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By: Virginia Ferris

Special Collections staff arranged a special Show and Tell event in honor of Chef Vivian Howard at the Friends of the Library Spring Meeting on April 7, 2015, bringing together a selection of rare and unique items highlighting the story of North Carolina food, agriculture, and rural empowerment.  Chef Howard, of Kinston NC, is an NC State alum (’00) and the James Beard-nominated star of A Chef’s Life on PBS. Chef Howard and her staff from Chef and the Farmer served a meal of small plates during a conversation about Howard’s career, North Carolina agriculture, and Southern foodways, moderated by Dr. Nancy G. Creamer, NC State Professor and Director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Over 60 visitors stopped by the Show and Tell event to learn more about the canning labels, recipes, photographs, and farming publications on display. The event showcased the richness of collections like the Cooperative Extension Service Publications, 4-H Youth Development Records, and the North Carolina Farm Bureau Records, that documentthe ways that cooperative extension and home demonstration impacted the way North Carolinians live and eat.

Food was key to home and farm demonstration programs, which largely focused on improving southern crop yields by promoting the latest scientific farming methods. Around 1912, agriculturalist Seaman Knapp developed this hands-on instructional methodology that focused on involving the entire family – not just the farmer – and encouraged the development of rural clubs for homemakers and their children.  Male extension agents from NC State worked with boys’ clubs and farmers, promoting scientific agriculture and business practices that emphasized crop diversification and increased yield.  Female agents, led by founding head of NC home demonstration Jane McKimmon, led girls in Tomato Clubs that instructed them in gardening, canning, and selling food that they produced themselves. Canning allowed women to preserve vegetables, fruits, meat, and juice, providing variety and greater nutritional value in their family’s diet year round, and cooking demonstrations helped women learn to prepare meals from canned goods. Curb markets through home demonstration programs and 4-H clubs also equipped rural women and youth with marketing skills and additional income for their families.

The “Live-at-Home” campaign, launched by NC State Director of Agricultural Extension I.O. Schaub and actively promoted by Governor O. Max Gardner in 1929, encouraged farm families to grow and conserve their own food, rather than planting nonfood cash crops like cotton or tobacco, and encouraged North Carolina “city folk” to buy their supplies from local farmers as much as possible. A menu from a dinner hosted by Governor Gardner in 1929, featured in the Show and Tell event, recognizes the North Carolina farmers that provided food for this feast. In her 1945 book When We’re Green We Grow, Jane McKimmon wrote of the meal, “Pecans, sorghum and peanut candy with other sweets came from the east, apples and kraut juice from the foothills of the mountains; and sweet milk from the Guernsey breeders’ association, together with the buttermilk from the creameries, almost put coffee, good as it was, out of the running.”

This “Live-at-Home” dinner parallels the work of today’s leaders like Vivian Howard and her husband Ben Knight to promote sustainable local farming and to reconnect North Carolinians to their roots through food.  Gardner’s dinner mirrors the meal of locally sourced dishes – including oysters, chicken and rice, cornbread with local cheeses and homemade jams, and a Pepsi float with peanuts – that Howard served the audience.  The communities and stories behind these foods are closely tied to NC State’s extension and home demonstration legacy that is documented and preserved in the Special Collections Research Center.  Projects such as Green N’ Growing and Cultivating a Revolution further highlight this history, and our digital collections hold a wealth of resources about agriculture and food in North Carolina that are available online.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event, and the Special Collections staff look forward to putting together more events like this in the future. To view these collections in person, check out our online collection guides and schedule an appointment at the SCRC by sending an email to:

By: Todd Kosmerick

Three new video oral histories have been added to the Student Leadership Initiative, which chronicles the experiences and impact of former North Carolina State University student leaders. People recently interviewed are Wesley A. McClure (Student Body President, 1967-1969), Stephen G. Rea (Student Body Treasurer, 1980-1981), and the Honorable Ronald E. Spivey (Student Body President, 1981-1982).  Excerpts of the videos are available online.

Wesley A. McClure interview

In his interview Wes McClure discusses the adoption, in 1969, of a new Student Government constitution that is still in effect today. He talks about the beginnings of  the Free Expression Tunnel and student reactions to the 1960s North Carolina Speakers Ban.  He also describes the School of Design in the 1960s. After graduation from NC State in 1969 McClure became an architect, and he was a principal of McClure Hopkins Architects and other firms.  He and his wife are founders of Savvy Parrot, Inc., the developer of “Adventures on Pepi’s Island,” a web-based social emotional learning software.

Steven G. Rea interview

In his interview Steve Rea discusses building consensus in Student Government and working on such hard issues as student fee increases.  He also talks about mentors and his leadership role in the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the importance those had on his career.  After earning both bachelor and master degrees from NC State, Rea worked at Carolina Power & Light and then Heyward Incorporated, where he has been most recently the Senior Vice President for Power Capital Sales.

Ronald E. Spivey interview

In his interview Judge Ron Spivey discusses working with administrators to expand operation hours of  a campus snack bar and a gym. He talks about serving as the student member of the Board of Trustees, opening lines of communication with students, and meeting such influential people as Roy H. Park and Gov. Jim Hunt.  He also recounts the start of the desk-signing tradition of Student Body Presidents.  After graduating from NC State in 1982, Spivey earned a law degree, and later he became a North Carolina District Court judge and a Superior Court judge.

Since its launch in 2010, the Student Leadership Initiative has sought ways in which to more fully connect users with university history, enrich university archives by adding personal narratives, and positively impact learning and research in the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center. This multi-year program has chronicled the experiences and impact of former student leaders through the collection of video oral histories and the development of interactive virtual and physical exhibits, with the ultimate aim being to better expose how the college career informs a life.

By: Cathy Dorin-Black

The Countrywoman newsletter is one of the official publications of the ACWW

A recent addition to the North Carolina Extension and Community Association Records in the University Archives contains a number of materials related to the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). The NC Extension and Community Association, which had its beginnings at the 1920 Farm Women’s Convention, coordinates and links Cooperative Extension agents across the state and provides them with a voice for their concerns. The Associated Country Women of the World, it turns out, has been an important affiliate with this North Carolina organization.

The ACWW began at the International Council of Women at Geneva in 1927, where it was determined that various rural women’s organizations around the world needed a way to communicate with each other and share mutual concerns. At a 1933 Stockholm conference, the name “Associated Country Women of the World” was formally adopted, as was a constitution.  The organization’s aims were defined “to promote and maintain friendly and helpful relations between the country women’s and homemakers’ associations of all nations . . . to further common interests of these organizations in the economic, social and cultural spheres, while avoiding political and sectarian questions of a controversial nature, and to encourage the formation of organisations working for such common interests . . . .”

Conference brochure for Perth, Australia

While the home office was based in London, conferences were held every three years in cities all over the world, including Washington, DC, Copenhagen, Colombo (Ceylon – now Sri Lanka), Oslo, Perth, and Nairobi. Visiting these different cities must have been quite an experience for rural women in the early twentieth century who rarely traveled internationally and did not usually encounter different countries, languages, and cultures. Yet despite the differences, these women found common ground on such topics as farming, decorating, charitable activities, and family life. The ACWW remains active today.

Included in the records held by Special Collection are triennial meeting brochures, newspaper clippings, ACWW publications, and meeting minutes. There is a newspaper article describing Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech on Rural Woman’s Day at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. To the 250 women preparing to sail on the Queen Mary to London for the ACWW triennial conference, she said, “They will have an opportunity to leave with the citizens of other countries the desire that we have to preserve the peace of the world.” From only a short time later, however, there is correspondence regarding decisions to postpone conferences during World War II, but some also reveal discussions to maintain the London headquarters during the bombing.

A couple of images of the ACWW can be found in the Special Collections Research Center’s digitized collections. To access records on the ACWW involvement of the NC Extension and Community Association, please consult the collection guide and contact the Special Collections Research Center.

Conference brochure for Killarney, Ireland

Conference brochure for Nairobi, Kenya

Apr 06 2015

Collection Surprises

By: Rose Buchanan

By Rachel Jacobson and Rose Buchanan

Floppy disks from the Raymond LeRoy Murray Papers

For processors of archival collections, it becomes second nature to look for groups of similar records produced as a result of the collection creator’s activities. When organizing collections, it is not unusual to come across materials other than paper documents. There may be relics of the past discovered amongst the files. For example, an odd floppy disk or VHS tape may turn up every now and again. Some artifacts may be a bit more unusual.

In a Special Collections Research Center with a broad collecting scope, one must be prepared to discover an occasional strange artifact. Recently, two peculiar artifacts have been discovered here at NCSU. One of the artifacts was a bit jarring while the other brightens up the collection it is a part of by contributing to the collection’s uniqueness. The jarring artifact was found as part of an addition to a collection that was already established, the James F. Wright Papers.

The unexpected artifact brings two questions to a processor’s mind. One, in which part of the collection could this artifact fit? Two, how should one store potentially hazardous materials? Answering these questions is all in a day’s work at the Special Collection Research Center. As this collection only has one series and materials are being arranged in the order they were received, the answer to the first question was not as complicated as it could have been. However, because such materials may be dangerous, it was decided that the tranquilizer gun should be held under restricted use for researchers’ safety.

Marble made from borosilicate glass, a nuclear waste storage material

Other unexpected artifacts, however, are safe to use and in fact add a sense of quirkiness to a collection. This was the case with the Raymond LeRoy Murray Papers. Dr. Murray was a physics professor at NCSU in the Nuclear Engineering program and was a key figure in establishing the University’s nuclear reactor, the first reactor operated on a college campus. While arranging his papers, processors came across a small marble made from borosilicate glass. As the card accompanying the marble said, “This nonradioactive marble is made with glass from a full-sized glass melter developed especially for defense nuclear waste.”

A quirky artifact indeed! While the marble does not pose a safety risk like the tranquilizer gun, processors still had to determine where the marble would best fit in the collection. Since the marble was discovered in a folder of “souvenirs” that Dr. Murray kept from his time in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, the processors decided to include the marble with teaching materials, rather than place it with reactor material which may fit more closely with research. This decision was made in part because of the artifact’s provenance. As the artifact was found in a previously sorted carton filled with teaching related documents, it seemed the logical choice to keep the artifact in the same series with the material stored near to it. Perhaps Dr. Murray picked the marble up during a visit to a nuclear waste disposal facility and later showed it to his students. Or Dr. Murray and others in the Department of Nuclear Engineering may have given prospective students each a marble as a “souvenir” of their visit to the University.  Either way, researchers may view this artifact, and other interesting finds, by contacting the Special Collections Research Center.

By: Jason Evans Groth

As the NCSU Libraries Born Digital Strategic Initiative has grown over the last year and a half, we have been fortunate to interact with many talented librarians and archivists who are also building programs at their own institutions. While conferences like SAA 2014 in Washington, D.C. and, more recently, NEA/MARAC 2015 in Boston, have provided a context for us to share our work in person with others, we have also made the effort to reach out to individuals both in the Triangle Research Library Network and, more widely, through email and phone calls to those whose projects and work have surfaced beyond their respective institutions. It is safe to say that all of these interactions have, at some point or another, approached the topic that is on the minds of all of us working to make born digital collections discoverable, accessible, and responsibly preserved: “Am I doing this right?”

We have decided on (at least) two answers at NCSU Libraries. The first is “If you’re doing anything then, yes, you are doing it right.” And the second is the all-powerful “it depends,” which is quickly followed by “but if you are doing anything then, yes, you are doing it right.” Of course, “right” is a loaded word. As discussed in a previous post, flexibility is an important consideration when building a born digital program, since so many things can change in the processing of different digital objects. For NCSU “right” means the following: We established our core requirements for general processing based on our needs for access, which we  mapped out before we knew how we could process anything, and we built in enough flexibility to the workflow that, when changes (inevitably) rear their expected heads, we have room inside of our workflow to accomodate.

NC State Students in the 1980s, potentially creating data that we need to store and make accessible now.

Why all of this doubt, though? Archivists are already well-equipped to handle the daunting task of establishing physical order, appropriate room conditions, and an organizational system to provide the fulfillment of the promise to keep things safe and, hopefully, accessible for as long as possible (forever, for lack of a better word). What makes digital so different? It could be that digital computing devices and data, now almost one hundred years old, are still relatively young in the context of archives. It could be that we have faced challenges with storage and retrieval of digital objects in other professional domains, and we know the challenges associated with digital preservation and with maintenance of disks in general. It could be that we are a humble profession, and despite being information experts – largely through computing interfaces – we have decided that we are not “techies” and may not be able to approach this challenge properly. It could be that we’re afraid of the speed with which digital assets can be shared, which is far different than our traditional patron-in-the-reading-room model. It’s possible that all of these things contribute to the doubt, but, just like there is not one single tool that will solve any institution’s born digital challenges, none of these are the only reason we’re doubtful about born digital. These concerns do feed one of the most prevalent problems, which is the penchant we have for worrying about worst-case and, often, edge-case scenarios when it comes to digital collections.

There is no such thing as a perfect born digital curation and preservation program, and setting out to eliminate all problems, especially those we hear about in worst-case or edge-case scenarios, is a losing game. The majority of these cases likely do not now – and never will – apply to our institutions. For example, we currently have no workflow in the SCRC to handle 8″ floppy disks or data cassettes, but we know that other institutions do. Rather than worry we’re not doing born digital right because we can’t account for this legacy data carrier absence in our program, we have, instead, surveyed our collections and found very few of these items. We have decided that other formats, for which we have the capability to process, are higher priority. But rather than give up hope, we have built in some flexibility to discuss these formats in the future should we get to a point where they are in demand. In other words, we have devoted our resources to media we know we’ll see more of, while constantly scanning for solutions to cases that are decidedly more on the edge. This decision is practical and also empowering because it has set us in motion to focus on what we know we can do well rather than worrying about what we can’t do at all. But it also leaves room for us to consult our colleagues who either have these capabilities or have experience with appropriate vendors and make informed choices when and if the time comes to take care of that data.

A photo of now obsolete media from the NCSU student newspaper, The Technician, November 2, 1983

We also know that we will face lots of data that can’t properly be processed by applications we have at our hands right now. While we’re not placing bets about robust virtualization environments being available to us anytime soon, we can’t let this keep us from at least migrating the data from legacy media that we can handle to monitored hard disk environments that afford preservation practices. In other words, freeing the currently unreadable data from their media jails gives us a chance to see it later; not doing anything guarantees that our chances will grow slimmer by the month to ever even approach it again. On top of all of this, since most digital curation and preservation programs like ours are so young, we can’t decisively say what it is our patrons or researchers actually want, so keeping it all in a responsible way and paying attention to patron activity will help us keep our program one that works for patrons rather than one that works for the ideas we have about them.

This may sound a little reductive, but the essential component of a born digital program is the safe transfer of data from one place to another that does not harm the data and that allows us to monitor it safely for the duration while providing access to it, too. Sound familiar? It’s just like what we do with papers, books, and physical objects in our archives, with one key difference: It can happen very quickly and can be both deceptively simple and complicated. That is, a hard drive will fail, so just because it feels easy to see and access data right away when the hard drive is fresh, it doesn’t mean we can take our eyes off of it and assume it, like a book stored properly, will last several lifetimes. And, on the other hand, a lot of people create a lot of complication around the basic component of born digital, sometimes just because they can. Making sure that what we do with the data when we free it from its original carrier and add it to our repository matches the goals of access and care we have established from the beginning keeps us from experiencing “digital creep” (making something simple in the digital world very complicated because of the affordance of tools at our disposal) and helps us to move our processing forward so we actually can get to our backlog and keep up with what’s coming in.

In general, what rises to the top regarding news of born digital are crises that result in data breaches, huge technical failures, unreadable media, forensics tools that do every possible thing to a bitstream that one can currently think of, and on, and on, and on. What isn’t generally discussed are smart archivists making plans to accomplish the goals their archives have established for proper access and preservation of their digital holdings. These archivists do not let the idea of technology or tragedy get in their way. They realize the skills they need to deal with this technology are truly basic, since so many other smart people who develop software and hardware have made it easy for them. They realize, too, that they already know how to accomplish the majority of this work by using the skills they have honed with traditional collections. Their organizational and planning skills, along with some updated vocabulary and either a write-blocker or a write-blocking script for their USB ports, are the firm foundation for a solid born digital program.

By: Gwynn Thayer

Please join us this Friday at the College of Design in the Belk Rotunda for our Spring “Show and Tell.”

We will be bringing selected items from the following collections: the Martha Scotford Research and Study Collection on Graphic Design; the Richard C. Bell Drawings and Other Materials; the Matthew Nowicki Drawings and Other Material; the Alexander Isley Papers; the Brian Shawcroft Papers; and the Meredith Davis Papers.

We will also bring architectural drawings created by Harry Barton for the Tudor Revival S. H. Tomlinson House in High Point, North Carolina.

Please email us at with any questions!

By: Virginia Ferris

In honor of Alpha Zeta’s annual Agricultural Awareness Week, beginning March 23, 2015, the Special Collections Research Center presents an exhibit in the Ask Us Lobby of D.H. Hill Library to highlight the farming men and women who have shaped the evolution of agriculture and technology in North Carolina.

From its roots as an agricultural experiment station, North Carolina State University has been interwoven into this evolution through teaching, research, and extension work that has supported local farming communities and organizations. Partnerships between NC State and the small farmers of North Carolina have pioneered innovative approaches to sustainability through times of major change, from the early industrial revolution through today.

Small farmers who relied solely on cash-crop cultivation suffered after World War II as cotton and tobacco prices plummeted, demand decreased, and overproduction glutted the market.  By growing more of their own food, farm families could provide their own sustenance without exhausting their meager cash supply. Publications like the Progressive Farmer newspaper and the D&P Monthly (Dairyman and Poultryman) circulated information to rural communities, and grassroots organizations like the North Carolina Farmers Bureau formed to give farmers a unified voice on agricultural issues. 4-H clubs and the Future Farmers of America supported agricultural education and leadership among rural youth. Annual conferences brought farmers together to learn from each other and from experts in agricultural research, frequently featuring presentations from NC State faculty and cooperative extension agents.  North Carolina agriculture evolved through these networks of support, empowering farming men and women to grow and negotiate economic and legislative policies in a changing agrarian economy.

The exhibit will highlight the evolution of farming practices and home-grown agricultural organizations in North Carolina that tell the story of the people who cultivated and developed our state.  Materials will be on display starting March 23, 2015, in the Ask Us Lobby of D.H. Hill Library.

The Special Collections Research Center has a wealth of materials that show the rich history of small farming and agricultural sustainability in North Carolina. The North Carolina Farm Bureau Records and North Carolina Agricultural Organizations Records reflect the leadership of farmers in their local communities and grassroots organizations. The Green N’ Growing project highlights materials from the Cooperative Extension Service, and Cultivating a Revolution and Living off the Land show the evolution of agricultural research, education, and farming practices in North Carolina. Our digital collections portal, Historical State, also contains a wide array of resources on agriculture in  North Carolina and at NC State in particular.

By: Gwynn Thayer

The Special Collections Research Center recently provided scanned images of Dick Bell’s work for the Landscape Architecture Department at the College of Design as they put together an exhibit  featuring Richard “Dick” Bell’s work. The Richard C. Bell Drawings and Other Materials was acquired by Special Collections in 2007. Dick Bell received his degree in landscape architecture from NCSU’s College of Design (then, the School of Design) in 1950. He became a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects  (ASLA) in 1954 and was elected as a Fellow of the organization in 1980. In 1955, Bell founded his first firm in Raleigh, N.C., and for many years operated the business from its award-winning office space, the Water Garden Office Park. Bell retired in 2007.

The Special Collections Research Center also conducted an oral history of Dick Bell. Also of related interest is the Lewis Clarke Oral Histories Collection, 2008-2012, which includes 30 interviews with a cross section of students who attended the NCSU School (now College) of Design between 1950 and 1980 in architecture and landscape architecture.

This exhibit at Design, “Passion of the Practice” honors Bell for earning the 2014 ASLA Medal. Bell will be at the College of Design at 6 p.m. on March 18 to receive his award.

Mar 09 2015

It’s Spring Again!

By: Brian Dietz

After a few unrelenting weeks of winter weather, here in the Triangle we’re getting a taste of spring weather. And just in time. The University is on Spring Break this week! In 1987, twenty-eight years ago, as we all do each and every year, the Technician looked forward to Spring Break, but put their own spin on it in this jokey, January issue.

Technician Spring Break Issue

Technician Spring Break Issue, 1987

I, for one, after building up my “winter coat,” will be trying out the Technician Diet, soon to be the latest craze on campus (again).

Of course, Spring Break isn’t just a time for flip flops and sun-in. At NC State, there’s also a tradition of service trips. To learn more about them, visit the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics & Public Service (CSLEPS) Alternative Spring Break site. I’ll be eager to learn about the projects students completed this year.

The above issue of the Technician and others ranging from the 1920s to the 1990s are available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics.

By: Cathy Dorin-Black

Aerial view of the Brickyard, late 1960s

The Campus Buildings and Grounds Timeline in Historical State has recently been updated with more information and images. This timeline covers the entire span of the University, from the construction of the “Main Building” (Holladay Hall) in 1889 to the recent renovations of the Talley Student Union. It includes the very large (as in the construction of Carter-Finley Stadium in 1964) to the very small (as in the “Strolling Professor” statue in front of Burlington Labs). Athletic facilities, classroom buildings, dormitories, cafeterias, and research centers are all featured. When known, the architect is named as well as the person for whom the building was named. Researchers may enjoy learning of architects Hobart Upjohn and Ross Edward Shumaker, who designed many of the earlier structures on campus. Others may be interested to learn that Bragaw Hall was named for Henry C. Bragaw, an alumnus who was killed in World War II and awarded the Silver and Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.

Thompson Gym in 1948 and construction of Reynolds Coliseum in background

The Campus Buildings and Grounds Timeline helps simplify an understanding about how the NC State campus evolved, indicating when new buildings were constructed and old ones demolished, and it shows that functions and names have changed over time. For example, one can see that basketball games have been played in different buildings:  in Thompson Gymnasium starting in 1925, followed by Reynolds Coliseum in 1949, and then the Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena in 1999, with the name of that building later changing to the RBC Center and, finally, the PNC Arena. Meanwhile, Thompson Gymnasium is now Thompson Theatre.

Reynolds Coliseum in 1949

Additionally, researchers may find other fun facts, such as the time an escaped pig was tracked down in the restroom of Winston Hall or when cooking spaces were approved for students in dorms. Images culled from our Rare and Unique Digital Collections website enhance the timeline with views of campus structures throughout the decades.

PNC Arena, current home of men's basketball

Historical State is the gateway to NC State history and an access point to resources held by the University Archives and the Special Collections Research Center.  It provides access to historic photos, videos, course catalogs, student newspapers, and yearbooks. Timelines documenting various aspects of University History are another feature of Historical State. Compiled by Special Collections staff, they give viewers quick, easy-to-find information, such as how long a Chancellor served (in the Chancellors and Presidents Timeline) or when Franklin Roosevelt visited campus (in the Campus Visitors Timeline). They are also a great starting point for researchers doing more in-depth study of University History topics.