Author Archives: Western Regional Archives

About Western Regional Archives

Western branch of the State Archives of North Carolina. We opened in August 2012 and our mission is to help preserve, and make accessible the documentary heritage of western North Carolina. We are located at 176 Riceville Rd., Asheville, NC and can be found on the web and on facebook.

Students Stun with WRA Commercial

Congratulations to the winning team in the 2016 UNCA Management Class 357 Ad Competition – Gaelle Wolff, Tammy Walsh, Alex Swendsen, and David Robertson worked to create a really amazing commercial promoting the Western Regional Archives!

This year the UNCA marketing professor, Dr. Cole, had his students create commercials focusing on regional historical and cultural sites.  The groups chose which entity they wanted to work with and lucky for the WRA, Gaelle, Tammy, Alex and David chose our facility for their project.

The group met with WRA staff for a tour and quick overview of the branch and resources and then hit the ground running.  They started discussions with the archivists on how to best showcase the archives and wanted to make sure it was inviting so that more folks commercial picwould come and explore the resources.   The students selected a variety of documents and images to best reflect the WRA but also to give the allusion of the passage of time.  All of the images and documents featured in the thirty second spot came from the WRA collections and the students did the scanning, storyboard, set up the time lapse video of the building, all on their own.  Their creative concept to have the commercial advance from black and white to color to show evolution of time and documents definitely won us over and we weren’t the only ones.

A local advertising company judged the final projects for the class and the WRA group spot won the top honor!  We now have a really cool introductory commercial we can use for social media, as introductions to presentations, and so much more.  The Western Regional Archives couldn’t be more proud of the final product and are grateful to UNCA, Dr. Cole, and Tammy, Gaelle, Alex and David for their hard work and helping us achieve better outreach and audience.

Check out the the Award-winning Archives Ad here: 

New Year-New Hours for the WRA

We’ve been working on a great New Year treat for our patrons.  We’ve heard all the requests for more time in our wonderful collections and we’ve finally worked out the details to make that happen.  You asked, we listened!  Starting January 2016 (technically the 4th since we’re closed on New Year’s Day) the Western Regional Archives will be open Monday through Friday 9am until 2pm.  We’ll still be able to make appointments for other times but our new regular hours have been hours blog

We are looking forward to the New Year, New Hours, and New Research that will be happening in 2016!

Interns Ignite Interest in WRA

This semester, the WRA played host and teacher to 12 interns (11 from UNC-A and one from Wofford College). While the number was a bit daunting at times for the archives to take on, the students have been integral to generating interest in the archives. As archivist Heather south describes it, “having so many extra hands has allowed us to blaze through projects and get more materials available to researchers.” From processing collections, indexing ledgers, judging history day and designing a new exhibit, these interns have been hard at work and the progress is amazing.


Interns Andrea Smith and Emily Lauher work on finishing touches to exhibit signage for the building.

They have created finding aids, learned basic preservation techniques and methods, been on field trips to local repositories and expanded the WRA social media presence making the small branch have record setting numbers. “It has been an unbelievable experience. To think I have become part of the story of these records actually having hands on history is truly amazing” remarked one intern when asked about their time at the WRA.

Come see the new exhibit featuring the hard work and insights into the intern program that has got people fired up about history.

WRA Partners with Documentary Film Makers for Unique Opportunity

Our collections are used daily by all sorts of researchers.  Scholars, genealogists, historians and documentarians visit us on a regular basis and while we help all with their exploration into the past, it is rare that the archives (or archivist) plays a feature role in the project we assist on.  That’s what makes the new Danu Collaborative Fully Awake project so unique and exciting for the Western Regional Archives.

Fully Awake: Black Mountain College is a documentary film created nearly a decade ago by Cathryn Davis Zommer and Neeley Dawson.  Through archival research, photographic history, interviews with former Black Mountain College students, teachers, artists and historians, the film gives a glimpse into the progressive liberal arts school hidden in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

“Black Mountain College (1933-1957) was an influential experiment in education that inspired and shaped twentieth century American art.”  It was a special place that inspired all who experienced it, so much so, that the long-term impact is still being studied today by scholars and artists from across the country and literally around the world.

neeley, catherine and dan 1

Cathryn and Neeley research acting for part of their project. Cameraman Dan said he loved filming at the WRA.

While there are many BMC projects using the collections at the WRA for research, only the Fully Awake project has collaborated with the archives and integrated the archival collections as part of their endeavors.  Thanks to new collections coming to light and advances in technology, Cathryn and Neeley are embarking on a new project to take Fully Awake further.

There are several goals of this new ten-year anniversary re-imagining of the film.  Not only will they be telling more of the story in more clear and profound ways, the most thrilling element for the WRA is that they plan on digitizing over 100 hours of original interview footage to be donated to the archives for permanent public use!

For more information about the project, check out archivist Heather South on the latest campaign update- she is super excited about the collaboration with Cathryn and Neeley: fully awake

Yikes in Yancey

Brrrrr! Call it a Polar Vortex, an Arctic Blast, or Ice Ice Baby, last week’s frigid weather caused a great deal of problems across the western region of the state.  Below freezing temperatures caused pipes to freeze and rupture flooding homes and buildings including county offices and public libraries.  Yancey County had a series of flooding emergencies from the county jail to town square.  While those managed to avoid damaging documents, the leak at the county library rained down on several sections sending the staff and friends of the library into salvage and recovery mode.


Air drying takes a great deal of time, space, and labor.

A pipe in the attic space froze and expanded, separating at a joint.  When it began to thaw, water came pouring into the drywall ceiling, eventually causing it to collapse. The water then continued to the first floor raining down on the bookshelves in the children, juvenile, history, and reference areas.

On Thursday (January 9th) Regional Director, Dan Barron, put out a call to the State Library for assistance.  They contacted the newly created Cultural Resources Emergency Salvage Team, CREST and within two hours of the initial request for help, DCR staff members from our Western Office and Archives were mobilized and on the scene to offer technical advice and assistance.  [for more information on the CREST Project see]

Western Office Supervisor Jeff Futch, Archivist Heather South and Savannah Murray, intern with the Western Regional Archives, got right to work assessing the damage, helping to set up triage areas and instructing the librarians and Friends of the Library volunteers how to air dry and begin salvaging wet and damp books.

Luckily the archives area of the building was unaffected and the quick thinking of the library staff and extra hands of the friends group meant that less than 100 volumes will be lost from their holdings.  However, it will take months to recover and for the historic building to reopen.  As South reported, “While we were there, many community members came by and were devastated that something had happened to their library.  In a small town, libraries become the heart of the community and I think the fact responders were there helping save their precious library meant more to them then we’ll ever know.  The have a long road ahead but are in good spirits and have a great team of staff members and regular volunteers who are working hard to recover and reopen.”

While it might have been Yikes in Yancey this time, disasters can happen anywhere and anytime.  This incident serves as a reminder that we need to have plans in place for our cultural resources, know who to call in the case of an emergency, and how to tackle salvage efforts.  The DCR Western Office was glad to be part of the CREST program and able to help.  For more information and images from the recovery efforts in Yancey County, check out the WRA facebook page

Savannah working to change out paper towels used to help wick away moisture.

Savannah working to change out paper towels used to help wick away moisture.

Dancing in the Corn… Archives Week in Western North Carolina

Many of you already know but this week has been proclaimed to be NC Archives Week.  That means we really showcase our collections and advocate for archives and preserving the historical record beyond what we do the rest of the year.  This year, the theme is all about food culture in NC.  From farming to eating, we have documents and photos that capture it all.  In Western North Carolina, this year’s theme of “Home Grown! A Celebration of N.C. Food Culture and History” is being featured in a number of ways but none as interesting or exciting as Dr. David Silver’s work with the Black Mountain College Farm.

Josef Albers (left) hanging out in the cabbage patch

You may have heard about the college or some of its famous alumni and faculty but did you know those same folks were farming on the campus?  Can you imagine Josef Albers tending cabbage?  Or how about Merce Cunningham dancing in the corn fields?  Ok, so maybe we don’t have proof that  Cunningham was cutting a rug in the corn, but it could have happened!

Dr. Silver is an associate professor of media studies and environmental studies and coordinator of the urban agriculture minor at the University of San Francisco and is currently working on a multimedia history of the farm at Black Mountain College.  He has been using the collections at the Western Regional Archives and telling the food story of a college that normally is only looked at through artistic lenses.   Not only was he the first researcher at the WRA, he is a cheerleader for NC archives and continues to champion the collections we’ve preserved and direct scholars and students from around the world to NC!  Check out his blog or scope out the photos of his research journey and discoveries at flicker

Who knows, you might just find out they were dancing in the corn!

Dorothy Cole eating in the dining hall at BMC

Avast, Ye Varmints! There’s Pirates In Them Thar Hills!

By Author and WRA Volunteer- Lorraine Norwood

Landlubbers  take heed – the most feared pirate of the Caribbean was not Johnny Depp. It was Blackbeard, North Carolina’s own bad boy, who robbed, pillaged, and plundered and came to a bad end in 1718. And now Blackbeard and his flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR), are setting sail for the Western Regional Office of the Department of Cultural Resources. The interactive traveling exhibit features a salt-water tank, gold flakes, lead shot, ballast stones, a six-pound cannon ball, a pipe stem, pewter dinner plate, and more, all found on excavations of the QAR.

Although the Western Office is pretty far from the ocean, folks here are getting in the spirit – we’re gathering eye patches, swords, and practicing our pirate-speak. Arghhhh, me mateys!

Blackbeard, an Englishman thought to be named Edward Teach, exploited his cult of personality and in a few short years forever linked his name to the Golden Age of Piracy. Around 1714, he hit the high seas in search of treasure, sailing out of the Bahamas and Jamaica, capturing and looting large merchant vessels. In 1717, he captured a large French ship and converted her to his uses, equipping her with 40 guns, and a crew of 300 pirates. He renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge.

To add to his fearsome reputation, he created an outlandish costume designed to scare the heebie-jeebies out of merchant sailors. He braided his bushy black hair and beard into pigtails which he tied with colorful ribbons. Before he attacked his prey, he tucked fuses under the brim of his hat so that his head appeared to be smoking. To further intimidate, he brandished a couple of pistols and an oversized cutlass in a sling across his chest. Often when confronted with the scary sight of Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge, many merchant ships surrendered without a fight.
But like a lot of big-name stars, Teach may have gotten too big for his britches. Near the end of May 1718, Teach and his flotilla blockaded Charleston, SC, the busiest port of the southern colonies, and looted all vessels going in or out. Afterwards, they sailed northward into Old Topsail Inlet near Beaufort, North Carolina. The QAR and the sloop Adventure ran aground on a sandbar and were abandoned. Blackbeard headed north to the town of Bath on the Pamlico River where he put away his fearsome fuses and cutlass, received a pardon from the governor, and married for the 14th (!) time. But like most bad boys, he couldn’t stay good for long.

Six months later, he took to the seas again, plundering ships coming through Ocracoke Inlet. There he encountered an armed contingent sent by the governor of the Colony of Virginia. In a desperate battle aboard Lieutenant Robert Maynard’s sloop, Blackbeard and a number of his fellow pirates were killed. Maynard hung Blackbeard’s severed head from the bowsprit to prove that the infamous pirate could plunder no more.

Blackbeard passed into legend, as did the whereabouts of his flagship, supposedly lost on a sandbar in North Carolina’s infamously tricky waters. Several historical sources and local lore put the shipwreck of the QAR squarely in what is now called Beaufort Inlet, but many professionals disagreed. The controversy was put to rest in 1996 when a private research firm searching the seabed near the inlet found diagnostic 18th century artifacts, including a bronze bell dated 1705, an English blunderbuss barrel, and a cluster of cannon and anchors. The state’s underwater archaeology branch dived on the site in 1997. In further dives, archaeologists mapped the site and raised hundreds of artifacts, including 13 cannon, cannon balls, and a 12-foot long anchor. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
A permanent exhibit of the Queen Anne’s Revenge is on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, the official repository for artifacts from the QAR. The museum is located at 315 Front Street in Beaufort.

The Maritime Museum is sending the traveling exhibit to several locations in the state, the first being the Western Regional Office in Asheville. The exhibit opened June 1 and runs through July 13, 2013. Regular hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Western Regional Office is located at 176 Riceville Road, Asheville, NC. For more information on the exhibit or 2nd Saturday programs, call 828-296-7230.

If you come to visit, we promise our pirates will be nice. In fact, we won’t even make you walk the plank!

Representative Nathan Ramsey poses with our Jr. Tarheel Historian Pirates for the opening of the travelling exhibit in Asheville