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State Archives linking past with present through social media

Posted May 26

— The State Archives of North Carolina is packed with pictures documenting the past.

Researchers spend their days poring over them, looking for clues about what they're seeing.

Now, they're using social media to share what they find with the public, helping history escape the walls of the downtown Raleigh building.

Researcher Ian Dunn recently completed and shared his findings about a deadly train derailment that happened in Robeson County.

After finding pictures of the 1918 incident but not knowing what he was looking at, Dunn started looking for clues. It didn't take long to find one.

"The locomotive had an engine plate number on it," Dunn said.

Dunn looked through documents and articles, eventually finding out that the derailment happened in the community of Elrod. Three people were killed.

It's just one of the discoveries Dunn and two other researchers have uncovered at the Archives.

"The research you do, you can go down a rabbit hole really easily," researcher Kim Andersen said. "If I look one more place, I might find out a little more."

The Archives houses about 2 million photo negatives. The only way to see them in the past was to visit downtown Raleigh, but Instagram is changing that.

Another photo on the page of a cobbler named Sherman M. Jones gives a fascinating look into the history of downtown Raleigh.

"The Sir Walter Hotel in Raleigh is seen in the background, and you have this Bessie Smith poster with dates," Dunn said.

From that info, Dunn determined that it was taken in 1926 on Davie Street, across from the current location of Artspace.

Dunn and others at the Archives hope sharing the photos will help the public learn more about the state's history and the people responsible for uncovering it.

"I hope they have an appreciation for what we're doing here at the State Archives," Andersen said.


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