Project Description

As part of the American South Multimedia Data Base Project at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina Press is constructing a multimedia database of material from some of our reference works on North Carolina. As a pilot project, we are putting together a project entitled "North Carolina between the Wars" that will incorporate material from the period between the two world wars.

The American participation in World War I, according to historian H.G. Jones, was one of the first opportunities for "Northerners and Southerners to close ranks, and thousands of North Carolinians came into close association for the first time with men from other regions and different backgrounds." The postwar period began in a spirit of "almost unbridled confidence." That optimistic aptitude served well in the expansive twenties, but by the end of the decade the state, along with the rest of the country, was slipping into the Depression, which was to have a profound influence on events in the thirties. Nevertheless, the interwar period saw important developments in such areas as industrialization and labor relations, transportation, education, and the arts. For historians the period is a bridge between late- nineteenth-century agrarian North Carolina, still dominated by the concerns of Reconstruction, and the state in the middle decades of the twentieth century, when North Carolina established itself as a moderate, forward-looking, and industrializing southern state.

For "North Carolina between the Wars" we will be able to draw on a rich collection of material from our list and elsewhere, including:
  • H. G. Jones, North Carolina Illustrated (an illustrated history of the state, with some 1100 images in all), approx. 17 pages of text and as many as 150-75 images and captions, supplemented by other images from the North Carolina Collection and North Carolina Archives and History;

  • Books by William S. Powell:
    North Carolina Through Four Centuries (the standard college-level history text), approx. 65 text pages;
    Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (a six-volume work with biographical sketches of some 4,000 North Carolinians), 75- 100 selected sketches;
    North Carolina Handbook (forthcoming, a sort of Encyclopedia of North Carolina history and culture), topical essays on cultural features (book in ms, not yet edited, but Powell has offered to let us include appropriate essays where desirable);
  • The WPA Guide to North Carolina (published in 1939 and still regarded as one of the best guides to the state), supplemental material where appropriate and other material from the WPA Writers Project;

  • Tom Parramore, Express Lanes and Country Roads (a volume in the series The Way We Lived in North Carolina, published in association with the North Carolina Division of Archives and History), useful for its focus on social history and its information on state historic sites;

  • Sound--music and spoken word from Southern Historical Collection and North Carolina Archives (Charlie Poole, blues, mountain music, worker songs, chanties, jazz, speeches, plays, prose readings, sermons, etc.).

Through the efforts of such agencies as the Farm Service Administration and the Writers Program of the WPA, the interwar period is one of the best-documented in our history. "North Carolina between the Wars" will draw on an extraordinary selection of photographs, "life histories," and other documentary materials to supplement the historical narratives.

In the multimedia environment, users will be able to browse through the data base using several different searching and linking strategies and read, see and hear related items. We anticipate that the data base would be networked and made available through remote hookups to schools, colleges, libraries and individuals throughout the state. Teachers and instructors could use the data base to prepare class presentations, and advanced students could use it to explore topics and create research reports or their own presentations.

Permission will be sought for the use of all materials we do not control. At least during this pilot phase we plan to make the data base freely available through network access, while retaining the protections of copyright in the works used.

To help identify material to be included and to advise us on content, we are establishing an advisory committee of historians, archivists, and potential users.

The accompanying sample sections include examples of the sorts of material that will be included in the data base and the sorts of links that one could construct between them. The capabilities of the World Wide Web technology offer many possibilities for accessing the data. For example, the H.G. Jones text (from North Carolina Illustrated), which provides a concise running narrative of the state's history, could be read as a "base text". It is already keyed to many of the images that would be included, which the user could display as he or she encounters related topics in the text. Following hypertext links, the user could call up topical essays drawn from the Powell history (North Carolina Through Four Centuries), the WPA guide, or the Parramore book (Express Lanes to Country Roads) which take up in greater depth the subjects introduced by Jones. Biographies from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography of persons named in the narrative or the "essays" could be called up for additional information. Special icons would notify users of the availability of accompanying images and audio pieces.

Our hope is that the pilot project will become part of a larger electronic project which we are discussing at the Press. This larger data base, to which we are referring as the North Carolina Bookshelf, would incorporate complete versions of several of the works we are tapping for this project: notably the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, North Carolina Illustrated, North Carolina Through Four Centuries, and the forthcoming "Handbook," as well as other works now being written (e.g., new histories of women and African Americans in the state). Information gathered during the development of the pilot project will help us anticipate the problems and project the resources that would be necessary to mount the larger data base.

University of North Carolina Press
Brooks Hall (CB 6215)
PO Box 2288
Chapel Hill, NC 27515
(919) 966-3561

Project Coordinator: David Perry (

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