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Wilson Library showcases the work of specialized state newspapers

Wilson Library's new exhibit, “Papers for the People: A Treasury of North Carolina News Sources," is showcasing specialized newspapers.

Beyond the biggest papers in the state, small and specialized news sources have given a voice to underrepresented North Carolinians for centuries. 

Now, you can see their work on display in Wilson Library.

Specialized news sources are written with a specific topic or audience in mind. In an effort to highlight the presence and impact of this type of media in North Carolina, curators for the North Carolina Collection Gallery created the exhibit “Papers for the People: A Treasury of North Carolina News Sources”.

“We have all these other types of specialized newspapers that really give you a more intimate look at different communities in North Carolina, and I think that's why they are important,” Linda Jacobson, keeper in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, said.

Jacobson and a team with the gallery created the exhibit, which includes 45 pieces and spans almost 200 years of history.

The exhibit is organized into 11 categories of newspapers, including empowerment, labor and amateur.

“The empowerment section is my favorite because that’s sort of what got this started,” Jacobson said. “I was thinking about the people who felt not represented by the mainstream dailies. This makes them feel a part of society when they can see themselves in the paper.”

This section includes pieces ranging from The Prison News, written by and for inmates in North Carolina, to Inquisition, a counterculture publication by high school students.

John Blythe, the assistant curator and collection development librarian for the North Carolina Collection Gallery, worked specifically on the amateur newspapers section of the exhibit.

“In the early 1870s, there were several very inexpensive presses that were made and widely sold, so teenage boys, and it was mostly boys, starting making their own little newspapers,” Blythe said.

Blythe said amateur newspapers are comparable to blogging in the modern world.

“I think it just is a way that shows that teenagers or younger were developing their own forms of expression as well,” Blythe said.

Christian Edwards, assistant keeper in the North Carolina Collection Gallery who worked on the labor and agriculture sections of the exhibit, found a piece that she was directly connected to. 

Edwards grew up on a cattle farm in central North Carolina and said she remembers the day of the large fire at a nearby Imperial Foods processing plant that killed 25 people. 

“I found this one about the 'Justice Speaks' and it was all about the Imperial Food Plant a year after,” Edwards said. “For me, it resonated. It made that personal connection of having that very vivid event that you remember.” 

The newspapers can point to pieces of state history that may otherwise go unnoticed, Edwards said. 

“Being raised and working in North Carolina all my life, I started seeing those connections of how this starts to unfold this micro-history of North Carolina,” Edwards said. “It's that way to bring a glimpse into that small part of North Carolina history.”

The exhibit is housed in the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Wilson Library and will be open to the public until May 31.

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