Category: Special Collections

Living Charlotte

UNC Charlotte Atkins Library was awarded a grant to continue a large-scale digitization project.  Living Charlotte: The Postwar Development of a New South City, 1944-1987 will provide free, online access to many materials found in the UNC Charlotte Special Collections and other local library collections.  Some of the digitized content and more information about the project are now available at the Living Charlotte website.

living charlotte

Partnering with Johnson C. Smith University’s James B. Duke Memorial Library and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Atkins Library is leading a project to digitize oral history recordings; bound print materials; and pages/images of manuscript materials, including photographs and oversized items such as maps, aerial photographs and scrapbooks. The objective is to make accessible to researchers and the general public materials documenting the enormous economic and social changes in the Charlotte region from approximately 1944 to 1987. This era was chosen for the project because of the rich collections held by Atkins and its partner institutions representing this time of unprecedented and interrelated economic, political, and social change. Digital surrogates and high quality, shareable, standards-compliant metadata will be made available through UNC Charlotte’s Digital Collections at Atkins Library and shared with aggregators including the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).


Students in the Archives

Guest post by Denelle Eads

Special Collections at UNC Charlotte provides a picture to the past and a way to incorporate rare and unique materials into the classroom. This summer, Special Collections connected with HIST 4600: Racial Violence in America, a course that examines the nature and the history of racial violence in the United States from the end of the Civil War to the present. Special Collections has an abundance of rich collections that support this course topic which includes primary source material related to race relations from slavery to civil rights issues from the past to present.

Image of Reading Room

UNC Charlotte Special Collections Reading Room

Students in the HIST 4600 course visited the Special Collections Reading Room and were introduced to some of the materials relevant to the course topic. An online research guide was created for the course to provide students with more information about the manuscripts collections.  In working with these materials, students were assigned to establish how the collections might be used in writing history.  After selecting a manuscripts collection of interest to them, each student had the opportunity to examine one of a kind, first- hand documents such as diaries, photographs, letters and other items pertaining to their class topic. They discovered the value of working with primary source material and the pleasure of engaging with original documents, a practice that can enhance the learning experience.

Learn more about Special Collections by browsing the website or visiting the Reading Room on the 10th floor of Atkins Library.

Denelle Eads Denelle Eads is Special Collections Research and Outreach Librarian at UNC Charlotte Atkins Library. Contact Denelle if you are interested in developing an archives assignment for your class. 

Bonnie Cone: Voices from the Archive

The following video is a tribute to UNC Charlotte founder Bonnie Cone and her vision for the university.  The video was created by UNC Charlotte Special Collections using interviews and archival materials from the collection.


Bonnie Cone: Voices from the Archive was created in conjunction with a physical and online exhibit, Bonnie Cone: Educator, Trailblazer, Visionary.

The physical exhibit is on display at J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte between June and December 2013. The online exhibit can be accessed at

Interviews with and about Bonnie Cone can be accessed on Special Collections’ website, New South Voices.

Special Collections is interested in your stories about Miss Bonnie, Charlotte College and UNC Charlotte. To add your voice to the archive, please contact:

Special Collections
J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
Tel: 704.687.1170


New Special Collections Exhibit

If you’ve visited the Atkins Library recently you may have walked past the display cases in the atrium without realizing their contents. Inside are letters, books, photos and other items which illustrate the progress of African Americans since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

“Chains & Champions” was created to celebrate both Black History month and the 150th anniversary of the Proclamation on January 1st, and it will remain up through March. Items on display are from the library’s Special Collections, and help tell the story of the sacrifices, struggles and strength of African Americans before freedom was granted, and significant accomplishments since that time.

Figure 1. Child-size shackles from Sumter, SC
Figure 2. Examples of books and writings
Figure 3. Items from the Civil Rights era
Figure 4. African American “Firsts” from NC

“The Atkins library is proud to share a glimpse into the history of African Americans through a display of original documents and items from the library’s Special Collections” said Denelle Eads, Special Collections Research & Outreach Librarian. “It is part of our state’s history and Atkins Library is very fortunate to have items like this which tell the story of our past.”

“Chains & Champions” includes original documents such as bills of sale and receipts of slave purchases, information about the slave trade, and documents describing how slaves were informed of their freedom. On loan from the South Carolina State Museum are child slave shackles excavated from Sumter Country. The displays also include written work by African American authors such as Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass and Lunsford Lane, which represent how some slaves were taught to read and write by their owners.

The progression of African Americans is next represented through the Civil Rights era, with a focus on people and events in Charlotte and the state. Here, items show the struggles for equality during the Jim Crow era, with examples of letters for and against the integration of public facilities, organizations, and a segregated cemetery.  Original handwritten notes from the landmark school desegregation case Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education are included in this display case.

Finally, “Chains to Champions” looks at African Americans who have made significant contributions to American society by becoming “firsts.” Featured in this section are Frederick Douglas Alexander (first African American to become a member of the Charlotte City Council), Reginald Hawkins (first African American to run for governor of North Carolina), Harvey Gantt (first African American mayor of Charlotte), and Barack Obama (first African American president).

“When patrons view this exhibit, we hope they’ll want to learn more about the rare and unique items that have been preserved for the public to see and use,” said Eads. “We have a treasure chest of history just waiting to be opened, and we invite everyone to visit Special Collections to discover our wealth of historical items.”

The Atkins Library Special Collections is located on the tenth floor and include many original historical documents of Charlotte and the Carolinas region.  For more information, please call 704.687.1170.


Special Collections Workshops

Workshops provided by Atkins Library Digital Scholarship Lab.  Click HERE for a full list of DSL workshops offered this semester.

Incorporating Special Collections Content into your Digital Scholarship
Atkins Library has splendid collection of rare books, manuscripts, university archives, oral histories, and local documents, and born-digital materials that are available for use by researchers.  These sessions provide an overview of our collections for researchers seeking original research materials for research and for use in digital scholarship projects.




Virtual Comics Exhibit

Heroes and Villains: Silver Age Comics Exhibit

Heroes and Villains: Silver Age Comics Exhibit, Atkins Library Special Collections

Marc Bess, Director of Usability at the Atkins Library Digital Scholarship Lab, used Omeka to create a virtual exhibit of Silver Age superhero comic books from the Atkins Library Special Collections.  The exhibit particularly highlights comics of the era published by industry leaders DC Comics and Marvel Comics.  Selected comics from the collection will also be on display at Atkins Library later in the semester.

UNC Charlotte faculty members and graduate students can use Omeka to create digital exhibits and collections with primary source material from Atkins Library Special Collections. 

Omeka is a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. Omeka is designed with non-IT specialists in mind, allowing users to focus on content and interpretation rather than programming.

REGISTER NOW for a hands-on workshop!

  • Thursday, September 20, Atkins 273, 11 am – 12 pm, Register
  • Thursday, November 15, Atkins 273, 3 – 4 pm, Register

Special Collections in the Classroom

Atkins Library subject librarians collaborate with Atkins Library Special Collections to support a range of disciplines, including History, Education, and more.  Consider creating an assignment that allows students to explore the collection.  Contact your subject librarian to schedule an instruction session, or to brainstorm ideas for an assignment.

To learn more about what is available in the collection, please contact outreach librarian for Special Collections, Denelle Eads, or attend one of the following workshops (open to faculty and graduate students).

African American History

Friday, September 21 (Atkins Library 10th floor), 11 am – 12 pm, Register

History of Education (CMS, Charlotte College, and UNC Charlotte)

Tuesday, October 16 (Atkins Library 10th floor), 10 – 11 am, Register

Children’s Literature

Monday, October 29 (Atkins Library 10th floor), 3 – 4 pm, Register

Historic Charlotte (Mills, Race Relations, Religion, Business & Industry)

Wednesday, November 14 (Atkins Library 10th floor), 3 – 4 pm, Register