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 Olivia Carlisle: Digitization Archivist in the Digital Services Section
I started work in mid-January after moving up from Atlanta. I’m very excited to be working at the State Archives of North Carolina. While I’ve read dream jobs aren’t really a thing, getting my position at the Archives certainly feels like I have found mine. I have always enjoyed history, but also have a love of technology. I had no idea that you could turn those two things into a profession.
I have a B.A. from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia, in Economics and Organizational Management (I know, right, where’d that come from?). Thinking about my future while at Agnes Scott, I was indecisive and I fell back on my first love, books. So after graduation, I attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to obtain a Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) degree. While attending UNCG, I was still unsure exactly what it was I wanted to do until I got a student position working on a grant in the Library’s Digital Projects department. I worked on a digitization grant project called “North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements” and I was hooked. It was everything I enjoyed: combining history with technology, learning new programs and hardware, all while getting to work with historical materials.
My first experience working in an archives was at the National Archives and Records Administration in Atlanta. For my internship there, I completed a comprehensive finding aid on privateering during the War of 1812 with an accompanying database of information from the records. There is nothing better than getting to read about the exploits of a vessel called the Saucy Jack while handling early 19th Century documents.
After I received my MLIS, I worked part-time at the Georgia State Archives on processing and digitization until I received a full-time grant position at Georgia State University. While at GSU, I worked on “Planning Atlanta—A New City in the Making, 1930s-1990s,” digitizing city planning publications and georeferencing city planning maps.
Some of the projects I am working on at the State Archives include finishing the digitization of the 1901 Confederate Pension Applications, research for GIS video that will be used for an exhibit, and digitizing materials for the Civil War 150 blog. Last month, for Women’s History month, I also digitized and wrote a blog entry about the articles of incorporation for women’s colleges in North Carolina. For professional development, I am currently pursuing my Digital Archives Specialist certificate from the Society of American Archivists, which I hope to finish by the end of this year.
So far, I have definitely felt that I have found my professional home.
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.
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 – newspapers.com 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.
[This blog post comes from Stuart Parks of the Outer Banks History Center]
Archival organizations exist to preserve the past for the future. To accomplish this, we have to ensure that records of the past remain accessible to all, in years to come. This is especially challenging with audiovisual materials. While recording technologies of the past allowed us to preserve the unique sights and sounds of our community, this benefit came with a limited shelf life. Magnetic reels and tapes, popular recording devices throughout the 20th century, can only retain information as long as their magnetic charge holds true. Even with ideal archival conditions, this limited shelf life can be anywhere from a few decades to only a few years. The older this fragile source material gets, the greater the risk that it’s irreplaceable information will be lost forever. Through digitization, these recordings can be copied and preserved into digital formats, extending the life cycle dramatically and making them adaptable to future media formats.
Beginning in 2009, the Outer Banks History Center has taken steps to preserve our audiovisual collections. Based on a conservation assessment by Steven Weiss (UNC Chapel Hill), we identified tapes with oral history interviews, some of which dated back to the 1960s, that were the highest priority for reformatting. By tapping several funding sources and partnering with the National Park Service, 13 oral history collections, 7 of which were NPS, were transferred to digital format for a total of 395 audio cassettes digitized into over 132 GB of information.
Thanks to this new accessibility, OBHC staff members will no longer have to hunt for the lone functioning tape player since files are available on disc. Should disc players go the way of 8-tracks, a digital file of the recording will be retained in a separate hard drive, ready to be transferred to whatever audiovisual format becomes vogue.
More recently, the Outer Banks History Center has digitized 3 more oral history collections through the company MediaPreserve. The original master tapes, recorded in the 1980s, “Oral Histories Collected by Dave Poyer,” “Oral Histories Collected for the Book Ocracoke,” and “Oral Histories Collected by Virginia Ross,” were in fair-to-good condition. Although these were in our 2nd tier of priorities, we selected them to reformat next, since it is better to preserve these materials while they are still functional than risk losing the data to degradation. With this latest round of reformatting, we are now past the halfway point of digitizing all of our audio cassettes. The remaining ones were recorded within the past two decades and are stable. With a few more batches planned for outsourcing, it is only a matter of time before all of our audio cassettes, and the priceless heritage encapsulated on them, are preserved for the future, and we can stop hunting for that elusive functioning tape player.
[This blog post comes from Druscilla R. Simpson, head of our Information Management Branch.]
In November 2008, the State Archives and State Library met and decided to work collaboratively on a digital records project that would combine the Archives’ family Bible records with the Library’s indexed marriage and death announcements from five North Carolina newspapers (Raleigh Register, North Carolina State Gazette, Daily Sentinel, Raleigh Observer, and News & Observer) from 1799 to 1893 created by Carrie Broughton. In May, 2009, we went live with the North Carolina Family Records Online collection which included keyword searchable texts and images from these two resources. At that time, only 175 Bible records (lists of birth, marriage and death information recorded in North Carolina Bibles) were available.
As of November 2012, the final 544 Bible records went online – bringing the total number online to 2154! Since the project began, we have added photographs of the Raleigh Hebrew Cemetery in Oakwood, the records of the Historical Records Cemetery Survey done in 1937 for 97 counties of North Carolina, and thousands of pages of books and personal records from the State Library’s Genealogy Collection.
In addition to recording family vital statistic information, the Bibles contain poems, obituaries, memorials, family letters, lists of slave births and deaths, news articles, temperance pledges, and even a few copies of wills and deeds. For example there is a poem on “When to Wed”
Marry when the world is new;
Always loving, kind and true;
When February birds do mate;
You may wed, nor dread your fate;
If you marry when March winds blow,
Joy and sorrow both you’ll know;
Marry in April when you can,
Joy for maiden and for man;
Marry in the month of May,
You will surely rue the day;
Marry when June roses blow,
Over land and sea you’ll go.
They, who in July do wed,
Must labor always for their bread.
Whoever wed in august be,
Many changes are sure to see;
Marry in September’s shine,
Your living will be rich and fine.
If in October you do marry,
Love will come, but riches tarry.
If you wed in bleak November,
Only joy will come, remember.
When December’s snows fall fast,
Marry and true love will last.
–M Fannie and C. Macon Walters
There are also beautiful pages such as the marriage certificate for John Cameron and Lelia Fowlkes of Rockingham, N.C.
Transcriptions of these records have been done by State Archives and State Library staff, as well as by volunteers. For example, more than 52 of the Bible records were transcribed by Pam Toms, a retired librarian and our most prolific volunteer on this project. If you want to volunteer to transcribe genealogy documents, too, the State Library has a page dedicated to it here http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/digital/ncfamilyrecords/verticalfiles.html. We have nine “super scribes” already hard at work and can always use more! A terrific blog post about this transcription project can be read at http://statelibrarync.org/news/2012/11/world-usability-day-qa-with-therese.
As a result of putting these records online, more than 154 additional Bible pages recording North Carolina family births, marriages, and deaths, have been donated to the State Archives since May 2008. If you have a family Bible that contains at least one person who lived or was born in North Carolina and has at least one birth or death dating to 1913 or earlier, then please consider donating copies of these pages to the State Archives. Instructions are available at http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/digital/ncfamilyrecords/fhp_brochure.pdf
[This blog post comes from Military Collection Archivist, Kenrick N. Simpson.]
Among several ongoing programs of the North Carolina State Archives Military Collection is the acquisition and preservation of oral histories of the state’s veterans of military service. The Archives currently possesses more than nine hundred veterans’ interviews, ranging in date from pre-World War I to Iraq and encompassing all branches of service. Some of the more notable oral histories on file include the memoirs of Conley Cook of Durham, who served in Mexico with General Pershing before World War I; Ed Rector, one of the original “Flying Tigers”; Damon C. Alberty of Mayodan, a survivor of the Bataan Death March; Robert Morgan of Asheville, pilot of the Memphis Belle; Jack Lucas, the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor during the twentieth century; Stewart Fulbright of Durham, a Tuskegee airman; C. Weldon Fields of Greensboro, who flew for the Civil Air Patrol during World War II; Mary F. Cannon of Pinehurst, a MASH nurse in Korea; and Steve Ritchie of Reidsville, the “last ace,” who downed at least five enemy planes in Vietnam.
All the veterans of World War I have since passed away, but the State Archives was able to capture the memories of thirty-eight North Carolinians who served in the Great War. Veterans of World War II, now in their eighties and nineties, are leaving us at an alarming rate, and the Military Collection is determined to identify and interview as many of them as possible to augment the more than six hundred such memoirs already in the custody of the Archives. The fiftieth anniversary of the war in Vietnam approaches, and the oral reminiscences of the veterans of that conflict, as well as those of the Korean War, demand our immediate attention. Memories of more recent service – in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan – will also be invaluable primary sources for future historians and need to be recorded and preserved while the recollections are fresh.
Since the inception of the oral history program in 1996, the Military Collection has been fortunate to benefit from the energy and generosity of time and expense of several volunteers who have been active in seeking out veterans and conducting interviews, including Ken Samuelson of Pittsboro, who has donated nearly ninety oral histories, and Rusty Edmister of Cary, who has interviewed more than seventy-five veterans. On Veterans’ Day 2012, the Military Collection is eager to identify veterans who would be willing to share their memories of service and additional volunteers to conduct such interviews. The Archives has sets of questions applicable to each conflict and branch of service, as well as policies and procedures to guide the interviewer. Anyone interested in participating in the veterans’ oral history program, either as an interviewee or an interviewer, is encouraged to contact Kenrick N. Simpson, Military Collection Archivist, at (919) 807-7314, or by e-mail at email@example.com. The State Archives Military Collection also solicits the donation of letters, diaries, memoirs, photographs, and other mementos of military service from veterans with ties to North Carolina.
Listen to an interview with Colonel Robert K. Morgan, Asheville, N.C. U. S. Air Force Reserve (November 22, 1999) or view the clip’s entry in the Internet Archive.http://archive.org/embed/MilColl221ColonelRobertKMorganWWIITape1Side1