Since the start of 2015, several new staff members have joined the Digital Services Section. All of us will be making regular blog posts on History For All the People, so we thought it would be nice for each of us to introduce ourselves, describe our roles in DSS, and preview the projects we’re working on.

Introducing Kevin Klesta: Metadata Archivist in the Digital Services Section

My interest in archival work began shortly after graduating from Cleveland State University with a BA in History.  Realizing teaching wasn’t for me, I volunteered at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland and learned the basics of processing collections.  It was around this time, I learned a BA in History wouldn’t get me my then dream job at the National Archives and Records Administration (I didn’t have much of an imagination). So, I continued my education at The University of Akron located in what was once the “Rubber Capital of the World.”

While acquiring an MA in History, I started working as a student assistant with The University of Akron’s Archival Services, buried in the depths of an old department store.  I became acquainted with the “rubber” barons who put Akron on the map: the Seiberlings of Goodyear, the Firestones of Firestone and the O’Neils of General Tire.

After graduating, I was hired on to manage the World War II collections involving the Martin B-26 Marauder (a medium bomber used solely for WWII) and various grant-funded projects.  The most enjoyable aspect of this position was working with World War II veterans and their families.  Assisting in the preservation of their history while listening to their stories was both satisfying and gratifying.  As wonderful as the job was, it was only part-time and temporary.  I looked for a full-time position and found one at the State Archives of North Carolina.

I started here in the beginning of February as the Metadata Archivist.  It was a bewildering first few weeks not so much from learning the ropes, but from the ice storm, snow storm, power failure, and below-freezing temperatures that had me thinking I had driven to Raleigh, North Dakota by mistake.  My duties as Metadata Archivist include digitizing materials, creating metadata, and increasing public access to government records.  I’ve since been involved with several ongoing projects including the digitization of historical Governors’ correspondence and creating access to the North Carolina Supreme Court cases (1967-1981) through our MARS database.  I’m also starting work on State Senate audio, helping to preserve and create access to more sessions online.

Posted by: Ashley | April 14, 2015

In Memoriam: William S. Powell (1919-2015)

[This post is taken from the text of a small exhibit on William S. Powell now on display in the Search Room of the State Archives of North Carolina. The exhibit will be available for viewing until Saturday, April 25. The text for this post was written by Josh Hager, Reference Archivist in the Collections Services Section. For more images related to William S. Powell, see the Flickr collection of the State Archives.]

William S. Powell (Bill Powell) in the UNC Library, c.1970s. From the General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Call number: N.74.2.85A

William S. Powell (Bill Powell) in the UNC Library, c.1970s. From the General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Call number: N.74.2.85A

William S. Powell, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, passed away on April 10, 2015, at the age of 95. After serving in World War II, the Johnston County native received his Master’s Degree in History from UNC Chapel Hill in 1947. Throughout his life, Powell wore many academic hats in addition to his professorship. He worked as a curator for the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill, as the editor of History News, and as a researcher for the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

Powell’s academic career focused on the history of North Carolina. His works are considered seminal for fostering a thorough understanding of the Old North State. For example, The North Carolina Gazetteer is the definitive reference work for identifying all of North Carolina’s varied geographic locales, no matter how obscure. Powell’s contributions, both as an editor and an author, to the Encyclopedia of North Carolina and the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography are invaluable reference works for historians and genealogists alike. Powell was especially well-versed in the earliest years of North Carolina’s colonial past. He wrote a volume on the history of Albemarle County, contributed to the scholarship surrounding the Lost Colony, and helped authenticate the Carolina Charter of 1663 now in the possession of the State Archives.

400th Anniversary Committee Chairmen Meeting, 1982. William S. Powell speaking. Call number: N.84.3.395

William S. Powell (Bill Powell) at the 400th Anniversary Celebration meeting in State Capitol, 25 May 1982. From the General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Call number: N.84.3.395.

Powell is a member of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame (2008), a recipient of the North Carolina Literature Award (2000), and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from Governor James Martin.

This exhibit case is filled with the works which bear Powell’s name and demonstrate his commitment to the history of his native state. The State Archives of North Carolina commemorates his life, his legacy, and his contribution to the scholarship that occurs in this Search Room.

Since the start of 2015, several new staff members have joined the Digital Services Section. All of us will be making regular blog posts on History For All the People, so we thought it would be nice for each of us to introduce ourselves, describe our roles in DSS, and preview the projects we’re working on. The new staff mini-series starts today!

Introducing Kat Milbrodt: Metadata and Digitization Assistant in the Digital Services Section

I was very excited to start work here at the State Archives in mid-March. Spring is a time for new beginnings and for renewal, for housecleaning and for clouds of pine pollen (a new experience for this Ohio native), for beautiful flowers and for dramatically changing weather conditions. For me, working with archives is like perpetual springtime: I enjoy engaging with new people and new collections, reflecting on my past work experiences, and applying the skills I already possess to new tasks; no matter how many items I digitize and how much metadata I collect, there is always much more to do; and in spite of my cultivated competencies, there are always evolving methodologies and technologies that must be learned.

Before coming to the State Archives, I have had nearly eight years of experience working with the digitization, preservation, conservation, and description of library and archival collections. Most recently I worked as a Digitization and Preservation Assistant at the Niels Bohr Library and Archives (NBLA) at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland. The NBLA has specialized text, image, and archival collections that focus on physics, physicists, and the history of physics. It was gratifying working with the relatively small collections at NBLA where I could immediately see the results of my efforts.

The bulk of my experience was gained working as a Digital Scanning Technician in the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had the opportunity to work with an astonishing variety of library, special collections, and archival materials, and also to pursue independent research into digital color management and non-damaging scanning techniques for fragile items. Additionally, I was able to attend graduate classes in archives and records management at Pitt’s School of Information Sciences.

At the State Archives of NC I have jumped headlong into two digitization projects already underway: correspondence from the Governors’ Papers and World War I correspondence from the Military Collection. I’m eager to make the images and transcripts of these letters widely available to the public – as primary research sources, personal correspondence can provide an engaging inroad to learning about historical events, reveal insights into everyday cultural practices of bygone eras, and present intimate portraits of historical figures.

In addition to digitization and metadata activities, I will be writing occasional blog posts for History for All the People, and assisting with web edits on the State Archives of North Carolina website. I know I have a lot of interesting and challenging work ahead of me, and I feel right at home.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the State Archives of North Carolina has digitized articles of incorporation, charters, and other legislation pertaining to the establishment of women’s colleges in the state. At one time there were twenty-eight women’s colleges in North Carolina and today there are only three left.

These documents have been digitized from General Assembly Session Records and the records of the Governors’ Office and Secretary of State. It was quite an interesting project to locate these items. It would seem logical that articles of incorporation should be granted around the time of establishment for the institution. However, many of the incorporations included in this project were granted at a later date for various reasons such as name changes, mergers, and the Civil War. For example, Salem College was founded in 1772 by the Moravians, but articles of incorporation were granted by the General Assembly in 1866 under the name of Salem Female Academy.

Littleton Female College Incorporation

Littleton Female College Incorporation

Other institutions with more unusual name changes include Goldsboro Female College which started out as Wayne Female College; the name changed in 1867. Littleton Female College was originally Central Institute for Young Ladies , and Carolina Female College in Ansonville, N.C. was often referred to as “a Female College in the County of Anson”.

Chowan Baptist Female Institute in Murfreesboro, known today as Chowan University, seemed to have articles of incorporation for 1857 and 1848. The two different dates for articles of incorporation did not add up but with a little more investigation I learned Chowan Baptist Female Institute went through a couple of name changes. It wasn’t until 1910 that the Female Institute started to go by Chowan College. It was also located in Murfreesboro in Hertford County, but the 1857 documents had Chowan College located in Reynoldson in Gates County. With a little research, I discovered that in 1857 there was an attempt to create a college like Chowan Baptist Female Institute, but for men, called Chowan College. The male Chowan College was later renamed to Reynoldson Male Academy. It is always interesting to see what you will find and where it will take you in the archives.

Chowan College or Reynoldson Male Academy

Reynoldson Male Academy Incorporation

North Carolina has a long history of educating women. Salem College, founded in 1775, was one of the first women’s colleges in the county. In 1897, Chowan Baptist Female College was granted permission that allowed women to receive degrees. There were four women’s colleges until Peace College (William Peace University) went co-educational in 2012 leaving Bennett College (who celebrates their 126th anniversary of its chartering as a four-year institution this month), Meredith College, and Salem College as the state’s remaining women’s colleges.

The items are located in the Women in North Carolina 20th Century History digital collection; click here to visit the collection.

Researchers today enjoy many new tools at their fingertips – figuratively and literally.   Any number of new digital repositories can give a researcher access to out-of-print books, rare books, census materials, state agency publications, city directories, maps, national records, international records – the list continues to grow.  A recent and still growing database allows researchers to peruse newspapers – and Chronicling America by the Library of Congress.

These scanned newspapers are indexed and searchable.  As with any such searchable data the savvy researcher will understand that such a search engine is only the start. A search may seem overwhelming due to the number of “hits” returned on the word or phrase checked but one must remember that even though exhaustive such a search cannot and does not find all instances of the word or phrase.  In addition to such an initial search a researcher should use good old fashioned legwork in the newspaper – using a microfilm edition – to see if there are things the data-search missed.

One interesting side-benefit of having a searchable database of newspapers is that a researcher can see the way a story spreads across the news.  In this world of instant social media where a YouTube post can trend and become an international sensation in a matter of hours, it is interesting to trace an arc of a story across United States newspapers in the 19th Century – to see a story, in effect, go the equivalent of 19th Century viral.

For example, information on the infamous Lowery Gang that hailed from Robeson County in post-Civil War North Carolina traveled across the United States as one paper after another picked up the thrilling exploits and eventual demise of the gang. Lowery was a mixed-ethnicity individual who resisted conscription by the Confederate army, eluded capture by the US army and evaded all post-war attempts by civilian authorities to permanently capture him. A newspaper reporter from the New York Herald came south to interview Lowery and his gang in March 1872. Henry Berry Lowery was reported as deceased prior to the reporter’s arrival.  The story of his death reverberated throughout the nation.  The reporter nonetheless interviewed gang members. His correspondence to his editor was published and this story too began to echo across the U.S. The twin events – Lowery purported death and the reporter’s story – went “viral.”

The Wilmington Star (Wilmington, NC) reported Henry Berry Lowery dead in the March 6, 1872 issue. About the same time a Raleigh paper ran a similar notice of the death of Lowery.  By April 1872 the Newberry Herald of Newberry, SC reported “dailies have teemed of late with the rumored accounts of the …killing of Henry Berry Lowery.” Papers around the country picked up the Wilmington or the Raleigh death article. The Wilmington account spread quickly and widely. On March 7th it appeared in a Washington, DC paper. On March 8th papers in Alexandria, VA, Wheeling, WV, Baltimore, MD, Rock Island, IL, and Richmond, VA carried the same notice.  By March 14th the local paper in Upper Sandusky, OH ran the account on the front page.  The next day it appeared in a Bolivar, TN newspaper.  The Raleigh version popped up on March 7th in Charleston, SC. A week later it was in an Eaton, OH paper.  On March 15th the local Albany, OR paper ran the Raleigh account of Lowery’s death. The Raleigh story appeared in a Washington, DC newspaper on the 18th and reached Paw Paw, MI on the 22nd.

When the New York Herald ran the story written by the correspondent in the March 18th, 1872 paper that story too “went viral” and in a matter of days found its way to Winchester and Columbia, TN, St. Paul, MN, Staunton, VA and Charleston, SC.  Elements of the article would continue to appear in newspapers across the US for many months to come.  It is interesting to see how such sensational stories as the Lowery Gang captivated an audience and spread out over the media of the time – newspapers.

Of course, it may be that checking microfilm of papers during this time period may yield other examples of the story bouncing around the continental United States.  Due diligence serves every researcher.

[Search “Henry Berry Lowery” on the Chronicling of America database for more newspaper stories and to see how new information repeated the cycle of propagation of news about the gang.]

Another thing to consider when looking and researching in newspapers is how to handle missing issues.  Inevitably, the newspaper in the town where your research interests have you looking for information is missing the years or issues germane to your research needs.

Is the town or area in question near a railroad station?  Is the community connected by rail to other nearby or even far away towns?  For example, Weldon, NC is at one end of the Wilmington and Weldon railroad.  If you can’t find the issue of the paper you need perhaps looking in the Wilmington papers a week or so after the event might get you the repeat of the Weldon newspaper story.

The same is true for anything along the railroad line that ran from Charlotte to Raleigh – is the Hillsborough Recorder missing the year your ancestor died?  Check any paper along that rail line from Raleigh to Charlotte and see if the death notice is picked up; particularly by local papers closer to the point of interest.  A marriage notice might not gain much traction outside the immediate community but a death notice might – or, say, a murder.  If you are looking for information on a local hotel in Salisbury but the Salisbury paper yields nothing – go down that rail line and see if a local paper elsewhere might be advertising that hotel.  After all, if you see ads in the Salisbury paper for the Raleigh Yarborough House then you might expect the reverse to be true – Salisbury establishments in Raleigh newspapers.  Railroads connect people and towns but also ideas and industry.

Posted by: Ashley | March 20, 2015

How Did We Move a Warehouse Full of Records?

[This blog post is cross-posted from the G.S. 132 Files, the records management blog of the Government Records Section of the State Archives of North Carolina. The original post was written by section head Becky McGee-Lankford.]

How Did We Move a Warehouse Full of Records?


Moving into the new warehouse.

One of the primary functions of the Government Records Section, Division of Archives and History (State Archives of North Carolina) is to provide state agencies with storage facilities for their inactive records.  We operate three storage facilities to accomplish this goal.  Due the term of the lease ending with one of our storage facilities (BSA), the staff of the Division of Archives and Records has engaged in a massive storage facility relocation project that took place from May 2014 to March 2015.

This project started almost a year ago in April 2014 when we began to work with the State Property Office to seek new leased space.  Once the bid process was completed and the proper contracts were signed we obtained a new leased space in September 2014.

The staff of the State Archives worked in three phases to transition the records from the former storage facility (BSA) to the new warehouse (Front Street). Phase 1: Preparation and Planning; Phase 2: Removal of Records and Disassembly and Reassembly of Shelves; and Phase 3:  Re-shelving of Records.


Setting up the shelving

Phase 1: Preparation and Planning

During the preparation stage we worked to minimize the cost of moving the records from one facility to the new warehouse.  From May – October 2014 we:

  • Destroyed 18,229.55 cu. ft. of materials scheduled for destruction.
  • Moved 8,776 cu. ft. of records from the BSA to one of our other two storage facilities.
  • Hired a structural engineer to design a shelving plan for the new warehouse facility.
  • Prepared the Scope of Work and received bids from contractors to 1) remove the records from the warehouse; 2) Store the records in a temporary location; 3) Move the shelving from the first warehouse and rebuild the shelves in the new facility; and 4) Return the records to the shelves in the new facility. The contractor was secured in early November 2014.
  • Developed workflow for records relocation. We also developed documentation to track the movement of the boxes from the shelf to the pallet, the pallet storage in the temporary location, and placement of the boxes in their new location at the new facility. Detailed documentation of individual series of records (including which pallet they were stored) was important to capture, since the clear chain of custody for the records needed to be identifiable through all stages of the process.

Phase 2: Removal of Records and Disassembly and Reassembly of Shelves

  • November – December 2014 contract workers and Division staff worked to palletize and remove records from the storage facility. Record pulls were completed in 15 days.
  • Late December 2014 – February 2015 contract workers disassembled and reassembled the shelving at the new storage facility.
  • Hired lighting engineer to design a supplemental lighting plan for the storage facility.

Phase 3: Re-shelving of Records and Lighting

  • March 2015 contract workers and Division staff re-shelved records in the new warehouse. The final boxes were placed on the shelves on March 16th, meaning that work was completed in 10 ½ days.
  • Lighting contractor is scheduled to install additional lighting.

Now that the hard part is done we will focus our attention on ensuring that all box locations in our box tracking database have been updated to reflect their new location.  This should take a minimal amount of time since we did a majority of the data entry in real time as the boxes were being placed on the shelves.

The State Records Center has resumed normal operations.  We are now servicing records requests for records stored in all three of our facilities, destroying records that have met retention requirements, and picking up records from agencies for storage at the State Records Center.  After almost 11 months it is nice to get back to routine operations.

Final Results:

We moved 37,116 cu. ft. of records on 696 pallets from the BSA to the Front Street facility.  We had a handful of boxes that were damaged in transport, but for the most part the boxes arrived in their new home in good condition.

In total we touched approximately 64,122 cu. ft. of records during this project.  As a result of all the planning and preparation work done in the first phase of the move, as well as the relocation and destruction of records stored at the BSA, the overall cost of the project was reduced. This project was a major undertaking requiring the commitment of all State Archives staff to complete.  All members of the Archives staff worked tireless to transition the records to the new storage facility.  The result is a fully operational storage facility.

Posted by: kevin | March 19, 2015

Newly Digitized Alexander Martin Correspondence

Newly digitized correspondence from North Carolina’s fourth governor, Alexander Martin, is now available via the North Carolina Digital Collections. Originally a merchant and lawyer, Martin experienced a brief military career and was eventually elected as governor in 1782. The collected letters were written by such dignitaries as Nathanael Greene, Hugh Williamson and Robert Bignall from 1781 to 1785. In a time period that stretched from the end of the Revolutionary War and through its aftermath, the correspondence covers topics from trading tobacco for muskets, the death of Richard Caswell’s son, William, and pleadings for war reparations. For more information about Alexander Martin, check out this finding aid and NCpedia article.  More digitized Governors’ papers can be found here.

The NCpedia biographies of notable North Carolinians found in the papers of Governor Alexander Martin are listed below:

Amis, Thomas:
Bignall, Robert:
Caswell, Richard:
Hunter, Thomas:
Lillington, Alexander:
Sevier, John:
Williams, John:
Williamson, Hugh:

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers

%d bloggers like this: