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The North Carolina State Fair: Just one of the 90,000 reasons to use North Carolina Digital Collections

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Fairgoers, teachers, and students: the North Carolina State Fair is just one of the 90,000 reasons to use North Carolina Digital Collections!

Sow and Piglets, 1941 NC State Fair Premium, on GHL Flicker Photostream.

Sow and Piglets, 1941 NC State Fair Premium, on GHL Flicker Photostream.

The North Carolina State Fair begins tomorrow!  And apparently there will be a tasty new treat among the food vendors:  The Twinx — a batter-fried bacon-wrapped Twinkie with a Twix bar in the center.  Yes, it’s true!  But putting such culinary miracles aside, the State Fair provides an opportunity to look at the GHL’s government publications and digital collections in a whole new light.  At the moment I’m especially thinking about the creative ways history and social studies teachers can use the State Library and Archives North Carolina Digital Collections as primary sources to share the state’s cultural history through a variety of documentary forms.

First, a little history.  The State Fair dates all the way back to 1853 and efforts by antebellum agriculture advocates to promote reform and farming method improvements for the state’s struggling farmers.  The editor of the state’s fledgling agriculture journal John F. Tompkins assembled a meeting of advocates from the Agricultural Society in 1852, and a year later fairgrounds had been obtained with the help of the city of Raleigh and the first fair was launched with $524 in prizes — called “premiums.”  The prizes, for a vast range of categories from ears of corn to cattle to horses to handicrafts and baked goods, in effect encouraged farmers and producers to produce and exhibit their best.  The “premium list” became the publication that listed all the categories, the criteria, and the awards, with lists published from the inception of the fair.

Aerial Mitchell's Revolving Ladder Act, State Fair 1916, from the GHL Flickr Photostream.

Aerial Mitchell’s Revolving Ladder Act, State Fair 1916, from the GHL Flickr Photostream.

A list sounds pretty dry!  But the premium lists are anything but dull:  they’re a treasure trove of information about North Carolina agricultural life, practices, and culture with images and a fabulous array of advertisements going well beyond farms and produce.  Even better, the premium lists showcase the entertainments and food available at the fair adding to the illustrated social history of the annual event.

The premium list is a state government publication by the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and today the state fair premium lists from 1853 to 2010 are digitized and freely accessible as part of the NC State Documents Collection on North Carolina Digital Collections (with over 90,000 additional documents and photographs).  And while we may tend to associate “government publications” with laws and images of formulaic reports, the premium lists prove that government documents can even be fun and exciting.

North Carolina State Fair Premium List 1971, from NC Digital Collections.

North Carolina State Fair Premium List 1971, from NC Digital Collections.

For starters, just take a look at the evolution of the cover art! But don’t stop there, open them up and explore what’s inside.

To learn more about the State Fair and its history, visit these resources from the GHL:


– Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library, Digital Media Librarian







We want your feedback on NC MOSAIC! Please take our brief survey.

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The Government and Heritage Library has launched a user survey for the NC MOSAIC project. Help us make the project better by filling out our short, anonymous survey.

NC MOSAIC, which stands for Managing, Organizing, and Strengthening Access to Institutional Collections in North Carolina, is a searchable database of links to North Carolina’s state and county government online information resources. State and local institutions throughout North Carolina maintain significant government information collections, but it isn’t always easy to know which institutions have what specific government information or where to find this information online. Begun in 2008, MOSAIC is designed to help people find that information through a centralized, searchable database of links to direct them to needed information.

We’d like to make NC MOSAIC as effective, useful, and relevant as, and ensure that it is helping you find the information you need. Help us by visiting the collection and filling out the survey, linked below and at the top of NC MOSAIC.


The NC MOSAIC project aims to make North Carolina government information searchable in one online location. Help us make it better by filling out our brief online survey.

The survey will be available until 12:00 noon EDT on Friday, October 24, 20014.

North Carolina Portrait Index, 1700-1860 now online

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The North Carolina Portrait Index, 1700-1860, is now available online in the NC Digital Collections.

The Portrait Index was published in 1963 by University of North Carolina Press and compiled by Laura MacMillan on behalf of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina. It contains information on approximately 500 portraits created between 1700 and 1860 that were either of North Carolinians or owned by North Carolinians. Photographs of the portraits are made available in the book courtesy of the Frick Art Reference Library.

North Carolina Portrait Index, 1700-1860

North Carolina Portrait Index, 1700-1860

In order to make this information more widely available, the NC Government & Heritage Library received permission from the University of North Carolina Press to digitize this title and make it available online for personal use by researchers.

To illustrate where the individuals depicted in the portraits lived, we have also generated a map using Google Fusion Tables and Google Maps.

If you click on any point on the map, a box will open giving you information on the individual in the portrait as well as linking to the page in the Portrait Index in which the image appears.

Take a look! Included are portraits of Ben Franklin, and George and Martha Washington. No, they weren’t from North Carolina, but we portraits of them here in North Carolina.

NC Digital Collections – Beta Redesign!

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Digital Collections, beta design
We are excited to be demoing a beta redesign for the North Carolina Digital Collections website, and we’d like to get your feedback!

Whether you are a frequent user of the Digital Collections, or this will be your first time, we’d like to invite you to head over to the beta site and explore. Love it? Hate it? You can give us feedback via the survey form linked at the top. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

The survey will be up for two weeks, today through August 13th. The old site will also still be available at its usual URL

The North Carolina Digital Collections contain over 90,000 historic and recent photographs, state government publications, manuscripts, and other resources on topics related to North Carolina. The Collections are free and full-text searchable, and bring together content from the State Archives of North Carolina and the State Library of North Carolina.

This blog is a service of the State Library of North Carolina, part of the NC Department of Cultural Resources. Blog comments and posts may be subject to Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.