CHAPEL HILL, NC (NEWS RELEASE) — 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 at http://digitalnc.org/exhibits/college-yearbooks. They are part of the center’s efforts to digitize and preserve college and university yearbooks from across the state.
So far, the project has scanned more than 800,000 pages from 51 schools, said Nick Graham, program coordinator for the center. The earliest is the 1890 “Hellenian” from Chapel Hill; three UNC campuses have already contributed their 2010 yearbooks. (The three UNC system institutions not represented on the new site are the UNC School of the Arts, the NC School of Science and Math and NC State University, the last having previously digitized its yearbooks independently at http://historicalstate.lib.ncsu.edu.)
History buffs and alumni can glimpse famous grads as young adults. There is Andy Griffith, president of the glee club at Chapel Hill in 1947. Other photos show a young Jesse Jackson at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State 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 at Western Carolina University in 1976.
But yearbooks offer more than celebrity photos. The yearbooks also preserve important traditions, such as the selection of queens for classes and majors at many historically black colleges. Genealogists use the yearbooks to identify and learn about ancestors.
Yearbooks also record what is important to each generation, and how student culture and life change. For example, 1920s yearbooks showed students posing in formal attire and participating in activities such as glee clubs and debating societies, while yearbook highlights in the 1970s and 1980s included political rallies, rock concerts and beer drinking contests. “The one constant across the years has been sports,” Graham said.
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. 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.