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Apr 10 2009

History in Real Time: Chronicling the New New South in Kannapolis

Contact: David Hiscoe, NCSU Libraries, (919) 513-3425

NC Research Campus Archives(Raleigh, NC, 2009)—In order to document historic and fundamental changes in the entrepreneurial, economic, and scientific culture of North Carolina, the North Carolina State University Libraries has launched the NC Research Campus Archives. This effort chronicles one of the most innovative and promising transformations currently underway in the economy of the South, providing a rich resource for generations of scholars, policy makers, and citizens who are writing, guiding, and living the history of the emergence of the new New South.

In 2005, billionaire industrialist David H. Murdock, owner of Castle & Cooke, Inc. and Dole Food Company, announced a partnership with the University of North Carolina system to build a to 350-acre mixed-use North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis, a small town in North Carolina that has been ravaged by the offshoring of the textile industry. NCRC is transforming the former site of the Cannon Mills Company and the entire downtown of Kannapolis into an engine of economic growth for the region. The Campus provides a particularly timely ray of hope to a state currently suffering one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Collaborative initiatives in the fields of nutrition, health, and biotechnology will extend the impact of NCRC far beyond Kannapolis; scientists affiliated with the campus will change the state, the nation, and the world through their discoveries. North Carolina State University’s long tradition of leadership in innovative plant science will be extended at the NCRC through the development of agricultural crops that increase yield, address new market demands, and contribute to improvements in human health.

NCRC is a transformative catalyst in the continuing evolution of North Carolina from a manufacturing to an information- and research-based economy, a change as important as North Carolina’s previous evolution from an agricultural to industrial state during the twentieth century. North Carolina’s internationally respected research parks and campuses—Research Triangle Park, NC State’s Centennial Campus and now the NCRC—have traditionally been engines of dramatic economic, social, and cultural change in the state.

The NCRC Archives is capturing this historic metamorphosis in real time by making available a wide range of primary sources on the development, construction, and operation of the NCRC. As Susan Nutter, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries at NC State explains, “this marquee project demonstrates the critical role of the NCSU Libraries in documenting and facilitating research on the transformation of the NC economy in our areas of strength.” These areas of strength include the history of textiles, industry, science and technology, and agricultural, biotechnology, and science innovation in North Carolina.

The Archives will be the repository of record for the NCRC, chronicling the construction, opening, and running of the NCRC and affording an opportunity to see how actual people have led, envisioned, and experienced this major economic and social change. The reach of the project is broad, collecting personal records, company records, presentations and digital media, and architectural, photographic, and design records, as well as oral history interviews with a significant cross-section of the community. At the time of its launch, the NCRC Archives already contains a substantial repository of “digitally born” documentation, placing the NCSU Libraries once again at the fore of the movement to gather important historical materials as they are created rather than years or decades after the fact.

Through a newly available web portal to the Archives, researchers can quickly access primary source documents and photographs related to the NC Research Campus. Teachers, reference librarians, students, and the public can listen to and view seminars on everything from brain development, diabetes, nutrition, and cancer to metabolomics and biochemistry studies, all led by NCRC researchers. Going forward, the Archives will continue to gather the evidence of today’s cultural changes, as they happen, so that the economic transformation can be studied by current scholars as well as preserved for posterity.