[This was first published at AMPed.]
To say those from the South are proud of their heritage is putting it mildly. Every year dozens if not hundreds of groups, towns and culture centers celebrate some aspect of Southern life from Civil War reenactments to living history villages to a wide array of festivals honoring everything from fruit and food to music and specialty local events. 1
To help commemorate the South’s (and also America’s) illustrious background and to give a voice to the Southern perspective, the University of North Carolina has put together a digital initiative of primary and secondary sources on the Internet. Since 2004, Documenting the American South has been the premier location for education and research materials on Southern life not just on the Internet, but also in the world. The fourteen thematic collections offer wide range of digital materials that includes books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs. This vibrant digital collection consists of numerous large print, photograph and rare materials collections made possible by Southern Historical Collection, the North Carolina Collection, UNC’s Rare Book Collection and the Davis Library.
What makes Documenting the American South such a rich resource is not just because of the various large collections that have been consolidated into a single landing point for research and discovery rather it is also because the scope, design and ease of use of the site that makes it such a valuable resource. In addition, the site is consistantly updated with new information and materials, making it not only a valuable resource for things past, but also for things present and future.
Documenting the American South has a number of discovery and mapping tools to help viewers explore the collection. This includes a Highlights section, a monthly update that explores content in the collection, which is also available via RSS. In addition is the Collections section, a listing of the digital collections by theme, also available for researchers and educators to use for finding materials that range from first person narratives, slave narratives to Southern literature and more. Specific content can also be found by using the Subjects, Geographical, Authors and Titles tabs in the top navigation bar. And if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, there is also a search option to search the entire collection by keyword to find exactly what you need.
UNC has also put together Classroom Resources, which includes kits, lesson plans and additional materials to help bring Southern life vividly into the classroom.
This is a wonderful treasure trove of materials, that is not only rich for discovery but also a valuable archive of not just Southern life, but American life as well.
1. In addition, Southern Festivals is a fantastic resource for festivals happening in the South. This site is organized by state, so if you’re traveling south this year and looking for things to do, this would definitely be one site you want to bookmark.