The Private Collections Unit of the Special Collections Branch, Division of Archives and Records,
accepts papers and records of individuals, families, businesses, and
organizations. The unit has been known especially for its
materials spanning the colonial era, the era of the American Revolution, the antebellum period,
Civil War, Reconstruction, and the latter part of the nineteenth century. For some time, however,
the section has been collecting substantial twentieth century materials-even as it continues to
acquire 18th and 19th century papers. In short, the Archives seeks collections that illuminate various
aspects of the history of North Carolina, from colonial times to the present day.
Access to Private Collections in the State Archives
Legislative Mandate: Safe-Keeping, Preservation and Access
The State Archives is one of the few such state archival programs in the
United States with a legislative mandate to collect and provide access to private papers, along with
the state's permanently valuable public records. Legislation also has provided for the preservation,
safe-keeping and access to these collections in the State Archives. Since the early years of the
twentieth century, the number of private collections and special collections materials in the State
Archives has grown steadily to become an outstanding and unique source of documentation of the state's
history and culture. As with all public documents housed in the Archives, special and private collection materials in
archival custody must be used in the Search Room where researchers
are given full assistance by the Public Services staff.
Guides and Catalogs
The majority of collections were described in the Guide to Private Manuscript Collections in the
State Archives of North Carolina, edited by Barbara Cain et al, and published in 1981. This indexed
guide is available for purchase for $25.00. The information in this Guide
is currently being entered and updated in our online automated system known as
MARS. At the same time,
strategies are being developed to encode all
finding aids according to the standard
of Encoded Archival Description (EAD),
an SGML-compliant structure developed and maintained jointly by the
Society of American Archivists and the
Library of Congress.
[Return to top]
Donating Private Materials To the State Archives
Hundreds of North Carolina families, individuals, businesses, and organizations have already donated
their papers and archives to the State Archives of North Carolina. Increasingly, others are realizing
the numerous advantages to placing private papers and manuscripts with the Archives, the state's
permanent repository for historical materials. During processing, any manuscript papers that are
badly damaged are identified and placed for repair in the Archive's Conservation Lab. Every
collection received in the Archives is carefully arranged and is then described in a Finding Aid.
This document helps the researcher gain an overview of the contents of the collection. It is also
used by the archives' staff in the administration of the collection over time. Finding aids for the
majority of private collections are available for use in the Archives Search Room.
Private papers and manuscripts are sought from, but not limited to the
- Public officials whose public records are in the Archives.
- North Carolinians who have played a leading role in some aspect of government.
- Individuals or families whose private lives have had significant impact on the public life
of the state.
- Papers that significantly complement existing private or public records in the
- Private papers that fill in gaps caused by the destruction or lack of information in public
Physical Storage of Collections
When arrangement and description are complete, the collection is carefully placed in archival quality,
acid-free folders and document storage cases. These are numbered and labeled for identification, and
preserved in the secure, closed stack areas of the Archives under carefully controlled conditions of
temperature and humidity. While materials do not circulate outside of the Archives, they are
available to researchers in the Search Room under the
supervision of professional staff. In working with the collections, staff
members identify and treat any items that need special conservation.
Possible Restrictions Placed by Donors
The Archives is willing to accept reasonable, time-limited restrictions on
access to donated papers. For instance, a donor may feel that a collection
contains personal information that should not be available to researchers for
a number of years. Archivists will be glad to give advice in the matter of
[Return to top]
Prospective donors are invited to write or call the following:
Fran Tracy-Walls, Private Collections Archivist
Special Collections Branch
State Archives of North Carolina
4614 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4614
Phone: (919) 807-7316
E-Mail: Private Collections Archivist
[Return to top]
Links to Other Private Collections Resources
Private collections within the State Archives of North Carolina are notable for
a variety of reasons. These include the fact that few of the state archives in
the nation also contain private papers. Combined with the State Archive's
holdings in public records, organizational records, maps, and non-textual
materials, these constitute a valuable resource for those conducting study
and research in many diverse areas of North Carolina and regional and national
history. However, anyone conducting a broad study should also investigate
institutions in the area or in other parts of the state with related and/or
Outer Banks Historical Center (OBHC), Manteo on Roanoke Island
The OBHC is part of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Division of Archives and Records
Holdings of the OBHC include more than 100,000 manuscript items and a variety of non-textual materials.
While the center's holdings are a major source of information about the Outer Banks, they also
address many historical, cultural, economic, governmental, and scientific topics pertaining to North
Carolina and to neighboring states.
North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online
North Carolina ECHO is envisioned as the doorway to all special collections within North Carolina's
libraries, archives, and museums. Funded by a federal Library Services and Technology Act grant,
this site is co-sponsored by the State Library of North Carolina
and Duke University.
Other resources within the state include, but are not limited to the following:
- Appalachian State University, William Leonard Eury Appalachian Collection, Boone, N.C.
- Duke University, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Durham, N.C.
- East Carolina University, Joyner Library Special Collections, Greenville, N.C.
- Mars Hill College, Renfro Library Special Collections: Appalachian Collection, Mars Hill, N.C.
- Shaw University, Archives and Special Collections, Raleigh, N.C.
- University of North Carolina - Asheville, D. Hiden Ramsey Library/Special Collections
- University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Manuscripts Department: Southern Historical Collection
- University of North Carolina - Greensboro, Jackson Library: Special Collections and Rare Books Division
- University of North Carolina - Wilmington, Randall Library Special Collections
- Western Carolina University, Hunter Library, Special Collections , Cullowhee, N.C.
[Return to top]
Last Modified: 07/27/2012