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The Digital South website is a collaborative effort between University Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences as a part of the Southern Futures collective — a group of community leaders focused on reimagining the American South. 

The Digital South website launched earlier this week, but the original idea for the platform has been in the works since before the pandemic. 

María Estorino, vice provost for University Libraries and University librarian, initiated the site’s growth in 2021 with a vision for increased digital scholarship methods to study the American South. 

“Through the Digital South website and speaker series, we are fostering a community of humanities data researchers, incubating collaboration and advancing the campus Southern Futures initiative,” she said in a statement. 

The goal of the Digital South website is to create a virtual space to encourage partnership between scholars –  students, staff, faculty or anyone using digital scholarship — to research or teach about the American South.

Rolando Rodriguez, an academic library associate at UNC, said visitors can see ongoing projects, explore a particular project’s page and spark conversations regarding southern history through the website.

The projects featured on the website are initiatives that the library staff has coordinated or researched. Rodriguez also spoke with faculty and staff in various departments to learn more about their projects on the American South to showcase on the website. 

“And as more conversations are had, we can add more projects and more collections as relevant,” he said. 

The Digital South helps emphasize how online tools can advance the study and teaching of the American South through a wide range of methods. While some projects are focused on the classrooms, others have come from scholars’ research that have made use of the special collection and digitized newspapers. 

Featured work on the database also highlights relevant special collections from Wilson Library. Some collections have been used in previous projects or have now become fully digitized.

Amanda Henley, the head of digital research services at UNC, said the Digital South website reflects the strength of UNC Library collections. In the special collections series, the libraries contain the North Carolina, Southern Historical and Southern FolkLife collections. 

“Carolina is a destination for those interested in doing this type of work because of our deep and unique collections,” she said.

Rodriguez said he hopes the website can become a centralized space for others to see what projects are going on around campus and look at collections that might be difficult to find otherwise. 

“We hope that it serves as inspiration for students asking certain questions related to some of these projects, then maybe looking at how other scholars created these projects might inspire them to pursue a similar project on their own, or reach out to folks at the libraries to start thinking about how to think about these projects,” he said. 

Corban Davis, the director of operations for Southern Futures, said that the Digital South website is one of many library projects focusing on injustice in the South.

Visionaries have always worked for improvement in the South, with many justice movements started in this region, but inciting real change requires organizing, community-building and connecting with people outside of your field, Davis said. 

“I think it's just really powerful to put voices at the center, like voices from the South, doing this kind of work at the center of the story,” she said. 


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