Author Archives: randonncarchives

Private Collections

Written by Faith Baxter, Digital Services Intern

Imagine playing a game of hide and seek and wandering into a room with over 3,000 private collections rarely seen by anyone except for you. Inside of the collections are inspiring stories about individuals, families, businesses, politicians, judges, and other influential people from North Carolina. These stories, filled with tremendous amounts of information, were just waiting to be discovered.  

The above narrative reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Although fictional, readers of all ages love Narnia because of the great collection of stories, characters, and truths that are meaningful to them. Just think of what you could discover once you take the first step!

The Private Collections (PCs) section of the State Archives has been keeping collections for over one hundred years, dating back to the 1700s. Included in the PCs are approximately 3,000 different collections composed of manuscripts, correspondence, family accolades, letters, diaries, photos, recordings, and financial and legal records. These materials are collected from a wide variety of individuals, families, and businesses from around the state and add to the rich culture and history of North Carolina.  

Fran Tracy-Walls

Fran Tracy-Walls is the Private Manuscripts Archivist and is the person responsible for managing North Carolina’s PCs. She is also the first contact when wanting to donate your collection. [or for those wanting to donate a collection.] Some of Fran’s favorite materials, from her years of collecting on behalf of the state, include personal letters, diaries, and account books. She particularly enjoys identifying the situational, physical, and cultural descriptors left by letter writers so that she can understand the context while reading. Fran loves finding scarce information that can help with genealogical research and gives a sense of the period or obstacles faced. She seeks papers that reflect experiences of North Carolinians whose heritage and lives are inadequately represented in our current holdings. Examples include African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian Pacific individuals or families.

The State Archives provides for, through legislation, not only the preservation of these materials, but also public access to them. The collections provide a unique story about North Carolina and its history and culture. There is a great deal of information given through these collections and there is a process by which these materials get accessioned and ready for public use. The digitization of these materials is harder to provide because of the large quantity of donated materials and a lack of funding. These collections are available to the public,  but they are required to be used in the Search Room where researchers are given full assistance by the wonderful reference staff.  

The PCs hold information that has been kept for generations but has not been published. Researchers and archivists find these materials to be interesting artifacts that can be used to teach different subjects. The Guide to Women’s Records gives a wide variety of information that includes but is not limited to, correspondence, private manuscript materials, women’s organization notes, account books, photographs, and government documents. While spending time updating the Guide, I have come across many remarkable private collections of phenomenal women.

Dr. Lavonia Allison (PC. 2049)

Dr. Lavonia Allison

Dr. Allison is a visionary whose inspiring story holds so much power, determination, and leadership. She donated her collection and it includes, Clippings, Correspondence, Memorandum, Yearbooks, Brochures, and Committee reports. Dr. Allison is widely known for her outstanding leadership in the political arena; and her commitment to the re-creation of a fair and just society in which all citizens can shape their own destiny through both the educational and political processes. She was a member of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, where she served in many capacities, including the chair, from 1998 to 2012. Dr. Allison has served on 60 boards and community/professional organizations in her lifetime and she adds so much to the culture and history of Durham.

Betty Ann Knudsen (PC. 1960)

Betty Ann Knudsen

Betty Ann Leonard Knudsen was a trailblazing female politician and community activist in Wake County, as well as an avid butterfly lover. She was the first female chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners from 1976 to 1984. She served on numerous boards, councils, and associations at the state and local level since the 1970s. Knudsen paved the way for future female candidates by running for N.C. Secretary of State. She has been an active mentor to other women in politics and leadership positions. Her collection includes correspondence between Betty Ann Knudsen and various politicians on a political and personal level; correspondence related to the Royal Order of the Butterflies; her children’s book, DVD, and butterfly presentations; material reflecting her political and community action and involvement; and personal correspondence with family members and friends from the 1970s to the 2000s.

These are just a few of the collections. Just imagine what you might come across!

Contact Information:

Questions about the Women’s Record Guide:

Fran Tracy-Walls
Private Manuscripts Archivist, Special Collections
State Archives of North Carolina
(919) 814-6856

Documenting the World of Outlander – The Posters of World War II

Contributed by Josh Hager and Alison Thurman, Public Services Unit

Welcome back to Documenting the World of Outlander! While we wait with bated breath for the next season of Outlander, we will continue this blog series with the aim of releasing a new entry each month during the hiatus. We hope that we can provide some interesting historical content that supplements your interest in the show.

For our first season hiatus blog, we’re going to focus on a topic that we would have covered if we had this blog series when Season One aired. Unlike all our prior entries that focused on colonial North Carolina, this time we’re zeroing in on Claire’s origins as a nurse in the Second World War. While the State Archives of North Carolina does not have records of the British military from the Second World War, we do have a great deal of material on the involvement of North Carolinians in that most significant conflict. Researchers interested in seeing our holdings concerning World War II should consult our finding aids on the State Archives of North Carolina website. Some collections are currently undergoing reprocessing, so if you expect an item and do not see a finding aid, please contact the Archives directly for further information. In this blog, we will focus specifically on the World War II posters collected from various official and private organizations. The World War II posters are available on our Digital Collections website to browse and search by keyword.

The first two posters that connect to Outlander represent nursing, Claire’s profession while serving Great Britain. As in the United Kingdom, the US government mounted a publicity campaign to encourage women to enlist as nurses. For example, consider this poster below, created in 1942 by the Office of War Information where the hands of a patriotic figure, perhaps Uncle Sam, bestow the tell-tale nurse’s hat to a new recruit.

“Become a Nurse – Your Country Needs You,” Office of War Information, 1942. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.2.16.c1

In our second example, the message focuses on personal rather than patriotic benefits. Artist Jon Whitcomb created this 1944 poster for the US Public Health Service asking women to become cadet nurses. The poster proclaims that cadet nurses are the girls “with a future” because they would receive “a lifetime education FREE for high school graduates who qualify.” Aside from having a multi-faceted publicity campaign, the gap of two years between the posters might help to explain the difference in targeted messaging. In 1942, with the Pearl Harbor attack still fresh in the collective conscience, appeals to patriotism alone would have likely proven effective. By 1944, while patriotism was still a strong motivator to enlist in the military, the prolonged fighting on multiple fronts led to a sense of fatigue in some civilians as well as a desire to look forward at what society would look like once hostilities ceased. Therefore, appealing to a post-war future where women could gain the skills necessary to enter the workforce made a lot of marketing sense.

Jan Whitcomb. “Be a Cadet Nurse – The Girl With a Future,” 1944. US Public Health Service. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.2.15.c1

Looking more specifically at Claire’s medical career in the Outlander series, it is important to place Claire’s penchant for healing within the context of her life events up to the onset of the Second World War. Claire lost her parents at a very young age and lived a nomadic life as a child with her uncle, an archeologist. Her first opportunity for a stable home and family is her marriage, which is disrupted when England enters WWII and she and her husband volunteer for service. Claire’s interest in nursing stems from her wanting to become a part of something bigger during a time of such suffering and from her natural talents as a healer. In the beginning, her decision to serve as a nurse stems from patriotism. As the war goes on, while Claire’s patriotism does not waver, her nursing experience becomes an outlet for her to explore her natural interest in healing. While Claire remained unsure of her medical future when she fell through the stones, her experience during the war gave her the confidence to continue as a healer. From her time in Scotland in 1948 through to her time in the United States and medical school in 1957, Claire built upon her nursing experience to become an accomplished medical professional.

Let’s now shift from a discussion of nursing to a poster talking about the role of the United Kingdom in World War II more broadly. The World War II Poster Collection contains several posters that mention Great Britain in her role as an ally, both before and after American involvement began in December 1941. We will highlight one example here that provides a stark illustration of the stakes of the World War. Artist Maxwell Gordon composed the striking image below showing a Nazi boot crushing the New York skyline. Gordon’s poster, commissioned by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, intended to scare Americans into a greater level of involvement in helping Great Britain fend off the forces of the Third Reich. The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies only lasted for two years, from 1940 to 1941, but the organization contributed to the growing percentages of Americans who advocated for more active assistance to the Allied forces before the bombing at Pearl Harbor. You can learn more about this organization through this historical outline written by archivists at Princeton University, where the committee’s papers are kept.

Maxwell Gordon. “Help Britain Defend America: Speed Production,” [1940-1942]. Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. World War II Papers. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina. MilColl.WWII.Posters.12.13.

Claire saw posters like these strewn throughout London before she traveled back to the 18th Century and a certain Scotsman. The 1940s was a peak time for posters of the marketing and propaganda varieties. Imagine going from the world that created these posters to a pre-American Revolution in Scotland (and all the places and times in-between). Claire Fraser’s personal journey is worthy of a poster all its own.

Stay tuned for our next blog as we cover another topic that informs the Fraser’s arc throughout the series. We will soon “cross the pond” as we discuss colonial-era immigration from Europe to North Carolina.

King’s College in Charlotte

The student records from the King’s College in Charlotte are now in the custody of the State Archives.  Former students may request copies of their transcripts, please refer to the instructions on the archives website:

Meet Faith Baxter, Digital Access Branch’s Summer Intern


We can all agree that History is important right? Conducting research can be challenging, the process for finding relevant information can be timely, and the information can be considered ambiguous depending on the perception. Gaining knowledge can be an intellectual boost and help with the formation of your identity, while also making you more empathetic to history.

I personally lean on search guides and multiple digital libraries to find most of my research. It’s comforting to know most research can be done in my pajamas and an episode of the Handmaid’s Tale playing from my TV. There are numerous search guides to help research, but the real work rests in the hands of researchers, students, and archivists to make this information known and available to the public.


Greetings! My name is Faith Baxter from Charlotte, NC. I am currently a student in the Master of History Program at North Carolina Central University. Post-graduation, I plan to obtain my Juris Doctorate in May 2020. I am one of the NCDCR HBCU/MIHE interns for the summer responsible for updating the Women’s Records Information Guide, under the Digital Services program.

I enjoy traveling, reading, hiking, canoeing, shopping, visiting museums and binge-watching Netflix/Hulu in my free time. An interesting fact about me is that I have a brother named Love and a sister named Hope. Women’s accomplishments have laid the foundation for young women like me to be vocal about my beliefs. Sometimes finding archival materials related to the accomplishments of women is challenging.

For this reason, the State Archives has created The Women’s Records Information Guide to introduce materials related to women’s history in the collections. Collection materials include, but are not limited to, correspondence, private manuscript materials, women’s organization notes, account books, photographs, and government documents. The Women’s Records Guide has not been updated since 1977. So, my focus this summer is to update the guide.


I love the idea that I will be helping to provide access to materials representing the storied history of women in North Carolina. Furthermore, I’m excited to create a model for future records guides, blog posts, and surveys to keep patrons informed. Hopefully, patrons will enjoy using this guide as a finding aid while also gaining information about women’s history.

In the coming weeks I’ll be asking for your suggestions of materials to include in the guide, so stay tuned. If anyone has any recommendations or questions, please feel free to email me at Faith.Baxter@NCDCR.Gov.

The Strange Case of Mysterious Miscellaneous County Records

By Josh Hager, Public Services Unit

Come one, come all, and observe the curiosities discovered deep in the State Archives stacks! “The Strange Case of Mysterious Miscellaneous County Records” is currently on display in the State Archives Search Room. The case highlights facsimiles of some of the oddest items in county records that came to the Archives because county officials long ago retained these records for unknown sundry reasons.

Feast your eyes on an invitation to a duel! A gentleman in Orange County circa 1814 told his potential adversary to “be good to me and be friendly” or come to the path at noon tomorrow “with powder and ball ready to receive satisfaction.”


Orange County Miscellaneous Records. CR.073.928.11. Invitation to a Duel, 1814.

Gaze at the medical marvels found in the Ladies’ Birthday Almanac! Found in Buncombe County’s miscellaneous records, the Chattanooga Medicine Company published an almanac that served as an advertisement for its new curative, a type of wine called Cardui. You won’t believe the symptoms that Cardui can relieve! (Really, you won’t believe it because it’s completely implausible. A good rule of thumb is to rarely trust a medical advertisement from the early 1900s.)


Buncombe County Miscellaneous Records. CR.013.928.9. “The Ladies Birthday Almanac,” 1909.

Marvel at several other curiosities, including diagrams of firefighting equipment, a catalog of horses straight from Lexington, KY, and even a wanted poster of Pennsylvania bank robbers! Act now, because this case will only remain on display until mid-May.

Veterans Oral History Project Now Live!

Veterans Oral History Project (3)

The Veterans Oral History Transcription Project featuring 12 audio format interviews, 12 remarkable NC women vets is now live! Please help us transcribe their stories by clicking this link > <  This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Announcing the Veterans Oral History Project!

WWII Oral History Project (1)

The State Archives of North Carolina & North Carolina Government & Heritage Library are proud to present the Veterans Oral History Transcription Project featuring 12 remarkable women.

The LSTA grant-funded and crowdsourced audio transcription project is one of the first of its kind!  We have 12 audio format interviews with military veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces for any military service, engagement, or war, and who were born and/or raised in the state of North Carolina; were stationed for extended time in North Carolina military installations; or have lived in the state for an extended time.

We invite you to be a part of history by helping us transcribe.

Together, we can make women’s military history more accessible!