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North Carolina State Archives

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North Carolina State Archives: A Treasure Trove of Historical Records

The North Carolina State Archives is a repository of historical records and documents, preserving the rich history of the state and its people. The archives provide an invaluable resource for historians, genealogists, students, and anyone interested in the history of North Carolina. This article will delve into the history, collection, and accessibility of the North Carolina State Archives, as well as its ongoing efforts to preserve and share the state's heritage.

A Brief History of the North Carolina State Archives

The North Carolina State Archives was established in 1903 as the North Carolina Historical Commission. The commission was tasked with the collection and preservation of historical materials relating to North Carolina. In 1935, the commission was renamed the North Carolina Historical Records Survey and given the responsibility of surveying and cataloging public records.

In 1943, the agency merged with the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, becoming the North Carolina State Archives that we know today. The archives have evolved significantly over the years, but their core mission of preserving and providing access to North Carolina's historical records remains unchanged.

The Collection of the North Carolina State Archives

The North Carolina State Archives houses an extensive and diverse collection of historical records. The collection includes documents, maps, photographs, newspapers, and more. Some of the most notable items in the collection are:

  1. Colonial Records: The archives contain a vast assortment of colonial records from the late 17th to early 19th centuries, including land grants, deeds, court records, and more.

  2. County Records: The archives hold records from each of North Carolina's 100 counties, including wills, deeds, tax records, court records, and marriage licenses. These records date back to the 1660s and provide a wealth of information about the lives of North Carolinians throughout history.

  3. State Government Records: The North Carolina State Archives also houses records from various state government agencies, including legislative records, gubernatorial papers, and records from the Department of Public Instruction.

  4. Military Records: The archives contain a vast collection of military records, ranging from the Revolutionary War to more recent conflicts. These records include muster rolls, service records, and pension files.

  5. Maps and Architectural Records: The map collection at the North Carolina State Archives is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the Southeast. The collection includes maps dating back to the 16th century, as well as architectural records documenting the state's historic buildings.

  6. Photographs and Audiovisual Materials: The archives house a vast collection of photographs, films, and audio recordings that document North Carolina's history and culture.

  7. Newspapers: The North Carolina State Archives maintains an extensive collection of North Carolina newspapers, including some dating back to the 18th century.

Accessing the North Carolina State Archives Collection

The North Carolina State Archives is open to the public, and researchers can access the collection in person or online. The archives are located in the Archives and History/State Library Building in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Researchers visiting the archives in person can access the Search Room, where they can request records from the collection. The Search Room staff provides assistance in locating and using materials, as well as offering guidance on research topics.

In addition to in-person access, the North Carolina State Archives has made a significant portion of their collection available online. Digital materials include photographs, maps, newspapers, and more. Researchers can access these digital collections through the archives' website.

The Digital Preservation Initiative at the North Carolina State Archives

Recognizing the importance of preserving historical records in the digital age, the North Carolina State Archives has embarked on a comprehensive Digital Preservation Initiative. This initiative aims to digitize and make accessible a wide range of historical materials, ensuring their long-term preservation and wider public access.


The Digital Preservation Initiative focuses on prioritizing the digitization of rare and fragile materials that are at risk of deterioration. By converting these materials into digital formats, the archives can provide researchers and the general public with enhanced access while preserving the physical copies for future generations.

Furthermore, the North Carolina State Archives has developed a robust system for managing and preserving digital records. This system employs industry best practices for storage, metadata management, and file integrity checks to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of digital materials.

The archives also collaborate with other institutions and organizations to expand the reach of their digital collections. Through partnerships and online platforms, they aim to share their digitized materials with a broader audience, including educators, researchers, and history enthusiasts worldwide.

Educational Programs and Outreach Efforts

The North Carolina State Archives goes beyond preserving and providing access to historical records. They actively engage with the community through educational programs and outreach efforts. These initiatives aim to promote awareness and appreciation for North Carolina's history and heritage.

The archives offer workshops, seminars, and educational resources for students, teachers, and researchers. These programs provide valuable insights into utilizing historical records for research, genealogy, and understanding the state's past. Additionally, the archives organize exhibitions and public events that showcase select items from their collection, allowing visitors to interact with tangible pieces of history.

To make their resources more accessible to educators, the North Carolina State Archives has developed educational materials and lesson plans that align with state curriculum standards. These materials enable teachers to incorporate primary sources into their classrooms, fostering critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of North Carolina's history.

The Future of the North Carolina State Archives

As technology continues to advance, the North Carolina State Archives remains committed to adapting and evolving its practices to meet the changing needs of researchers and the public. They are continuously exploring new methods of digitization, preservation, and online access to improve the user experience and expand the reach of their collections.

Additionally, the archives are actively seeking partnerships and collaborations with other institutions, organizations, and communities to enhance their collections and promote a more comprehensive understanding of North Carolina's history.

The North Carolina State Archives serves as a guardian of the state's past, preserving and sharing its historical records for the present and future generations. Through their dedication to accessibility, education, and digital preservation, the archives ensure that North Carolina's rich heritage remains vibrant and accessible to all.

In conclusion, the North Carolina State Archives is a treasure trove of historical records that provides a remarkable window into the state's past. With its vast collection, commitment to preservation, and efforts to engage the public, the archives play a vital role in safeguarding and celebrating North Carolina's history. Whether you're a historian, a genealogist, or simply curious about the past, a visit to the North Carolina State Archives is sure to be an enlightening and enriching experience.


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