Meet the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

By Hillary Brady, November 15, 2013.
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The DPLA model revolves around collaborating with many partners who contribute metadata to the DPLA—and, as a result, users, libraries and public institutions across the country. The DPLA is continually adding new service partners and extending our reach in establishing a fully representative, national network. This past October, the DPLA welcomed the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (NCDHC) into its community of partners and users—adding more than 123,000 items to our collection.

The NCDHC is a digital library program that includes institutions throughout North Carolina. The program is housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a service-focused organization that helps local heritage institutions digitize and digitally publish their collections. The program is supported by the State Library of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Library, and has a mission to support learning and community engagement across the state by helping increase access to North Carolina’s cultural heritage.

As such, it is important for the NCDHC to work with a variety of institutions that represent the cultural and geographic diversity of the state. Their 132 represented institutions include community college partners; local historical societies, archives and museums; and historically black colleges and universities, among others, across the state. The NCDHC will directly reach out to libraries or museums in counties that do not currently have content in their network, or those that have collections documenting traditionally underrepresented groups, said Nicholas Graham, NCDHC Program Coordinator.

The NCDHC works closely with the staff members at the cultural heritage institutions they partner with throughout the digitization process, and makes a point to stress to partners that they are the ones driving the process of putting their materials online. The NCDHC can capture high-resolution images of a variety of materials, including framed artwork, museum artifacts, and scrapbooks, alongside books, manuscripts and photographs. These digitized items are then published online on the NCDHC website, and are now available through the DPLA.

Working with such a large, diverse network of cultural institutions across North Carolina means that the collection the NCDHC has to offer through the DPLA is rich and varied. These include yearbooks and other campus publications from North Carolina universities; historic textiles; and newspapers. There is also a collection of scrapbooks. Some document civic and social clubs from the 1940’s-50’s, others document World War II service in a number of North Carolina communities. These are just a small part of the varied subject matter and compelling state history represented in material available through the NCDHC.

Digitization has been a prevalent topic in North Carolina over the past 15 years, as many colleges and large public libraries have begun sharing their collections online. However, many smaller libraries and museums lacked the staff or resources to create and sustain digital projects. That’s where the NCDHC comes in, creating an efficient way for institutions to digitize their collections and reach users across the state. New institutions reach out to the NCDHC every month about beginning the digitization process.

“Making these collections available online is no replacement for viewing and handling the originals, but it’s awfully convenient,” Graham said. “We believe that local history matters. With our partners, we work to make it as easy as possible for North Carolinians and others to explore the history of their communities and institutions.”

Because it already works with partners around the state, the NCDHC was a good choice to become a DPLA hub. In that capacity, it has worked with staff at the many rich digital library programs around the state, which have joined their content with the NCDHC’s collections to represent North Carolina in the DPLA.

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