Updates from Special Collections and University Archives



  • Records Management (RM) had a presence at UNCW's celebration of Love Data Week in February. Seventeen people attended the online session “Let’s Talk about Administrative Data: A Conversation about Archiving the Data in Your Office.” Slides are available here. What RM topics do you want to see addressed during next year's Love Data Week? The theme will be “My kind of data.”
  • Records and Information Management Month, April 2023 - University Archives held a total of 4 workshops–one on Zoom and 3 others around campus. There were 48 attendees altogether. Check out this handy Records Management Guide customized for UNCW.

News & Updates

  • Please continue to refer to the UNC System Records Schedule (2021). The Record Analysis Unit at the State Archives is currently short-staffed with only two analysts in Raleigh and two regional analysts.  Please send suggestions for schedule updates and revisions to University Archives for consideration by the State Archives.
  • Following the RM workshops this past spring, we in University Archives have had the opportunity to consult with several staff members at UNC Wilmington on records management questions. A valuable reminder: Adhering to the records schedule is a process! Making a plan, testing, and communicating with stakeholders and the public are components of a records management project. It is fine to build time into your projects to complete these steps as you move toward compliance.
  • Do you produce state publications? Examples are university and departmental magazines, books published by the university, the Atlantis and other creative magazines, strategic plans, exhibition catalogues, and more. NC General Statute 125-1A established a process for schools in the UNC system – as state agencies – to send 10 printed copies and/or a digital version to the State Publications Clearinghouse at the State Library of NC. Copies are then distributed to designated libraries throughout the state in addition to the Library of Congress. See guidelines on donating to the State Publications Clearinghouse. We continue to acquire these publications for University Archives as well.
  • I hear from you that video recordings of Zoom presentations on Records Management are appreciated. We will try to accommodate this request going forward.

RM Phrase of the Day

Capstone Approach to Email Archiving: The Capstone Approach is a method of email management that bases appraisal for long-term retention in the Archives on the account owner’s role or position rather than individual email content. This approach has benefits for a successful email archiving program.

Electronic Records Day and Archives Month

Electronic Records Day is observed in the United States every year on October 10, which can be expressed as 1010 in honor of binary code. October is National Archives Month. UNCW will help raise public awareness about archives throughout October.


Good luck on your Records Management projects and all your other endeavors this summer!


--University Archives


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While my semester is nearing its end, I still have a few more weeks to squeeze in the last bit of work on the Evans’s letters! When I last checked in, I had just begun my work with the Anchram H. and Elizabeth K. Evans Civil War Letters collection.

As a recap, this collection mostly comprises correspondence between Anchram and Elizabeth Evans during Anchram’s time in the army during the Civil War. The Evans lived in Brunswick County in a small town named Town Creek and were a farming family before and after the war. From what I gathered from the letters and some brief research on Ancestry.com, Elizabeth and Anchram got married in February of 1861 when she was just 16 and he was 22. Marriage at a young age was much more common in the nineteenth century, but it still blows my mind to think about how young Elizabeth was. Anchram enlisted in the army in early 1862, and the couple had their first daughter in October of the same year. From what I could put together from the letters, it seemed like Elizabeth lived with Anchram’s family while he was away.

            I was assigned several tasks for this collection, but I began by reviewing their letters for content related to yellow fever, notable Wilmington families, and information about life at the time. I did this by reviewing the existing transcripts and the letters themselves. Consulting both was necessary because the original transcripts weren’t quite reliable. Reading cursive handwriting on aging and damaged paper is very difficult, especially when dealing with spelling errors, unfamiliar turns of phrases, and references to unfamiliar people and places. By reading every letter, I could put together information for what became the scope and content notes for the finding aid. For this collection, I provided a very brief description of every letter that will hopefully lead researchers to the collection. This is called “Item Level Description,” and it is not performed for every archival collection because it is a very time-consuming task.

            Reading through the collection helped me form a better picture of the Evans family and their lives, and it helped immensely with reorganizing. For the most part, there was not much to be done to reorganize the collection because they would be kept in chronological order, but there were a number that were either undated, partially dated, or even dated incorrectly. By being familiar with the letters' content, I could help ascribe dates to those partially dated or correct those that weren’t quite right. While my practicum is technically just about complete, I should have time to wrap up the collection before the semester ends and I graduate! As I type this blog post, the finding aid is live on Randall Library’s website and can be accessed by researchers. I hope I will have time to digitize the letters in the collection, as they are quite fragile. By providing digital copies online, the collection will be available to a wider range of researchers and reduce the time they have to be pulled for onsite researchers, extending their lives in the archive.

            This semester, I’ve learned a lot and honed many important skills, including my attention to detail. I only spent ten hours a week in Special Collections, so it was important to be organized and leave myself notes on what I completed the week prior and what to start on for the next week. Making mistakes in a workplace that deals with many moving pieces is very easy. I’ve caught mistakes from previous archive staff in my collections and made a few myself, but I catch them when I can and fix them. If I can’t fix them or need assistance, I seek support from my supervisors. I haven't been afraid to ask for help for a long time, and I think I would advise everyone to work on that.

            As for my learning goals for the semester, I think I’ve made substantial progress in them all. I feel more comfortable working with ArchivesSpace and feel that I could use these skills to navigate other types of cataloging software for archives or museums. I’ve also engaged with many professional texts thanks to the readings put together by my supervisors. I read a number of articles and book chapters on all sorts of topics, including climate change, copyright, digitization, outreach, and more! I believe I also made progress in working to identify and eliminate archival silences. For example, while reading the Evans’s letters, I was able to identify a letter that referenced the transfer of three enslaved persons from father to son. While I can’t tell their stories or even record their names, I am happy to bring them to light, even if it's just in the scope notes of my finding aid. I still can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone by but I am proud of what I have accomplished. I hope that my work will be helpful to future researchers and inspires others to join a field that brings me so much joy. 

            Well, I guess this is farewell for now. I’ve got more work to do!

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Last week, I said goodbye to Dr. Samuel Mendelsohn and his wonderful collection. Sometimes in life, things do not go to plan, and I can say with certainty that was the case with Dr. Mendelsohn’s collection. I mentioned in my last blog post that attention to detail is critical to the work of an archivist, and MS 058 surely required a careful eye.


Since my last update, I have scanned over 500 pages of Dr. Mendelsohn’s sermons, lectures, addresses, and more. Digitization is something I am quite familiar with, having worked previously under Digital Initiatives here at Randall Library. I find the process of scanning to be meditative in a way! I am performing a function that will create better access to a collection, but I can also listen to music or audiobooks as I do so. As a grad student, I’ll take any peaceful moment I can get! Unfortunately, Scanning MS 058 took me much longer than anticipated because of how the original scans were ordered. From what I was able to piece together, it appears that most of the original scans were organized entirely chronologically rather than in their series groups and then chronologically within their series. This was further complicated because the files were not named in a way that identified them. So, that meant I first had to spend a lot of time noting what digital file corresponded to each physical file in the collection. This became complicated when I realized they were not ordered the same way as their record in ArchivesSpace.


Imagine Dr. Mendelsohn’s collection is physically and digitally organized in ArchivesSpace in the example below:


Sermon A - Box 1, Folder 1

Sermon B - Box 1, Folder 2

Sermon C - Box 1, Folder 3

Sermon D - Box 1, Folder 4


Address A - Box 2, Folder 1

Address B - Box 2, Folder 2

Address C - Box 2, Folder 3



BUT, it turns out that the digital files were organized like this:


Sermon A - Box 1, Folder 1

Sermon B - Box 1, Folder 2

Sermon C - Box 1, Folder 3

Lecture G - Box 3, Folder 24

Lecture H - Box 3, Folder 25

Sermon D - Box 1, Folder 4




Then, imagine that they were not actually named as suggested above but actually look like the following:









Since they didn’t quite follow the order in ArchivesSpace, it required me to open each digital file and compare them with the contents of their physical file to ensure I was rescanning the correct document. If I had not, I would have rescanned the wrong files, and when they were reuploaded into ArchivesSpace, the incorrect scan would have been linked to the digital record.


Did that make sense?... Yeah, it took me a while to wrap my brain around too.


Some other minor organizational issues appeared during my work with Dr. Mendelsohn’s collection, but I believe it has all been resolved. Even if I made an error, I feel better knowing that the collection is now in better shape so that researchers can easily find what they need, even if they don’t physically visit Special Collections. After scanning, the digital files were uploaded and assigned to the correct archival record. I then completed the final details on the finding aid, and 058 was done!


I got right to work on my new collection, MS 254 Anchram and Elizabeth Evans Civil War Letters. I am reviewing this collection for correctness of order, interesting content (related to life in Wilmington, notable figures, and yellow fever), and duplicated transcriptions. After my review, I will work on transferring the transcriptions of the letters, done originally by Evans’s grandson(!), from .html format to .doc and eventually into .pdf. Then I will carefully rescan each delicate document and attach the transcript to the scanned document so all the digital files will be in one place.


I have just begun my initial review of MS 254, and during this process, I am checking that the physical files are in the correct chronological order. At the same time, I am replacing the old plastic protectors that the letters were in with archival-grade sleeves. I’ve already found a few letters that were folded to fit in the letter-size folder, which is definitely not ideal for maintaining their physical condition. Leaving documents folded creates points of weakness and stress on the document, which can adversely affect their life within the archive.


My next blog post will be the final one before the semester ends and I graduate! I look forward to updating you all on my practicum experience then.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023
11:30am – 12:30pm
Randall Library 2042 (Special Collections Reading Room)

Thursday, April 13, 2023
10am – 11:15am 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023
10am – 11am Workshop
11am – 12pm Q & A and Activities 
Education Building 162

Tuesday, April 25, 2023
1pm - 2pm Workshop
2pm - 3pm Q & A and Activities
MG 1105 (Center for Marine Science Auditorium)

What is Records and Information Management Month?

  • Records and Information Management Month (RIMM) is celebrated internationally to highlight the importance of organizing and maintaining records and information.
  • A record is any document, paper, e-mail, picture, recording, video, or other material that can prove the transaction of business. 
  • UNCW workshops will introduce you to the Records Retention Schedule and offer tips on how to make it work for you.

Guide to UNCW Records Management

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Time flies when you're having fun! Over the course of the last month, I have worked closely with MS 058 Rabbi Samuel Mendelsohn Papers. This collection was donated back in 1989 by the Temple of Israel and had been previously processed. Since its merge into ArchiveSpace, some data needed to be reviewed and updated for accuracy. The collection also required new archival-grade folders in order to best preserve the papers within. Because most of the intellectual work was already completed, it has been my duty to pay close attention to the details to ensure everything is in tip-top shape! To be fair, Dr. Mendelsohn made it much easier for us because he labeled each of his manuscripts with a designation (sermon, lecture, address, etc.) that became the series in which the collection is organized.

My first duty was to physically rearrange the collection to make sure it matched the record in ArchiveSpace. While I did that, I typed up brand new labels, which will be attached to the new folders. The document I produced for the labels has also had the added benefit of acting as a quick reference list for the contents of the collections without having to go into ArchiveSpace, which can take a bit longer to peruse. After this, I replaced the old folders with new acid-free folders, which are used broadly across archives and museums to keep documents safe. It is a very simple act but can extend the life and usability of a record by many years. As strange as it may sound, this is typically one of my favorite parts of the process, not just because it helps the object but is one of the only times I will get to engage with every object. I found it so cool that Dr. Mendelsohn wrote on ruled paper in the 1870s, just as we do today!

After replacing the folders, I carefully updated the finding aid to make sure the names were correctly reflected, and then updated the main collection fields in ArchiveSpace to make sure the finding aid was as complete as possible. Much of archival work is detail-oriented, which is certainly a skill I have honed during my internship here. I certainly used this skill as I reviewed scans of the over 200 objects within the collection to check for imperfections and made notes of which ones would need to be rescanned. I will start rescanning the documents soon!

Overall, I have begun to make progress in meeting my learning goals for my practicum. I am becoming more familiar with ArchivesSpace through careful combing of data. I have engaged with many new professional texts that have reinforced basic archival principles, such as provenance and original order, but also have increased my knowledge of current professional discourse within the archival community. This relates to my last goal: to become more aware of archival silences. I recently read "Moving Toward a Reparative Archive: A Roadmap for a Holistic Approach to Disrupting Homogenous Histories in Academic Repositories and Creating Inclusive Spaces for Marginalized Voices" by Lae'l Hughes-Watkins which discussed why archives need to reexamine their collections, collecting practices, and their relationship with their communities. Hughes-Watkins identifies archives (and other institutions of higher learning) as places that have contributed to oppressive archival practices that contributed to archival silences.

Through engaging with that text and others like UNC Chapel Hill's "A Guide to Conscious Editing at Wilson Special Collections Library," I am becoming more aware of how I can help erase silences and strive for a more inclusive archive. This does not just mean changing collecting missions, but also the way we talk and write about collections. In reference to Dr. Mendelsohn's collection, reading "Removing the Invisible Norm of Protestant Christianity" in "A Guide to Conscious Editing" revealed the way that our vocabulary is inherently influenced by Protestant Christianity. Being aware of verbiage and how I describe collections can help me better represent existing collections and start to eliminate silences within the archive.

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Hello! My name is Tess Will, and I am a master's student at UNCW in the Public History Department. For my last year of graduate school, I have been a Processing Intern here in Special Collections at Randall Library, where I am learning archival processing methods, engaging with professional texts in the field, and learning lots of new skills! I have been working in museums, libraries, and archives for over five years, starting when I was an undergraduate student at East Carolina University. As a history major at ECU, I was first introduced to the world of archives and museums through my own historical research, where I became enamored with the "stuff" of history. While I loved the research, I found myself drawn to the care and management of historical archives and artifacts, which led me to pursue a minor in public history. My first public history position was as a tour guide at the Country Doctor Museum in Bailey, North Carolina, where I interpreted medical history to the public and dipped my toes into collections care. Before I graduated, I was lucky enough to work as an intern in the History Collections of Laupus Library and as a State of North Carolina Intern at the Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab.

 I chose to pursue a graduate degree in public history because it encompassed the fields that I love and would prepare me for a variety of different positions. I was thrilled when I was accepted into the program here at UNCW because of Wilmington's rich (though at times difficult) history and the many cultural/historical institutions I could engage with while a master's student. Something I found important in a master's program was an emphasis on practical experience, and UNCW had just that. Students in the public history program are required to complete a practicum as one of their final credits to graduate, and I was lucky enough to do that work here in Special Collections!

During my time here at UNCW and in Wilmington, I have learned a lot about caring for the past, both physically and intellectually. I love my position here in Special Collections because of the skills and competencies I have learned, but I also find the work to be incredibly fulfilling. I enjoy creating order from chaos and making the past accessible to researchers and the public alike through my work. During the course of my practicum, I hope to accomplish the following goals:

  1. ArchivesSpace: As I continue my work here in Special Collections, I would like to become more familiar with our software ArchivesSpace. Data entry and navigating different types of software are incredibly important in the positions I hope to find myself gainfully employed! I would like to become more competent with different aspects of ArchivesSpace because it is a commonly used software in many archives and libraries.
  2. Engage More with Professional Texts: As a public history student, I have become very well-rounded but lack the specialized training that archivists and librarians get while completing degrees in Library Science. As a part of my practicum, I will be reading and discussing texts as assigned by my practicum supervisor (Thank you, Nicole!). I hope that this work, built upon readings I completed last fall, will help me be better prepared for a potential position in an archive.
  3. Be More Aware of Archival Silences: Archives and museum collections to this day are overwhelmingly filled with the voices of the wealthy, white, educated elite. As a public history professional and (hopefully!) future archivist or collections manager, I want to continue the work started by others and become more aware of how to make collections more equitable. I hope to join the good work of erasing the silences within archives.

Upon graduating in May, I hope to gain a full-time position as an Archivist, Collections Manager, or Registrar. In these positions, I would be able to interact with the "stuff" of history daily through careful care and organization. I look forward to spending my last months of graduate school here in Special Collections and can't wait to see what I learn next!

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Before the Clean Air Act (1970), the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (1970), and the Clean Water Act (1972), there were few regulations for industrial pollution and very limited enforcement. As a result, it was not uncommon for polluted rivers to catch fire. 

For example, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, was continually polluted from the 1880s through the early 1970s. It suffered a major fire in 1952. Finally, an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California pushed Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin to create the first Earth Day in 1970. 

Earth Day 1971 at UNCW was a full day of special events, including programs on the impact of pollution on Southeast North Carolina. Over the years, Seahawks have raised Earth Day awareness with films, guest speakers from industry and science, environmental education, and a “filthy” photo contest.  

Fifty-two years after the EPA opened, industrial pollution remains a problem for the country, compounded by our growing climate crisis. Earth Day empowers everyone to contribute to a cleaner environment. What small steps can we take to benefit our communities? For example, as consumers, we could stop throwing trash outside car windows. Our apartment complexes could provide proper outdoor trash and recycling containers for residents. Local business can discourage waste, help the bottom line, and promote our shared environment. 

What action steps should we take for our planet and our people? Let us know how to end the contamination of America! 








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COVID-19 is not the first virus to affect American college students. We are just beginning to learn about the long-term health effects of COVID. Another life-threatening virus was polio.

First some background information from the Mayo Clinic: Polio is a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes nerve injury leading to paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death. Poliovirus can be transmitted through direct contact with someone infected with the virus or, less commonly, through contaminated food and water. People who have polio but don't have symptoms can pass the virus to others.

Polio came to United States in 1894. The first successful vaccines—developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin—were not available until the 1950s.

Dr. Albert Sabin, inventor of the oral polio vaccineDr. Albert Sabin, inventor of the oral polio vaccine / Photograph from Hauck Center, University of Cincinnati Libraries

Caring for the health of all the students at Wilmington College, Dr. Samuel Ravenel sent a letter to college president, Dr. William M. Randall, recommending that the college require polio vaccines for all students before admission (Board of Trustees minutes, 14 Jan. 1959 p. 2). After review by the executive committee, the board decided not to make the vaccine mandatory for students (Board of Trustees minutes, 11 Feb. 1959 p.3).

Later, at the Board of Trustees meeting on 26 January, 1965 (p. 3), Dr. Randall recommended that enrolled students meet “... certain physical examination entrance requirements .... This would require smallpox vaccination, tetanus toxoid, polio immunization, serology, and a chest x-ray.” 


The History of Polio Vaccines. Available at https://www.historyofvaccines.org/timeline/polio.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Trustees of Wilmington College. (14 January, 1959). Available at https://digitalcollections.uncw.edu/digital/collection/bot/id/207/rec/1.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Trustees of Wilmington College. (11 February, 1959). Available at https://digitalcollections.uncw.edu/digital/collection/bot/id/208/rec/3.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Trustees of Wilmington College. (26 January, 1965). Available at https://digitalcollections.uncw.edu/digital/collection/bot/id/285/rec/4.

Photograph of Albert Sabin. Courtesy of Hauck Center for the Albert B. Sabin Archives, University of Cincinnati Libraries. 

Polio. The Mayo Clinic. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/polio/symptoms-causes/syc-20376512.

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My name is Darby Freeman. I am a senior at UNCW studying English Literature and Philosophy. I have worked at the Randall Library circulation desk for just over two years and began an internship in the Special Collections department at the beginning of this semester.

I was first introduced to Special Collections by a professor who took our class to the department after assigning a lengthy research paper. We did an activity that involved stringing together events to form a cohesive narrative. I thought it was cool to watch a story reveal itself as we went through all of these different types of literature, written by unaffiliated groups, that came from a variety of locations.

I have always enjoyed my job at the circulation desk because I love being around books and literature. I handle books daily, whether I’m checking them in or out, collecting them for patron holds, or reshelving them. This has led me to discover many fascinating books that I otherwise would’ve never encountered, be it fictional, historical, or theoretical. When I first heard about the internship in Special Collections, it felt perfect for me. It’s like taking the job I already knew I loved and making it more interesting and in-depth. Since beginning work at the library, I’ve been curious about a career as a librarian or archivist, and by working in Special Collections I have an opportunity to try out archival work and see if I enjoy it (spoiler alert: I do).

My job as an intern in Special Collections is to document, process, and arrange collections either purchased by or donated to the department. Processing involves documenting and researching the topics and historical context of the collection. After the initial documentation and research, I arrange the collection, which entails organizing the materials in a way that promotes understanding and accessibility. The arrangement is vitally important to the integrity of the collection; if related materials are separated from each other, it is harder to understand the context of the collection as a whole. Archivists are basically the gatekeepers of history, so it is imperative that they accurately represent the contents of a collection and provide any necessary context to encourage more thorough understanding.

So far, I have worked on The Camera Shop Records, Virginia Harriss Holland World War II Memorabilia, and H.J. Southwell Murder Correspondence. It’s been interesting reading about history that happened only a couple of blocks from where I currently live. Some were easy to research, like the H.J. Southwell Murder Correspondence, which had significant news coverage that spanned nationwide. The Camera Shop Records, however, was more difficult because most of the information about the owner could only be found in his obituary. I enjoyed both collections.

This work requires that the processer be detail-oriented and exercise critical thinking skills in their assessment of the collection. I had some exposure to these skills prior to beginning the internship, but I’ve never had an environment quite like this to test them. Since starting the internship, I have gained a better understanding of what it means to be detail-oriented towards something completely unfamiliar to you. Additionally, my analytical and critical thinking abilities have been tested in ways they previously never were. Normally, I analyze a text, and use critical thinking skills to extract meaning, and then scan for details to support my thoughts. Special Collections processing feels like the reverse. I have to pay attention to every detail so that when I’m thinking critically and analytically, I am able to piece together the fragments of history present in a collection.

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Throughout the course of the semester, I have had an amazing opportunity to research and handle various artifacts from Pre- Hispanic Mexican cultures. I worked with figures from Veracruz, Colima, and the Chupicuaro culture, as well as village scenes and hollow figures from Jalisco. I was able to gain hands on experience handling and critically evaluating artifacts for damage and unique characteristics. Then, I recorded my observations in the artifacts’ catalog records in PastPerfect, updating the description and condition fields of each record. This work provided me with a glimpse into the technicalities of keeping good museum records. I now have a deeper appreciation for the amount of work and time it takes to properly care for and store artifacts.

Along with observing the artifacts to enhance the catalog records, I completed research to supplement their cultural history. This information was used to create a digital exhibit with the tool, Esri Story Maps. I incorporated information from the accession records, catalog records, and information gathered through my research to provide an interactive visual for individuals to engage with.




The digital exhibit includes images of each artifact and provides a descriptive overview of its background and possible uses.  A major challenged that I faced while creating the exhibit and gathering information was the lack of contextual information for many of the artifacts. These artifacts were donated years ago and their original context has been lost over time. This is crucial for ethnographic artifacts because modern day scholars identify their purpose and significance through provenance and location of discovery.

Overall, this invaluable experience taught me new skills involving museum curation and digital design. This internship allowed me to connect my passion for anthropology to my passion for Communication by providing a platform for other individuals passionate about the history of humanity to get involved.   

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Updates from Special Collections and University Archives