Archives Month: Dorothea Dix Hospital Project

Contributed by Leah Tams and Robert Allen

Since our presentation at the 2019 SNCA Conference, the Community Histories Workshop (CHW) at UNC Chapel Hill has continued its excavation of historical records from the Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dix was the state’s principal insane asylum for many decades, and its records are now held in the State Archives of North Carolina. The state’s open records law makes state records created more than 100 years ago available to the public, so we have a wealth of intriguing—and confronting—records to excavate and interpret. Of course, COVID-19 has temporarily halted our access to the State Archives, but we have a rich trove of CHW-digitized Dix records from which to work.

General Case Book entry from Dix hospital

Our student employees have continued their excellent work in transcribing general case book forms (essentially extensive intake records) of patients, and thanks to their work we now have over 1,300 case book forms transcribed. Additionally, we have been working with the Odum Institute at UNC on getting our Admissions Ledger Database and other sets of digitized records published and requestable in UNC’s Dataverse. Due to the sensitive nature of the Dix materials, we crafted an ethics and professional practice agreement so that researchers will be fully aware and mindful of such sensitivities. We are looking forward to publishing the Dix materials and collaborating with our partners at UNC Chapel Hill, as well as eventually with partners outside of UNC.

Finally, we are teaching a graduate-level American Studies seminar that centers around the Dix records, focusing this semester on constructing case studies of select Dix patients. With these case studies, we are seeking to better understand the experiences of patients at Dix and how mental illness and other related diseases at the time were understood. We also believe that these case studies are important exercises in reinserting elements of humanity into asylum records and returning agency to individuals who were otherwise confined to an institution and stripped of their agency.

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UNCG on The State of Things

Part of today's episode of The State of Things on WUNC radio featured the Unsung Heroes Project at UNC Greensboro. You can read more at about this collaboration to conduct oral history interviews of civil rights movement veterans. Although I was intrigued by the subject matter, what really caught my attention was the kudos given to the UNC Greensboro Libraries for their work digitizing these interviews, specifically:

  • Erin Lawrimore, Associate Professor and University Archivist
  • David Gwynn, Associate Professor and Digital Projects Coordinator
  • Richard Cox, Digital Technology Consultant

The participant list links out to the individual interviews. Because they've used the OHMS (Oral History Metadata Synchronizer) tool, these interview transcripts are easily searchable.

You can listen to the entire story at You can also find a press release by University Communications at

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Archives Month: Central Piedmont Community College Nursing Program

Contributed by Erin Allsop, Archivist at Central Piedmont Community College

Central Piedmont's nursing program is the oldest nursing program in the N.C. Community College System and has graduated more than 3,000 students since its inception. When the Associate Degree program began as the registered nursing program in 1965, the campus of Central Piedmont, located in Charlotte, consisted of only a few buildings. Most classes were held in the Central High building, carrying over similar procedures from the Central Industrial Education Center (which would later become Central Piedmont).

The image above shows the location for the courses offered by the Central Industrial Education Center, one of Central Piedmont's educational predecessors. Practical Nursing classes, which would become Registered Nursing in 1965, were located on the third floor.
Students in the Practical Nursing Program of Central Piedmont Community College, 1963.

Practical Nursing became the Registered Nursing program in 1965, two years after the all-White Central Industrial Education Center merged with the all-Black Mecklenburg College to create Central Piedmont Community College. The program was created during the Civil Rights era and was one of the first desegregated nursing programs in Charlotte. This program had a few name changes over the years; it was first known as the Registered Nursing program from 1965-1967; followed by the Associates Degree - Nursing (1968-1984); Nursing - Associates Degree (1984-1999); and lastly the Christa A. Overcash Associate Degree in Nursing (1999-present day).

In order to accommodate the exponential growth of the nursing program, the Belk Building was opened in 1982 to house most of the health programs offered by the college at that time. Today, the Belk and Health Careers buildings still house some of the nursing program courses. Most recently, the newly constructed Health Sciences building on our Central Campus provides lab and classroom settings for students in our health sciences programs and includes state of the art equipment, labs, and testing facilities.

During its more than 50 years at the college, our nursing program has evolved and grown to meet the needs of today’s healthcare industry leaders and college student population. As a way to honor the many achievements of this historic program, the Central Piedmont Archives works to preserve the legacy of the nursing program for future generations. More information on the Central Piedmont Archives can be found here:

Below are some images of nursing students throughout the years.

nursing students photo
Nursing students participating in an on-campus, nursing skills practice lab during the 1970s. You will notice several skills in practice – taking blood pressures, moving patients safely using good body mechanics, learning different medical/surgical instruments, administering oxygen, and wrapping an extremity. AR.0036 - Programs, Central Piedmont Archives.
1979 nursing class photo
Associate Degree Nursing Program, Class of 1979. Dr. Ruth Hedgpeth, former dean of the Health Sciences program is in this photograph, fourth row; second from left. AR.0036 - Students, Central Piedmont Archives.
Christa Overcash photo
Christa A. Overcash photographed during the dedication ceremony for the Christa A. Overcash Nursing Program, 1999. Her generous donation provided the resources, equipment, and tools necessary for a quality nursing education. AR.0036 - Dedications, Central Piedmont Archives.
nursing lab photo
Associate Degree Nursing Students, 2018. Credit: Darnell Vennie.

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Archives Month: Health Alert!! Polio Outbreak on UNC Campus! UNC-NC State Football Game Cancelled!

Here begins a series of posts celebrating SNCA's 2020 Archives Month theme of "20th Century Health and Medicine." This post was contributed by Dawne Lucas.

This post originally appeared on the “For the Record” blog of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Archives and Records Management Services, 26 October 2012.

The year was 1952 and the United States was still three years away from Jonas Salk becoming a household name.  At the time, polio was the scariest public health issue in the United States.  So when five UNC students, all athletes, were stricken with polio from mid-September to early October, it was no surprise that university officials took the necessary steps to prevent the disease from spreading further, cancelling the two home football games against North Carolina State and Georgia, and requesting that students remain on campus.

Daily Tar Heel scan
Cover of the Daily Tar Heel, Oct. 3, 1952.
Daily Tar Heel scan
Daily Tar Heel editorial page, Oct. 3, 1952.

Although the editor of the Daily Tar Heel said there was “no cause for alarm,” students were understandably concerned as were their parents.  Parking lots were nearly empty and the highways out of town were “dotted with hitchhikers” as students ignored the requests to stay on campus and went home.  Long distance telephone calls to and from Chapel Hill doubled as students and parents kept in touch with each other.

Daily Tar Heel scan
Cover of the Daily Tar Heel, Oct. 4, 1952.

The five students, football player Harold “Bull” Davidson,  cross country teammates John Robert Barden, Jr. and Richard Lee Bostain, swimmer Robert Nash “Pete” Higgins, and freshmen football player, Samuel S. Sanders, all recovered quickly and none suffered any paralysis.

Full issues of the Daily Tar Heel from 3 October 1952 and 4 October 1952 are available online via the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. For more information about the 1952 polio outbreak at UNC-Chapel Hill, listen to Chris Jensen’s 2015 Bullitt History of Medicine Club lecture, “And Polio Was a Nightmare”: Polio, UNC-Chapel Hill, And the North Carolina Memorial Hospital.”

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ECU Libraries working to document the COVID-19 pandemic in eastern North Carolina

East Carolina University Libraries are documenting the effects of COVID-19 on the lives of eastern North Carolina residents and on normal campus operations. Preserving this period of our local history will be beneficial to scholars for years to come, much in the way documentation of the 1918 Flu Pandemic helps us have a broad understanding of how life changed during that time.

Individuals can submit reflections on personal experiences during the pandemic, including how daily life has changed, how perspectives have changed, how the pandemic has affected mental and physical health, and anything else you would like to record about your experience. You can write these in any form and style you would like. Click here to visit the online submission site.

Submissions can be viewed at

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Raising Archival Awareness in a Regional Studies Organization: The Appalachian Studies Case

Please join Liz Harper and Gene Hyde for this presentation, which was originally scheduled for SNCA last March. Please contact Gene Hyde,, if you have any questions. 

Thursday, September 24, 12 - 1 PM

Via Zoom - please register at this link to attend this Brown Bag:

"Raising Archival Awareness in a Regional Studies Organization: The Appalachian Studies Case"

Gene Hyde, Special Collections, and Liz Harper, NOAA Center for Environmental Information

This presentation describes how archivists led efforts to create a Special Collections Committee in the Appalachian Studies Association, as well as the Appalachian Curator, a newsletter highlighting the variety of archival collections in southern Appalachia. The Special Collections Committee was created to explore historical and current initiatives and programs and provide a forum for news and information about Appalachian archives. These efforts provide a model for increasing archival awareness in interdisciplinary or regional professional organizations.  This presentation was originally accepted for the 2020 Society of North Carolina Archivists Conference last March at Elon University, which was cancelled due to COVID.

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J-SNCA call for papers

J-SNCA is a peer-reviewed journal that seeks to support the theoretical, practical, and scholarly aspects of the archival profession. The editorial board of J-SNCA invites members of the research and archival communities to submit articles for a general issue on archival topics to be published in the Winter of 2020/2021. Focuses on archival methodology, metadata, collecting practices, outreach, and rethinking the goals of archival work in our current age, especially considering COVID-19 and the national conversation on efforts towards anti-racism, are all welcome.

The deadline for article submission is October 16, 2020. All members of the archival community, including students and independent researchers, are welcome to submit articles. If you were slated to present at the cancelled 2020 Society of North Carolina Archivists conference you are particularly encouraged to submit a paper based on your presentation. Contributors need not be members of Society of North Carolina Archivists or live in the state of North Carolina. Article proposals are welcome and encouraged.

Submission guidelines can be found at

Submission contact:

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Charlotte’s new presence on Google Arts & Culture

Contributed by Tyler Cline

UNC Charlotte Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, along with 12 other local museums, galleries, and cultural institutions, has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to launch Charlotte on Google's global platform. Atkins' contributions include images and stories from the historic Boyer postcard collection, Black history from the Alexander family and Julius Chambers papers, and early UNC Charlotte images featuring founder Bonnie Cone.

“We are thrilled to showcase Charlotte’s rich culture, history of innovation and thriving art scene for everyone to explore online at Google Arts & Culture,” said Simon Delacroix, U.S. Lead of Google Arts & Culture. “From its fascinating museums to its delightful culinary scene to its achievements as a business hub, Charlotte is captivating. Thanks to our 13 local partners, the world can go to one virtual  destination to experience this outstanding city.” 

Charlotte is the first city in the American south and third in the U.S. to be featured in Google Arts & Culture’s global initiative to capture and share the unique culture of cities. Along with Kansas City and Milwaukee, Charlotte joins European cultural hubs on the platform including Milan and Naples, Italy, Lyon, France, and Hamburg, Germany.

Charlotte arts & culture logo

Google Arts & Culture Charlotte partners in this project include: the Mint Museum, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), Levine Museum of the New South, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Arts & Science Council, Atkins Library at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Goodyear Arts, Carolina Raptor Center, Charlotte Symphony, and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. Of these partners, Atkins Library is the sole archival repository.

The Charlotte site can be found at

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From the Collection of the New Hanover County Public Library

Contributed by Travis Souther

Born in Wilmington on March 17, 1915, Claude Flynn Howell was a natural artist from a young age. Reportedly, some of his childhood illustrations of the balcony and proscenium arch in Thalian Hall were used during the restoration of that antebellum building. During his summer breaks, he took trips to Rockport, Maine, and Woodstock, New York, where he studied with prominent painters and artists of the time. He graduated from high school in 1931 and longed to attend art school but was unable to pursue a classical art education due to the Great Depression. Instead, Howell worked for the Wilmington-based Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Despite not being able to attend art school, his job with the ACL was not terribly difficult and allowed him to continue to pursue his passion.

In 1937, one of his paintings was accepted in the North Carolina Association of Professional Artists’ first juried exhibition. One of his paintings titled Winter Landscapes was accepted in the third North Carolina Artists' Annual competition, winning the artist the Purchase Award from International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) along with $200.00. His early successes enabled him to have a place as an exhibitor in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Just a year later, Howell became the first North Carolinian to have his work displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A prolific painter, Howell’s works were characterized by flat, brilliant colors that centered on fisherman, fishing boats, and seascapes. His works also had sharply-defined shapes and edges.

Howell’s influence was not only given to destinations far away but was most especially felt here in his hometown. From 1960 to 1981, he taught at Wilmington College (now UNC-Wilmington). The classes that he taught were the inspiration for the creation of an Art Department, for which he was later the director. A 1995 exhibition of his work at the St. John’s Museum of Art, now known as the Cameron Museum of Art, was the last exhibition of his work before his death. At about the same time, an hour-long documentary about the artist and the places that he depicted was shown on UNC-TV. For his contributions to the world of art, he was colloquially known as the “Dean of North Carolina Painters.” Though he never had a college education, Howell did receive honorary doctorates from both UNC-Wilmington and Wake Forest University.

photo of Howell's apartment

The 1981 image seen above shows the then 66-year-old artist in his home at Carolina Apartments on 5th Avenue. Behind him are several pieces of his art showing scenes from around Wilmington including the State Port, the New Hanover County Courthouse, and St. James Episcopal Church.

Although Howell traveled around the world visiting some two dozen countries by his reckoning, Wilmington remained his home for his entire life. He remained a significant figure in the local art scene until his death in 1997. Copies of Howell’s journals can be accessed through the Local History Room at the downtown branch of the New Hanover County Public Library. A washboard that came from Howell’s home is part of the collections at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science.

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Project Management for Archivists

Kelly Spring, Access Archivist & Head of Digital Curation for the Special Collections Department at East Carolina University, has recently written a handbook, Project Management For Archivists: Befriending Your Backlog.

Stymied by the amount of material in your backlog? Wondering where to start? Project Management for Archivists offers simple, step-by-step instructions on taking control of your inventory. From archival accessioning to handling born-digital collections, the methods in this little handbook will help you systematically master your work. You will learn from a seasoned archivist and project manager how to create inventories, define baseline standards, and develop useful documents to track progress. Best of all, examples of checklists and workflows are included for easy reference. This is one resource that any archivist will want to keep close at hand.

You can find this little gem in ECU's institutional repository, The ScholarShip.

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