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WCU Stories

WCU, UNCA partnership leads to new digital Southern Appalachian archive

In a collaborative effort, Hunter Library at Western Carolina University has established an extensive, digital collection that will provide improved access to regionally focused materials of Southern Appalachia.

The Southern Appalachian Digital Collections was created with the University of North Carolina at Asheville through a Library Science and Technology Act grant. The partnership began in 2019 to specifically take advantage of combined efforts, such as sharing purchasing power for licensing a content management system and increased staff expertise.

“We are hoping to expand the collection with additional member institutions that reside within Southern Appalachia – Western North Carolina, north Georgia, eastern Tennessee, upstate South Carolina, southwest Virginia – that have a mission to support and preserve the literature, culture, music and historical heritage of the region, and contribute collections to digitize and/or accession into the shared content management system,” said Beth Thompson, assistant professor and head of  Content Organization and Management at Hunter Library.

“There is an established base of community and university users that look to us for historic documents and images, as well as ongoing initiatives to better represent our diverse communities,” said Liz Harper, Special and Digital Collections librarian at WCU. “These resources appeal to scholars, but we hope that anyone who has an interest in knowing what makes our region special will be able to connect on a personal level with our collections. Our rich, robust collections research interest also appeals to others outside of our state.”

The new site showcases multiple collections, particularly photographic collections of mountain vistas, intimate portraits of families and individuals, glimpses into the daily life of residents and Cherokee crafts and traditions. Additionally, oral history collections allow visitors to connect on a personal level, whether it be listening to interviews with local drag queens or reminiscing about building the Fontana Dam during World War II.

To view the more than 26,000 records across 22 collections, visit

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