NC Historical Review online? Um, not so fast

I was excited to see in Carolina Comments (July) that plans were being laid to take the North Carolina Historical Review online, first with a listing of all articles since 1924, later with full text. Editor in chief Donna E. Kelly provides Miscellany readers with the somewhat-less-encouraging details:

“A list of Review articles has been prepared but has not been posted online yet because we are trying to determine the best way to post it. There are no immediate plans to post entire articles online because that would take an inordinate amount of staff time and we have just lost four staff members to recent budget cuts. Moreover, we have so many back issues, that we need to sell out of most of those before we even consider posting the articles free of charge. We might consider posting some of the really early articles, but from the 1960s forward, we have so many back issues, that it wouldn’t make sense to put them online.

“At some point I envision that the Review will be available through online subscription only, but we have not yet explored that route. Our IT people would need to set up a secure way of making the access password protected.

“In any event, just keep checking our Web site periodically for updates. We’re hoping that it will get a facelift at some point, but we have to wait until the DCR IT staff gets around to us.”

What a shame, however budgetarily understandable  — and what a contrast between the current reach of the Review in print and its limitless potential online. Consider, for instance, the attention deficit for David La Vere’s provocative July 2009 article on the Dare Stones.

Dare Stone: Does debunking need debunking?

In the July 2009 North Carolina Historical Review, David La Vere, professor of history at UNC Wilmington, argued for taking seriously the “Dare Stone” found near the Chowan River in 1937:

“Scholars have dismissed the stone as a forgery, but a closer look shows it might well be what it purports to be: a last message from Eleanor Dare and the Lost Colony…. It tells a credible story….”

Now Dram Tree Books in Wilmington has published Dr. La Vere’s  “The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony.”

I asked him whether the stone might yield its secrets to modern forensic science.

“The Stone’s language has been examined many times,” he replied. “I had an Elizabethan scholar look over the language. He went in with the idea to discredit and came away amazed how it all fit Elizabethan English. He was particularly interested in the word ‘salvage’ (for savage) which was used in English (from the Italian word for forest) during only a few years…. The Lost Colony fit in with that period.
“I don’t know when the physical aspect of the stone was examined last. In the 1980s it was looked over, but they found they could not come to any new evidence on it. It still looks like a chisel did it. The problem was that it was ‘corrupted’  from the time it was found — gone over with a wire brush, pencils and nail. New techniques would entail destroying parts of the stone, and Brenau [University, where it resides] doesn’t seem willing to do that.

“So it could be real, or it could be a good fake.”

Paging Sam Spade….