Community Histories Workshop


All of our project work is collaborative and usually involves multiple organizational partners within the university and beyond it.  Collaborative partnerships expand the sources, resources, skills, knowledge, imagination, and connections that might help shape a project.

The number and density of partnerships involved in a given project expand as the project moves forward.  Here are the core partners helping us on the Rocky Mount Mills Project.


Capitol Broadcasting Company and Rocky Mount Mills

Through its real estate division, Capitol Broadcasting Company of Raleigh, N.C., is undertaking the development of the 60-acre Rocky Mount Mills site, including mill buildings and other industrial structures (300,000 square feet), thirty mill houses, the seven-acre island in the Tar River that had once served as a recreation area, and 30 vacant lots in the mill village–a total of nearly sixty acres.  In late-2018 the site will reopen as a mixed-use campus, with loft-style apartments; retail, commercial, dining, and event space; a craft brewing incubator; community garden; “rails to trails” greenway; riverside walk; and arts maker space for ceramics, woodwork, and metal craft.  Houses in the mill village are being restored for rental.  This project builds on Capitol Broadcasting’s experience with the American Tobacco campus in Durham: a multi-award-winning adaptive reuse project that has helped to transform the city’s downtown over the past twenty years. A $30,000 grant to the Community Histories Workshop in August 2016 supported our exploration of the ways community-based memories and stories, multi-media archival materials, architectural space, and the virtual space of the internet can be connected in new and meaningful ways. An additional gift of $56,000 in early-2018 supplemented the community archiving, slave genealogy, African American history, K-12 pedagogy, and web development work under the NHPRC grant.

Southern Historical Collection

A part of Wilson Library on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) houses some fifteen million items documenting the political, social, cultural, and economic history of the American South.

The SHC holds the papers of the Rocky Mount Mills, some 35,000 items reflecting the history of the mill, the mill village, and physical site upon which they are located, dating back to 1816 and continuing through the mill’s closure in 1996.  Additionally, the SHC hold the Battle Family papers (10,000 items), members of which were connected with the ownership and operation of the mill from its founding in 1816 to its closure in 1996.

In the spring of 2017, the SHC received a three-year $900,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop new and transformative models of community archiving.  Included in this grant is funding for a graduate research assistantship to link the work of the CHW with the SHC’s community archiving initiative.

North Carolina Collection 

Also a part of the Wilson Special Collections Library at UNC-CH, the North Carolina Collection began in 1844 with then University President David Swain to collect all publications relating to North Carolina.  It is now the largest collection of printed and published material about an American state in the world.  It contains over 300,000 books and pamphlets, 6000 maps, 4 million photographs, and 50,000 feet of microfilmed newspapers.  Of particular relevance to the Rocky Mount Mills project is the Charles S. Killebrew Collection of 470,000 photographs taken in and around Rocky Mount between 1948 and 1997.  The history of Rocky Mount and the Rocky Mount Mills are also reflected in other NCC holdings, including digitized newspapers, city directories, postcards, maps, high school yearbooks, and church histories.  North Carolina Collection staff helped to facilitate the first conversations between the Community Histories Workshop and Capitol Broadcasting and remains a strong supporter of connecting the NCC’s holdings to local communities.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

Also housed in the North Carolina Collection, the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center works with more than 200 cultural heritage organizations in the state to digitize and publish online materials relating to the history of North Carolina communities.  It helps local libraries, historical societies, and other organizations to identify materials suitable for digitization and arranges for digital copies to be made in Wilson Library’s digital preservation center.  The digitized material is then added to the online collection of North Carolina materials accessible through    The N.C. Digital Heritage Center was instrumental in building Digital Loray, facilitating the digitization of thousands of images and serving as a host for much of the project’s online collection.

Braswell Memorial Library 

The Braswell Memorial Library, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, holds a variety of important local history collections. We have partnered with Braswell Library to identify, digitize, and exhibit a variety of community sourced archival collections. Further, Braswell Library has kindly hosted our events, specifically the history harvests and the K-12 teacher workshop.