Education history goes digital
Quite often in these days of high technology, historical archives are hidden away – so far away that even the location’s archivist doesn’t know of their existence, much less is able to put his finger on them.
But thanks to the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (DHC), many of those historical artifacts are now seeing the light of day – not to mention the lights of cameras – in an attempt to digitize North Carolina’s history. And these records are now available online.
The Old Jamestown School Association (OJSA) at the Jamestown Public Library is one organization that has taken advantage of the opportunity to have some of their holdings photographed or scanned. These items are available for all to see at digitalnc.org.
Joy Cecil-Dyrkacz, a library assistant at the Jamestown Public Library, is also a master’s candidate at UNC Greensboro in library information studies. For her independent study, she chose the digitization program.
“We got an email from the State Library of North Carolina saying they had received a grant to do this,” Cecil-Dyrkacz said, “to collaborate with other institutions around the state to preserve and to provide access to digital heritage items (and) cultural items.”
“Essentially, small organizations like us that don’t have the funding to do it all ourselves,” added Jamie Cyrus, Jamestown Public Library manager. “They will work with you to help digitize those collections.”
The service is free to these organizations.
Beginning last summer and continuing until December, Cecil-Dyrkacz collected items from the OJSA archives, transported them to the Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill for scanning or photographing, later working online writing descriptions and organizing the items. Most of the Jamestown High School yearbooks (and some from the early years of Ragsdale High School) are online along with other artifacts.
“There is a lot of stuff (in the archives) but I didn’t have enough time to go through all of it,” she said of the student newspapers, collections in boxes, video tapes and other items.
Cecil-Dyrkacz said she had to be selective.
“I tried to stick to what I thought would make the biggest impression to those not in the area, or even those in the area who think of Jamestown and the high school.”
Still, Cecil-Dyrkacz was able to include 153 items from Jamestown’s educational history in the digital collection.
The oldest item is a “Programme of the Closing Exercises at Jamestown High School” from 1887. Cyrus pointed out that the institution was a private school at the time, not a public school.
The newest item currently online is a color photo of the school from sometime in the 1970s.
“I was amazed by the number of photos (available),” Cecil-Dyrkacz said. “There was also a pamphlet inviting students to come to the school.”
Since each item is cross-referenced, Jamestown Library Manager Jamie Cyrus said the online items are easy to search.
“You can search even within the yearbooks,” Cyrus said.
Anyone accessing the site can search for individual names in yearbooks or photographs, all available online.
“It’s very neat,” Cyrus said. “It’s close to being like in your hands – without being in your hands.”
Cecil-Dyrkacz pointed out another advantage of the online archives.
“You don’t have to worry about doing damage to the materials,” she said.
“I hope more colleges and schools will get involved (with the Digital Heritage Center),” Cecil-Dyrkacz said. “If it wasn’t for this, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
“A lot of libraries have small archives,” she added. “We’re lucky to have the Old Jamestown School Association archives.”
Other organizations in the area using the DHC are the High Point Museum, High Point University, UNC Greensboro, Bennett College, Guilford College, Greensboro Historical Museum and the Heritage Research Center at the High Point Public Library.
To access the collections that have been digitized by the Digital Heritage Center, visit http://digitalnc.org. For Jamestown records, click Old Jamestown School Association.
The Old Jamestown School Association Archives are located on the second floor of the Jamestown Public Library and are open Tuesday mornings.