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Libraries win grant to preserve Forsyth County history in pictures

October 24, 2006

Staff at Forsyth County’s largest libraries – Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library and Coy C. Carpenter Medical Library, the Forsyth County Public Library and Winston-Salem State’s C. G. O’Kelly Library – will undertake a historic collaboration in an effort to preserve the photographic history of Forsyth County in an easy-to-use, computerized format.

The library coalition has secured a federal grant for equipment and staffing to scan and digitize photographic images as part of a “Digital Forsyth” project.  The grant was awarded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), administered by the State Library of North Carolina.  The coalition received $75,000 for the first year of what is hoped to be a three-year, $225,000 “Digital Forsyth” project.

Susan Smith, head of information technology for Z. Smith Reynolds Library, said about 12,000 images will be digitized during the project.  Sixty percent of the photos will come from the Forsyth County Public Library, 25 percent from the O’Kelly Library at Winston-Salem State and 15 percent from the two Wake Forest libraries.

“Our three institutions, four libraries, hold significant complementary pictorialcollections that document more than 100 years of Forsyth County history,” Smith said.  “By assimilating them into a comprehensive online digital collection, we can offer a presentation that exhibits local, regional and statewide value to North Carolina residents, students, scholars and lifelong learners.”

Photographs from the Carpenter Medical Library date back to the 1920s, when the North Carolina State Baptist Hospital and the North Carolina Baptist Hospital School of Nursing opened in Winston-Salem.  Two of the medical library’s collections will be highlighted for the project – medical buildings and their uses in the county from the Robert W. Prichard Collection and the nursing collection.  Some digitized photos from the Carpenter Library are available on the Web at

Z. Smith Reynolds Library photos date back to 1954 and are primarily from the Reynolda Campus.  Photos in the collection include a visual history of life on the campus, including faculty, staff, organizations, buildings, classrooms, NCAA Division I athletics and the larger community encompassing academic life.  Z. Smith Reynolds Library staff have digitized many photos during the past several years, and those images are available on the Web at

The Bill East Collection at the Forsyth County Public Library will also be a focus of the “Digital Forsyth” project.  East was a reporter and later editor for the Twin City Sentinel, and photos in the collection date back to the 1870s.

Molly Rawls, a photograph collection librarian at the Forsyth County Public Library, said the photos at the library show the day-to-day activities of the people of Forsyth County and highlight places and buildings that no longer exist or have changed over time.

“Since the photos capture the daily events of the city, occasionally there will be photos of celebrities who visited the city,” Rawls said.  “On at least one occasion, Ava Gardner visited her niece at a local school and her photo was taken with the niece and other school children.  When Dwight D. Eisenhower was a general, he visited a friend who managed the Robert E. Lee Hotel in townand made quite a stir when the word of his visit got around town.

“The photographs show places in town that no longer exist and show people who had an important role in shaping the city’s history.  We hear some of their names ascribed to schools and other buildings, but the photographs show that the person actually lived and worked in Winston-Salem.”

The Forsyth County Public Library has digitized some photos, which are available on the library’s Web site at

Winston-Salem State’s O’Kelly Library has a photo collection dating back to the school’s founding in 1892 as Slater Industrial Academy.  The photos provide insight into normal and industrial education, African-American higher education from the early to mid-20th century, collegiate athletics in the Jim Crow south and Winston-Salem State’s buildings and grounds.  Five hundred images will be included from Winston-Salem State in the first year of “Digital Forsyth.”  Library staff has plans to digitize 3,000 images from the O’Kelly Library during the three-year project.

The “Digital Forsyth” coalition received one of the 101 federal grants totaling $3,489,241 awarded to North Carolina libraries for 2006-2007.

For more information about the federal IMLS/LSTA grants, visit the IMLS Web site at, the State Library’s LSTA Web site at or contact Penny Hornsby at the State Library of North Carolina, or (919) 807-7420.

For information or contacts at any of these libraries, contact Jacob McConnico.

Press Contacts:

Jacob McConnico
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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