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Articles of Faith, 1861
Articles of Faith, 1861, Baptist Church (Mount Gilead, N.C.) Records (MS755)

Last year, my Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) colleague Rebecca Petersen May announced that we received an EZ Digitization Library Services and Technology Act Grant that dedicated funds to helping SC&A improve online access to nearly 120 manuscript collections that document Baptist church histories in North Carolina. These collections are useful to religious scholars and Baptist practitioners, but they are also popular for those looking into local history and their genealogy. We’re excited about the opportunities that digital access will provide interested folks. As a bonus, digital access means a bit less wear and tear on these materials, some of which are a couple hundred years old.

SC&A director Tanya Zanish-Belcher wrote in January about our progress on the project, including the hiring of two valuable part-time employees who helped us digitize materials and improve their individual description, making items easier to search through once they’re online. Many thanks to Kylie Bradley and Weihua Wang for their hard work, and for adapting their skill sets to work with archival materials. Our collections are very different from a normal library book!

List of colored members, circa 1864
List of colored members, circa 1864, Stanley First Baptist Church (Stanley, N.C.) Records (MS739)

As Collections Archivist, I’m always excited to provide exposure to collections. Making Baptist church records available online means improving access to the histories of these churches and their members. Some collections offer documentation of the church’s beginnings and roots through charter documents, covenants, constitutions, bylaws, and membership lists of founding members. Since the records stretch back to late 18th century and early 19th century, the records also offer information about predominantly African American churches and enslaved congregants in North Carolina.

Look for more announcements in the future as we move from the labor-intensive work of creating digital files and descriptive metadata of all the items to putting the files up online via our Digital Collections portal.