The 100-year history of our state parks system is colorful and engaging. But so much of that history for so long was tucked away in the dusty file drawers, odd bins and cubbyholes of state park offices all across North Carolina. All the old photos, postcards, brochures and the like that told the human story of state parks needed a home.
As the centennial year approached, the State Archives and State Library of North Carolina, along with Clemson University, pitched in to help by gathering much of this historical flotsam and jetsam about state parks into a manageable collection that now can be explored online.
The result is a tapestry of stories and images that reflect the close connection that North Carolinians have with their beloved landscape. The North Carolina Digital Collection presents hundreds of images of the 100-year history in easy-to-find fashion, while the State Library has compiled concise histories of the state parks for its NCpedia project, along with a compelling state parks timeline that puts it all into historical context. All the projects were unveiled online in late January as the 2016 centennial got underway.
More than three years ago, Clemson University volunteered to scan and digitize all the historical and contemporary images that belonged to the state parks. Staff began asking the parks to lend photos that were tucked away in park offices and other sundry locations. To this point, hundreds of images have been compiled and more are still being found and scanned. This effort provided raw material for the library projects. Archivists in the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources used their skills to catalogue and cross-reference more than 400 historical photos. So, if there exists a photo of a picnic at a mountain park in the 1940s, it can be found. And, the images can be downloaded directly from the website.
This is an ongoing project as more images and other materials are found. The State Archives has been indexing state parks records and once that is completed, the Archives will add a selection of documents, including correspondence.