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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.

By: Gwynn Thayer

Professor Russell Flinchum’s two Design classes recently worked with the Special Collections Research Center to study the materials in the Martha Scotford Research and Study Collection on Graphic Design. This collection was featured in a previous blog posted in Spring 2014.

The students in Flinchum’s two Design courses examined a few highlights from the collection, including materials created by Alex Steinweiss during the 1940s and 1950s. Hired by Columbia Records in 1939, Steinweiss was a record album designer who replaced featureless paper covers with poster-like images designed for display.

Another popular item was a series of colorful publications from Mohawk Paper Mills and the Pushpin Group that surveyed historic design styles, including Jugendstil, Paris Deco, Streamline, De Stijl, and Bauhaus.

These items, as well as other original materials relating to architecture, landscape architecture, and design will be featured on March 27, 2015, at our biannual Special Collections “Show and Tell” at the Belk Rotunda at the College of Design from 11 am to 1 pm. Stay tuned for more details about this upcoming event!

By: Rose Buchanan

Davis designed this poster and others for the Virginia/North Carolina Power Company's Safety Series.

When asked about design education, Professor Meredith J. Davis is not one to mince words. As she once said in an interview for ID magazine, “One of the things missing in most foundation [design] programs is the development of an attitude of inquiry. We give students these lifeless exercises as though they were real problem-solving activities… We fail to link these abstractions to reality because the real world is messy and ugly and doesn’t fit the formal considerations we’re interested in.”

Yet, Davis has not let the messiness of the world stand in her way of improving design education, and her efforts are well documented in the NCSU Special Collections Research Center’s recently processed collection, the Meredith Davis Papers, 1975-2014. Davis taught for over a decade at Virginia Commonwealth University before coming to NC State in 1989. She has been here ever since, serving for ten years as the chair of the Department of Graphic Design (now the Department of Graphic Design and Industrial Design), and four years as head of the interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Design program.

In fact, Davis was one of the early advocates of Ph.D. programs in design. As she stated in another interview for ID magazine, “One of the characteristics that distinguish a profession from a trade is a segment of practice devoted exclusively to research. Design is now developing such practices, and there are students for whom this kind of work is very appealing.”  In her former roles as the president of the American Center for Design and the founding president of the Graphic Design Education Association, Davis led national efforts to promote more Ph.D. programs in design.

Meredith Davis designed "In Bondage and Freedom," an exhibition catalog, for the Valentine Museum in Richmond, VA.

Apart from higher education, Davis is also interested in the ways in which design can be used in educational reform efforts in K-12 schools, and the relationship between design and cognition. The Meredith Davis Papers contain examples of Davis’s published research on these topics, as well as presentation materials from the more than 140 lectures she has delivered nationally and internationally during her career. The collection also features the two interviews cited here and samples of Davis’s design work from the 1980s when she was principal in the graphic design firm, Communication Design. Many of Davis’s designs, including the safety brochure series for the Virginia/North Carolina Company (see above), have won awards on the national and international levels. The Meredith Davis Papers contain a number of these awards as well.

For all of her hard work, however, Davis does not appear to be stopping any time soon. She is contributing chapters to several graphic design textbooks that will be released in 2015, and she is currently under contract for a new book of her own that will be released in 2016. For now, though, researchers interested in her work and career can view the online finding aid for the Meredith Davis Papers here, or contact the Special Collections Research Center staff for more information.

By: Laura Abraham

This Valentine’s Day, we at NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center would like to share an important day for one of N. C. State’s most cherished couples. On February 28, 1981, the Wolfpack’s mascots officially became Mr. and Mrs. Wuf during halftime of a basketball game with Wake Forest. The Demon Deacon presided over the ceremonies in Reynolds Coliseum.

An in-depth article written on the wedding, as well as what led to the mascots’ marriage, can be found on our blog here.

These photographs, and lots more related to sports, 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.

By: Jason Evans Groth

One of the most significant benefits of working in the digital domain is the power to search quickly and accurately. Open a physical copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and then open a digital copy on a machine with a search engine. Now, imagine how long it would take to count the amount of times the word Scout appears in the text using your physical copy, and compare that to a quick ctrl- or cmd-f, typing the word “Scout” in the search box, and watching the search engine parse the results. Even if a number is not presented, pressing return and counting would take several hours less time than going page by page and marking up your book, counting by hand. This is not a value judgment regarding physical versus digital, but a point of fact – quantitative and focused research can be done significantly faster in the digital domain. Now, imagine applying that power to research in an archive, searching for “rhino” across, say, the Mitchell Bush Papers and immediately retrieving accurate and usable results. In addition to saving an enormous amount of time for the researcher who may already be in the reading room, remote users could analyze results before ever setting foot in the library, and would have a better of idea of exactly what to look for when it came time for the meat of their work.

NCSU Libraries’ born digital strategic initiative was established in 2013 to attempt to make this promise a reality. At this point, a year and a half after starting the initiative in earnest, we feel confident that our exploration of tools and our ideas about arranging and describing materials will lead us, sooner rather than later, to making digital collections as easy to use as the opening paragraph of this post dreams. But as we step to the brink of making literally millions of files easy to find and potentially as easy to access, the specific challenges of an ambitious born digital program really come to light. One of those challenges is making those files easily and widely discoverable.

Murray Downs, Burton Beers, Jim Rasor, and Jimmy Williams review photographs in the NCSU University Archives.

With the advent of inexpensive digital storage has come an explosion of stored (and often unmanaged) data. An 80gb hard drive used for testing born digital workflows in the SCRC – which only had 20gb of actual information on it – contains 176,000 files. Internal hard drives in new computers are often at least 250gb or more, and 5tb external hard drives cost less than $150. When the inevitable happens and we receive a hard drive with millions of files, it will be impossible for us to examine each file individually. As reported in our “Let the Bits Describe Themselves” post, we use automated tools to generate data that our own tool idea, “Archivision,” can read and then display easily to the interested party as a virtual file explorer in a web browser. What we are providing is context, as the actual workflow will look something like this: We process the disk or disk drive in question, we run tools on the drive to create a preservation package (an “image” of the drive) which goes to storage, but, at the same time, create the files that can be read by Archivision, and we tell many already-in-place systems that we’re doing this so we can immediately make these things discoverable. Thus, in the case of the Mitchell Bush Papers referenced above, as soon as we have gone through the process of safely making an accurate copy of the data, our proposed workflow will take over and automatically make the existence of those files viewable by researchers by adding an easy to follow link directly to our finding aid.

An ad for Macintosh Computers in the NCSU Technician, Vol. 71 No. 41, December 4, 1989

The goal of an archive is to make as much of its material discoverable and usable as possible, while maintaining status as a trusted repository for its donors and managing the materials responsibly for the long-term. The digital domain, in one respect, brings this goal closer to reality through the affordances granted by technology. When the material comes in already digitized we have a better chance to make that material discoverable even more quickly.

To boil down the goal of the archive even further is to say that we are here to provide access. Knowing that these digital files exist and actually being able to use them for research are two different things. But we believe that using a tool like Archivision to increase visibility of digital holdings is the first step, and we have plans – referenced explicitly in our “Access and Born Digital Collections” post – to allow researchers to use an in-house laptop filled with indexed versions of our responsibly stored disk images, so they can put themselves into the shoes of the person or institution who previously used that content. Unlike many collections in the physical realm, we are given the opportunity, through born digital, to experience objects the way the donor left them (exactly, in some cases). And unlike physical collections we can easily make available the list of files in the context of the disk as they came in, getting us one step closer to automatically, and as quickly as possible, making needed material discoverable to scholars everywhere.

By: Gwynn Thayer

On January 22, NCSU Design graduate Alexander Isley visited NCSU Libraries for an “Amazing Alumni” talk in D.H. Hill Library. Isley is the 2014 winner of the prestigious AIGA medal. During his lecture, he talked about his time at NCSU’s College of Design as well as his more recent work. Isley is known for his work designing the signage program at Hunt Library, in addition to other major projects, such as the 9/11 memorial.

Isley is in the process of donating his papers to NCSU Libraries. The finding aid to the Alexander Isley Papers is now available. Please check this link periodically for future additions to his papers.