One goal of “Better Living in North Carolina” is to digitize the Cooperative Extension Service Annual Reports, print copies of which are held by NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center. A year into the project, nearly all of these reports have been digitized and are now available online. Project staff has shifted its focus to the publications of the Cooperative Extension, like 4-H newsletters, Home Economics bulletins, and even TV schedules for Extension programs.
Another purpose of “Better Living” is the digitization of hundreds of Cooperative Extension Annual Reports that exist only on microfilm. Right now, 467 reports from 1909 to 1917 digitized from four reels of microfilm are online. While icrofilm is still widely available at many libraries, it is an obsolete technology. Even when it is used, microfilm presents many limitations to copying and searching. Digitized microfilm images are by far easier to access and search.
These reports and publications are more than year by year documentation and products of the agricultural extension. They are also artifacts of the hard work of the men and women who developed the agricultural extension in its early history. The very first annual report (above) submitted by A&T agent John W. Mitchell, can now be seen. Some of the first club reports by Jane McKimmon are also online. It is now possible to research the first county agents of Mecklenburg, Chatham and Guilford Counties and then check for related information in other materials within our “Rare and Unique Special Collections“.
The boon to today’s researchers is being able to quickly cross reference materials of multiple formats from the agricultural history of North Carolina. One can start with any item like an annual report, then narrow that search for a particular agent, county, region, or extension program, and also search for a conference brochure for names, related reports, and images within our “Rare and Unique Special Collections” and “Historical State“. Agent John Mitchell is one of a few cases were biographical essays are also available. By focusing on these resources, “Better Living” complements the previous NCSU Libraries LSTA-funded digitization projects, “Cultivating A Revolution” and “Green and Growing.” The three work together to expose scores of resources documenting the impact of agricultural innovation in NC across the last century.
If you would like to learn more about the Special Collections Research Center and our digitized materials, please visit NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and text materials documenting extension history and other topics.