Tar Heel of the Week: Bob Anthony is the keeper of NC’s history

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

CHAPEL HILL  |  The brittle pages of an old book hold more than words – they are a tangible link to the past, a chance to imagine the hands that turned them decades or even centuries before.

Bob Anthony has spent more than 40 years preserving these connections to the past, including 20 years overseeing millions of books, pictures, maps and other items as curator of the North Carolina Collection based at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Raised in Halifax County, Anthony says his job is that of a “professional North Carolinian,” charged with collecting all manner of materials related to the state’s history and people. He’s only the fourth curator of the collection, which is considered the nation’s largest devoted to a single state.

In recent years, he’s expanded his efforts toward a different kind of connection – making these and other materials more widely available to historians and others across the world as head of the N.C. Digital Heritage Center.

A grant-funded initiative, the center works with libraries and other local groups across the state to digitize their holdings, allowing items in even the state’s most remote areas to be accessible online.

The initiative celebrated a milestone last week – reaching 200 partners statewide. So far, the effort has scanned about 2.8 million items, including yearbooks, newspapers, scrapbooks, photos and more – and has racked up even more page views.

Anthony is also widely involved in historical and literary activities beyond his work. He has served as president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, and helped organize and write a book about the N. C. Writers Conference, which has met every July for more than 50 years.

“He’s not just been there running that collection,” says Willis Whichard, a former legislator, state Supreme Court justice, and author of a biography on former Gov. James Iredell. “He’s really integrated himself into the historical community of the state.”

Whichard is currently writing a book on David Swain, who started collecting the materials that would form the basis of the North Carolina Collection in 1844; it would formally become a collection in 1901. Whichard says the current efforts to digitize much of the collection and other historical documents is an important turning point in its long history.

“It’s an extremely valuable collection,” he says. “And the work [Anthony] has done to make it available is a tremendous service.”


Excerpt, read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/orange-county/article83197867.html#storylink=cpy