When the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's University Library debuted Documenting the American South (DocSouth) in 1996, it was envisioned as a modest effort to digitize a few fragile and frequently consulted slave narratives. DocSouth has since blossomed into a comprehensive digital publishing initiative that provides free access to a growing record of southern history, literature, and culture. DocSouth comprises thousands of books, manuscript materials, images, posters, artifacts, oral history interviews, recorded songs, and scholarly essays. DocSouth digitized materials are arranged as 10 thematic collections, with new collections being developed:
"The First Century of the First State University" presents hundreds of primary documents about the creation and development of the University of North Carolina, from 1776 to 1875.
"Oral Histories of the American South" will ultimately collect 500 oral history interviews about civil rights, politics, women's issues, and other topics in recent North Carolina history.
"True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University of North Carolina" presents edited and transcribed letters and other documents written by UNC students from 1795 to 1868.
"First-Person Narratives of the American South" offers letters, memoirs, and autobiographies by slaves, laborers, women, aristocrats, soldiers, and officers.
"Library of Southern Literature" includes the most important Southern literary works from the colonial period to the beginning of the 20th century.
"North American Slave Narratives" documents a unique genre of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
"The Southern Homefront, 1861–1865" presents materials related to life during the Civil War.
"The Church in the Southern Black Community" traces the role of Protestant Christianity in the life of Southern African Americans.
"The North Carolina Experience" tells a story about North Carolina, its people, and its history.
"North Carolinians and the Great War" examines how World War I shaped the lives of North Carolinians on the battlefield and the homefront.
From the very beginning, DocSouth has been guided by a formally-constituted editorial board composed of faculty, librarians, and partners from the UNC Press. DocSouth uses open-source technology and protocols, all digital texts are encoded according to the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines, and each receives full-level cataloging records available through OCLC's WorldCat service.
Digital collections draw a wide range of readers including scholars, teachers, students from the elementary to the doctoral level, genealogists, novelists, and members of the general public. They come from as close as the UNC–Chapel Hill campus and as far away as Russia and Japan. The comments and questions that readers send to us reveal that they are engaged in all types of research and learning activities.
The library makes special efforts to facilitate and enhance the use of DocSouth for K–12 education. The "Classroom" section of the site includes sample lesson plans and additional resources. In partnership with UNC's School for Education, the library has also conducted four Teachers' Summer Institutes to help integrate DocSouth resources into K–12 classrooms.
Collection Profile: Natasha Smith
Overview: Richard Szary
Illustrations: North Carolina Collection, Louis Round Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill