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Preserving county history with the click of a mouse

By Jared Jacavone

James Madison once said, “Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind, which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” The public library is an example of what Madison had in mind. At the library you can explore the world with the turn of a page, find common ground with your neighbors in a community place, and easily access educational resources that help you understand and question the world around you. It is no wonder that our Founding Fathers were some of the biggest advocates of public education and public libraries. Thomas Jefferson donated a large portion of his personal library to start the United States Library of Congress and the Library of the University of Virginia. Benjamin Franklin used his personal library to start the Philadelphia Public Library, and some of George Washington’s personal collection was used to start the Boston Athanӕum.

Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of the library as a place for education and freedom of expression. When more and more public libraries became available in the United States due to tax-based funding in the early to mid-19th century, they took on the role of a local repository of town and county history in addition to their initial democratic purposes. While the public library has changed in the past two-hundred years, incorporating technology, public programming, and artistic expression, it has still held onto its original goals of educational enrichment, democratic expression, and historical preservation.

At the Tyrrell County Public Library, we intend to continue this expansion of our public purpose and commitment to the preservation of our community’s local history. With the help of the Friends of the Tyrrell County Public Library, our facility has acquired and built an archival book scanner. Using volunteers and staff, the library is now be able to digitize documents from our county’s past, and ensure both their long-term preservation and easy access to the public. Over the next few months, the library will digitize past yearbooks, county minutes, and other historical public documents. These digitized items will be made available on our website.

In addition to our organization’s efforts to digitize our history in-house, we have also partnered with the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center to digitize historical newspapers from Tyrrell’s past. So far, the Tyrrell Tribune and the Tyrrell Herald have been digitized and are now available through Digital NC and NC Live for FREE! Other historical publications such as the Tyrrell Times and Swamp Roots are in line for digitization, and will soon be made available to the public.

Our staff is excited to bring this new resource to the community of Tyrrell County, and fulfill a role that is not only outlined in our organizational mission, but fundamental to the very purpose of public libraries and other democratic institutions. Stay tuned as we post updates about digitally preserving our past for the future!