Digital Library, North Carolina Collection, North Carolina History, Special Collections, UNC History

UNC System Yearbooks, 1890 to Present, Now Online

Yearbook photo of Jesse Jackson

A young Jesse Jackson at North Carolina A&T University in 1964.

Yearbooks from 14 of the 17 UNC system institutions – plus 37 other schools – are now archived together online, thanks to a project based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center has scanned and posted the yearbooks as part of the center’s efforts to digitize and preserve college and university yearbooks from across the state.

History buffs and alumni can glimpse these and other famous grads as young adults:

  • Andy Griffith as president of the glee club at Chapel Hill in 1947;
  • Jesse Jackson as president of the student government at North Carolina A&T University in 1964;
  • ESPN reporter Stephen A. Smith at Winston-Salem State University in 1991;
  • Singer Emmylou Harris at UNC Greensboro in 1966; and
  • A bearded David Sedaris of later literary fame at Western Carolina University in 1976.

So far, the project has scanned more than 800,000 pages from 51 schools, including 14 of the 15 university-level institutions in the UNC system. The earliest is the 1890 “Hellenian” from Chapel Hill. North Carolina State University previously digitized its yearbooks independently.

Yearbook photo of David Sedaris

Author David Sedaris at Western Carolina University in 1976.

In addition to celebrity-spotting, the yearbooks highlight changes in student culture and life, said Nick Graham, program coordinator for the center.

“The one constant across the years has been sports,” said Graham.

The North Carolina Collection at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library manages the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. The center works with libraries, museums, historical societies, and cultural institutions across the state to publish historical materials online.

The center is currently expanding the North Carolina Yearbooks collection by reaching out to community colleges, said Graham.

Another major program is the effort to digitize old runs of campus and community newspapers from across the state.

The State Library of North Carolina supports the center with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library and Services and Technology Act. UNC contributes the technical and administrative infrastructure and the expertise of staff consultants.

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