The holdings of the History Center include manuscripts, books, photographs, slides, and negatives, periodicals and serials, maps, newspapers and public records on microfilm, oral histories, audio and video recordings, ephemera, and original works of art. The History Center holds nearly 300,000 items.
Subject areas address historical, cultural, economic, governmental, and scientific topics pertaining to North Carolina and to neighboring states. These include:
The History Center actively seeks and acquires personal and organizational papers, old and new books, periodicals, manuscripts, photographs, recordings, and other materials that fit its acquisition policy.
Coastal Military Operations
The military history of the Outer Banks encompasses the Civil War, the Freedmen's Colony on Roanoke Island, and World Wars I and II. Collection emphasis is on Civil War battles on Hatteras and Roanoke Islands, and includes maps, regimental histories, official reports, original documents and letters, original drawings, newspapers, period etchings, illustrations and contemporary published works. U-boat operations off the North Carolina coast during both World Wars, and the effort to defeat them, are documented in photographs, memoirs and histories of actions taken by the British and American navies and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Pictured on left: "Log fort near New Berne" from the James Wells Champney Sketchbook, ca. 1862.
The History Center holds research materials related to the European discovery and exploration of North America, including Roanoke Island and the Chesapeake Bay region. Works focus on the Roanoke Voyages and the Native Americans encountered by the Europeans. Other important holdings include copies of the published writings of Richard Hakluyt and John Smith, copies of the watercolors of John White, more recent archeological reports, and an important map collection that ranges from the 16th century to modern navigational charts.
The History Center serves as a starting point for regional genealogical research. Holdings include family files and published family histories, town and county histories, regional newspapers, and copies of public records such as deeds and marriage records from Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell Counties.
Pictured on left: Members of the Dough and Etheridge families on a Roanoke Island outing ca. 1925. Photograph taken by D. Victor Meekins.
Researchers visiting the History Center can trace the influences of man and nature on the Outer Banks
and surrounding regions through special collections of natural history and the environmental sciences.
Specialties include terrestrial and marine biology, aquaculture, botany, geology, geography,
hydrology and oceanography, and meteorology. Important collections include those of geologist Dr. Robert Dolan,
a leading scholar of shoreline dynamics and coastal geology, and holly expert Barton Bauers, author of a
photographic survey of plant life in eastern North Carolina.
Pictured above: Thresher shark. Photographer: Bob Burson
Collections of personal and organizational papers preserve the heritage of our region while providing researchers with a rich array of local history resource material. Holdings include the papers of our founding benefactor, David Stick. His decades as a civic leader, historical researcher and writer provide a large body of local history documentation. Holdings also include the artwork and papers of David Stick's father, Frank Stick, a magazine and calendar illustrator, and later a conservationist and developer.
Other collections of personal papers include materials from individuals important to the history of the Outer Banks including Warren O'Neal, creator of the Carolina boat, a modern sport fishing boat, diaries of Lillie Jacob Baum, wife of a Currituck physician, and C.W. Hollowell, owner of the Nags Head Hotel.
Organizational papers include records from many of the region's private, professional, or civic organizations. Some of these organizations are defunct, while others are currently active. Documents from the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, Dare County Tourist Bureau, Roanoke Island Historical Association and The Lost Colony, The Elizabethan Gardens, the town of Nags Head, the Outer Banks Community Foundation, and other organizations have found a secure, climate-controlled home with the History Center.
Pictured above: Nags Head Hotel ledger for the Steamer Clarence
Lighthouses, aids to navigation, shipwrecks and rescues have played important roles in the history of the Outer Banks. The History Center boasts an extensive collection of material on shipwrecks and the U.S. Life-Saving Service, including its successor, the U.S. Coast Guard. A premier collection consists of several thousand original wreck reports, payroll records, telegrams, and other documents from the period 1883-1933. The History Center has many documentary sources and photographs related to lighthouses including copies of architectural drawings from the National Archives.
The History Center holds many significant collections with rare and unique items. Among them are:
Some of the History Center's outstanding maps include a map of the Battle of Roanoke Island from February 8, 1862, an Abraham Ortelius map of North Carolina printed in 587, and a near-complete run of Geodetic and Coast Survey maps to the mid-1980s. These maps trace the geographical and topographical changes along the Outer Banks region over the past 400 years.
The History Center maintains visual collections including original artwork and regional photography with collections of local photographers D. Victor Meekins, Ben Dixon MacNeill, Roger Meekins, Aycock Brown, Ray Couch, and Drew Wilson. Original art includes work by Civil War soldiers James Wells Champney and Edwin Graves Champney and outdoor illustrator Frank Stick. Other collections include nineteenth century etchings and contemporary locally produced posters.
The History Center holds over 100,00 manuscript items many of them papers of prominent individuals and organizations crucial to the history and development of the Outer Banks.