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Digital Watauga Project Nets $25,000 Grant

On Wednesday the State Library of North Carolina announced that it has awarded one of its 2015-16 LSTA EZ Digitization Grants totaling $25,000 to the Digital Watauga Project. Stemming from a partnership between the Watauga County Historical Society and the Watauga County Public Library, the Digital Watauga Project is designed to permanently digitize Watauga County’s remaining visual and documentary history while building trust between the community and its surviving repositories.

The funds from this grant will be used to train and employ a digitization technician, purchase necessary equipment, and begin the first wave of digitization of at least 2,500 items from several prominent collections. These include 1,500 images from the Historic Boone Collection, several dozen images and advertisements from the Appalachian Theatre Special Collection, and another 750 images from the Watauga County Cooperative Extension Aerial Photograph Collection. Other noteworthy additions in the first year of the project include 80 images from the Junaluska Collection and 400 images from the Bobby Brendell Postcard Collection, which was recently donated to the Watauga County Historical Society. Also included are nine items from the 164 Carolina Avenue Collection, representing images and letters found within the walls of a Boone house during renovations by Adrian Tait several years ago.

This last collection is especially significant. While small—consisting of three photographs, five letters, and one postcard—it represents exactly the kinds of privately held materials that the Digital Watauga Project is especially interested in digitizing in the coming years. Many residents of Boone and Watauga County possess important historic images and documents that are rarely, if ever, seen by the public. Because the Digital Watauga Project is focused on digitization, allowing owners of historic images and documents to keep their materials and any ownership rights once the materials have been digitized, the project is an ideal means for facilitating partnership and promoting trust between the public and its local repositories. In addition, all digitized materials will be available to the public for viewing online at no charge.

This grant is made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. In addition to the $25,000 grant, the Watauga County Historical Society is contributing $2,500 in matching funds for the project. The official posting of the grant award can be seen at the NC State Library site, under “Appalachian Regional Library:” http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/ld/grants/lsta/2015-2016Awards.htm.

The Watauga County Historical Society welcomes donations to help fund the project as well as inquiries about materials that are appropriate for digitization. Interested parties can contact the WCHS at wataugacohistsoc@gmail.com. Donations can be made by mail or through their website, www.wataugacountyhistoricalsociety.org.