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210 Pittsboro Street
Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6210

T 919-962-2091
F 919-962-2279

News Release

For immediate use

Jan. 11, 2005 -- No. 11

Southern Historical Collection celebrates 75 years
with exhibition opening to public Friday (Jan. 14)

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Southern Historical Collection, likely the world’s largest collection of manuscript material documenting the American South, will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a new exhibition, set to open to the public on Friday (Jan. 14).

"Southern Sources: An Exhibition Celebrating 75 Years of the Southern Historical Collection" will be in the Louis Round Wilson Library’s Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room through March 31.

The exhibition will open with a reception and program for more than 300 supporters of the collection on Thursday evening (Jan. 13). Chancellor James Moeser; University Librarian Sarah Michalak; Tim West, curator of manuscripts and the collection’s director; and Dr. Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Julia Cherry Spruill professor of history, will give remarks. Hall’s talk will be on the "Ceaseless Quest for Truth: the Southern Historical Collection and the Making and Remaking of the Southern Past."

The Southern Historical Collection, housed on the fourth floor of Wilson Library, contains more than 15 million items in 4,900 collections with sizes as diverse as a single item and half a million. Materials date primarily from the mid-18th century to now. Included are very long runs of intimate family correspondence, sets of 50-volume diaries recording internal and external affairs, 80,000 photographs, 3,500 oral history interviews, general store account books, scrapbooks, office files, videotapes and other items.

"As our exhibit demonstrates, the Southern Historical Collection is remarkably rich and diverse," West said. "Materials in it document almost all aspects of the history of the South, and it is so large and varied that each year thousands of researchers from all over the country and the world use it to pursue topics ranging from slavery, to economic, social, cultural, language and even climate change, to particular communities, families and individuals both obscure and well-known.

"The work is essential to creating, recreating and maintaining the cultural memory that makes for satisfying lives, helpful social change and thoughtful public policy."

In the 1920s, J.G. deRoulhac Hamilton, professor of history at UNC, began using his many personal, family and professional contacts throughout the American South to gain contributions for what he hoped would become a treasure trove of documentary material. In 1930, UNC official established the Southern Historical Collection, with a founding endowment gift that year from Sarah Graham Kenan. Throughout its history, items have been acquired largely as generous gifts from individuals, families and organizations.

Following are some lives, careers, organizations and moments documented in the collection:

The Southern Historical Collection will sponsor a symposium on March 18 and 19 in which 25 eminent Southern historians will reflect on and discuss the value, use and future of archives. For more information on the collection, visit

Media note: Members of the news media are invited to cover Thursday evening’s reception and program. The reception is at 5 in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room; the program begins at 6 in the Rare Book Reading Room. To make arrangements for parking, etc., please contact News Services at 962-2091.

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Southern Historical Collection contact: Tim West,

News Services contacts: Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093 or; or Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415 or