Transcribe-a-thon November 5, 2015

The following guest post was written by Stephanie Hsieh, the 2015-2017 Stone Center Library CALA.
Following the Paper Trail: All About UNC’s First Transcribe-a-thon
How do we learn about the past? Without time travel, one of our most important methods for peering back in time is paper. Think of how much of your life is on paper: letters, cards, medical records, legal matters. Now imagine if every e-mail you’ve ever sent or received was printed out too!
Transcribe-a-thon poster_final-page-001
All of those papers would tell some future reader a little something about your life. The same is true of the old letters, poems, ledgers, and more in UNC’s Southern Historical Collection. By studying the papers of the past, we can learn more about how people thought, worked, and lived.
Archivists work hard to find and preserve those documents for generations to come. That often means sealing them away from light and moisture that might damage them further. But what about us, the people who want to read them and learn more about our past right now?
That’s where UNC’s first Transcribe-a-thon, held on November 5, 2015, came in.
The Transcribe-a-thon was an opportunity for participants to make history, touch history, and learn more about what archivists and others involved in document preservation, do. The Southern Historical Collection has a treasure trove of handwritten documents that tell us about African American culture in the nineteenth century. Poems, letters, diaries, and more tell the story of what life was like for African Americans living 300 years ago.
Old documents can be pretty hard to read. That’s where transcription comes in! Transcribers got to look at these documents up close while transcribing them from handwriting to something easier to read. During the Transcribe-a-thon, participants were also taught some of the tips and tricks that archivists, paleographers and historians use to read those old documents.
Photos of the event are available here.

Penn Center Honors UNC for Care of Penn School Papers

Reposted from the UNC University Library News and Events blog, some exciting news for our colleagues over at UNC’s Southern Historical Collection:
The Penn Center of St. Helena Island, S.C., has named the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a member of its 1862 Circle. The Center presented the award on April 29 to recognize the University’s stewardship of the Penn School papers at the Southern Historical Collection in the Wilson Special Collections Library.
The Penn School began in 1862 as an experimental program to educate and provide services to thousands of African Americans who had been freed by U.S. troops early in the Civil War. The Center today preserves and serves as a resource for the history, culture, and environment of the Sea Islands.
The Center deposited the Penn School papers with the Southern Historical Collection in 1962. The collection contains more than 32,000 letters, journals, and official documents from the school’s history. The diary of Laura Towne, a Philadelphia abolitionist and one of the school’s founders, is among them.
The collection also includes approximately 3,000 photos, some dating to the 1860s. Oral history interviews and later documents relate to the Penn Community Services Center, which opened in 1948 after the school closed.
“The Penn papers document a groundbreaking effort to help newly freed people,” said Tim West, curator of the Southern Historical Collection. “Eventually, it became an effort of the people themselves. Researchers use these papers to study topics ranging from the Gullah culture of the region, to African American education, to race relations.”
As part of its citation, the Penn Center recognized the ongoing active partnership that it maintains with UNC. As a result of these efforts, more than 10,000 pages of the Penn School papers are now available online through the Southern Historical Collection.
Related Links

Lecture and exhibit opening TODAY (11/8) at Wilson: "Generations of Captivity in North Carolina: The Bennehan-Cameron Plantations, 1776-1865"

Reposted from the UNC Library News and Events blog
Generations of Captivity in North Carolina: The Bennehan-Cameron Plantations, 1776-1865
Lecture by Sydney Nathans
Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011
Wilson Special Collections Library
5 p.m.  Reception and Exhibit Viewing, 4th floor
5:30 p.m.  Program, Pleasants Family Assembly Room
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza TerllFriends of the Library, (919) 548-1203
The lives of people enslaved at the Stagville Plantation in what now is Durham County, N.C., will be the focus of a lecture and exhibit at the Wilson Special Collections Library. The program and exhibit are free and open to the public.
Sydney Nathans, professor emeritus of history at Duke University, will give a lecture Nov. 8 titled “Generations of Captivity in North Carolina: The Bennehan-Cameron Plantations, 1776-1865.” The lecture will open the exhibit in the Wilson Library’s 4th floor gallery, Kin and Community: African American Lives at Stagville, on view through Mar. 2, 2012.
Nathans has devoted much of his academic life to working in the Cameron Family Papers in the Southern Historical Collection, focusing on relations between whites and blacks and the lives of black families who lived on the Bennehan-Cameron family’s extensive plantations in Orange (now Durham) County.
The Cameron family, which also had substantial plantations in Alabama and Mississippi, was among North Carolina’s largest landholders and slaveholders.
The event and exhibit are sponsored by the Southern Historical Collection and the Friends of the Library.