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Southward, Ho! David Moltke-Hansen Mapping the Archival South In 1901, Alabama created the first state archives in the United States, followed quickly by many other southern states. Despite the vision and commitment behind them, these initial efforts were too meagerly funded to go far toward solving a critical problem of southern studies: the scarcity of accessible original sources, print as well as manuscript. Thirty years later, after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, and Duke University had launched what would become three of the largest, sustained programs for collecting the private papers of southerners, this scarcity remained a major stumbling block to research on the South. Today, the problem is very different: source materials are abundant. Although there are still many gaps in the historical record, more than 2,000 repositories across the region have collected at least some documentation on aspects of the archival South. They hold perhaps 1.5 million shelf feet altogether—roughly 300 miles or 3 billion pages of documentation. In addition, they house more than 15 million photographs, more than 1.5 million audio recordings (including perhaps as many as 75,000 oral histories), and tens of thousands of reels and cores of film and videotape. If local government office, business, and organizational holdings and southern Americana in the District of Columbia, northern , and foreign institutions were included, these totals might more than triple. Libraries have also collected hundreds of thousands of fugitive pamphlets and books from and about the region, as well as millions of issues of newspapers and other periodicals. The North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alone has nearly 200,000 books and pamphlets and 3,000 serials documenting the Tar Heel state and its citizens. Researchers still have to spend time looking for primary materials, but now they must spend much of their time sorting through the masses of documentation available to them as well. Although the archivists of these materials have been accelerating their automation of catalog records, it will be at least another decade before the majority of southern Americana will be cataloged in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), or other bibliographic utilities. In these circumstances, researchers more than ever need mechanisms to communicate, analyze, and address methodological problems related to research opportunities in the rapidly growing mountains of documentation about the South and its people. Many rich collections have scarcely been touched, often because they are unprocessed or uncataloged. In some institutions, more than half of the holdings are backlogged and thus more or less inaccessible. In other cases, the problem lies with older 134Southern Cultures research aids, abysmal by current standards. It is simply no longer possible for researchers to examine every archived document from the period and place of their interest. Indeed, students of the post-World War II South are faced with collections of the papers of individual politicians and organizations that bulk to proportions larger than the papers of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence put together. Clearly, we need more detailed help than we did before to identify and make use of those archived materials potentially most relevant to us. "Southward, Ho!" will offer a venue for communicating and analyzing these research opportunities and issues. Here authors will canvass newly available or little-used resources in particular repositories on particular topics, and consider broad methodological issues associated with investigating these topics. They will alert readers to kinds of work underway but not yet published, or report to a wider readership aspects or trends of current work in one specialty or another. From time to time, too, contributors to "Southward , Ho!" will reflect on how to access and assess the primary sources for the study of southern cultures. We hope that you will consider helping us put southern cultural research opportunities and issues in perspective for our readers. Please communicate your suggestions, comments, or offerings to: David Moltke-Hansen, Director Southern Historical and Folklife Collections UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3926 (919) 962-1345 (telephone) (919) 962-0484 (fax) DavidMH@UNCMVS.OIT.UNC.EDU (e-mail) In the meantime, consider the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 133-141
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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