College System.

Banner from the 1995 NCCCAEA Fall Conference.

For more information about Randolph Community College, visit their website.


Photographs from Johnston Community College are now available on DigitalNC

Electronic welcome sign, Johnston Community College, 1985

Electronic welcome sign, Johnston Community College, 1985

Approximately 750 photographs from Johnston Community College have recently been digitized and added to the website, thanks to our partnership with the school. Mostly from the 1970s and 1980s, the photographs include images of campus, students, and staff at the main Smithfield campus as well as the Four Oaks Howell Woods campus.

The photographs in this collection are diverse in subject matter, comprising everything from photos of the College’s first president, John Tart, to the College’s Truck Driver Training program, to photos of various buildings on campus throughout stages of their construction and renovation.

One of the most unique collections in this batch is the almost completely reproduced set of photos from the 1989 yearbook. This is particularly useful as it provides original colored photographs to compare against the black and white yearbook.

Marshall Casey, Carole Lawerence, Angela Batts, and Becky Turnage, from the staff of the 1989 Retrospect Yearbook

Marshall Casey, Carole Lawerence, Angela Batts, and Becky Turnage, from the staff of the 1989 Retrospect Yearbook

To see all of the photographs in this batch, click here. DigitalNC also hosts several yearbooks from Johnston Community College from this time period–click here to view them. To learn more about Johnston Community College, visit their partner page here or their website here.


Additional Photographs Showcasing Edgecombe County’s Historic Architecture Online Now

A newly digitized batch of photographs of historic homes and structures in Edgecombe County has been added to our website, courtesy of our partner, the Edgecombe County Memorial Library. Follow this link see the previously published batch of photos and this link to see the blog post about the previous batch of photographs.

One of the houses exhibited in these photographs is the Hart House, built by William A. Hart, a well-known Edgecombe County businessman and farmer, in 1909. This home is a rare example of a columned house in the Neo-Classical style in Tarboro.

The M. A. Hart House, located at 1109 Main St. in Tarboro, N.C.

Another house that can be seen in the batch of photographs is the J. J. Green House. This two-story home with its blend of Queen Anne and Neo-Classical architectural themes was built around 1900 by Rocky Mount architect John C. Stout, the cashier of the Bank of Tarboro.

A photograph of the J. J. Green House, located at 800 Main St. in Tarboro, N.C.

For more about the Edgecombe County Memorial Library, visit their partner page or check out their website.