The Dark Archive

by Joyce Ogburn

The Google Dataset Search tool was just released to aid researchers in searching and finding relevant data among myriad datasets on the web. With the requirements of funding agencies to share research data, an increasing number of datasets are now available, in addition to data that has been shared for some time via the Internet. The new tool is a nice complement to Google Scholar, which searches and delivers research publications, preprints, theses and dissertations, blogs, reports, and more.

Here’s a screenshot from a search for “population of North Carolina”: 

Google Dataset Search example


The tool can be found through this link: Google has also developed guidelines for making datasets easier to discover.



by Adam Sheffield

On Tuesday, February 20th, Dr. Beth Davison took her latest documentary film project, “Dulatown,” to the Caldwell Heritage Museum in Lenoir, NC, for its first public screening. The half hour long film tells the story about a small community in the Lenoir area that began in the late 1800s, when a slave owner began giving land to children resulting from a relationship with one of his slaves. The bulk of the documentary highlights the descendants of these children, and how they come together at a family reunion, where both African American and white relatives reunite. The film’s first screening was a huge success, having filled the venue to its capacity.



Dr. Davison serves as professor in Sociology, Director of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Co-Director of University Documentary Film Services at Appalachian State University. This project began over a year ago, and during the process, received library support from members of the Digital Scholarship & Initiatives (DSI) team. In order to assist Dr. Davison in collecting historical photographs for the project, DSI set up a community scanning event in Dulatown, where people brought in their photos to be digitized. Many of these photographs are featured in the film, and DSI also plans to eventually provide digital access online using Omeka. Adam Sheffield, DSI’s Digitization Specialist, also served as an advisor for “Dulatown,” helped conduct many of the interviews, and was one of the main videographers for the project.




by Adam Sheffield

This morning I drove to work, again listening to FM radio, because for the past few weeks a CD has been stuck in my car’s CD player, hindering my dominance over what I want to hear. Shortly after I arrived at work, I attempted to briefly read some of today’s headlines. One headline in particular caught my eye. According to Business Insider, “Best Buy is pulling CDs from stores, and people are not happy.” To some, especially younger generations, CDs were never really important anyways, because they have grown up in a world listening to music by streaming it with services such as Spotify or Apple Music. Older generations greatly appreciate radio broadcasts and/or their vinyl records (which are making a significant come back and growth in popularity). So who are these people that are so upset with the decline and end of CDs? Well, despite the fact that my car is currently choking on a CD, I am one of those people.

You see, I grew up in a time when CDs were the NEXT BEST THING. Let me tell you why. Before I had CDs and especially before my cars came standard with built-in CD players, I was listening to cassette tapes. Don’t get me wrong, cassettes had their place, and many still remain in great musical collections. But... cassettes were not made to last. Long story short - in the blink of an eye cassettes could get twisted, stretched and torn in the tape deck, or the most dreaded flaw - the tangled knotty mess that could only be tediously fixed with some patience and an arrow eraser. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then bless your heart. 

Another reason why tapes wouldn’t make it to eternity, is that cassettes were magnetically recorded. Basically, a thin magnetic coating contains the recorded data and stuck to a strip of plastic film. Over time, the magnetization deteriorates and separates, making the cassette useless. So even if you took the greatest care of your cassettes, they’ll eventually die on their own.

So along came CDs. These discs could hold music, data, and eventually led into developments such as DVDs and Blu Ray etc… Like most digital formats, there is some compression and data loss, lowering the quality of the sound coming from the CD’s music, but overall CDs worked well for playing back music. You could make copies of your favorite musical artists and store them on CD, so you didn’t have to sacrifice the original. Delicately chosen mixed CDs were just as popular as mixed tapes were in the 80s and 90s. There was even a time when illegally downloading music online and burning those songs to CDs was common. CDs, for better or worse, changed the music industry. Despite some externalities, it seemed as though CDs would be around foreve

Even though CDs use a digital format, they are still considered a physical media. Like their predecessor, cassette tapes, these physical items have a shelf life. The chemicals used to manufacture a CD will eventually breakdown, causing the CD to deteriorate and become useless. CDs can get scratched or cracked, and then they’re done for. As long as you have the files to load back onto a CD, your music can live another day.

So now we come to the real reason why Best Buy and other retailers are going to stop stocking their shelves with CDs. Digital music files are now more portable than ever. Mobile devices use internal storage or internet-based distributing to access files, and playback can now enjoyed via auxiliary/USB inputs or even wireless Bluetooth connections. As awesome as CDs once were, they required a device at least the size of the CD themselves in order to listen to them. Our society wants everything to fit in the palm of our hand.

My bottom line: Yes, I know that CDs are on their way out. I am saddened to hear that such a large part of my music listening history has become a thing of the past. CDs carried me through some of the most influential years of my life. I will always have those memories. Thanks to digitization and rapidly evolving technologies, I will always have my music too. I just won’t have to worry about it getting stuck in my car’s six disc changer anymore.   

by Matt Ransom

In an effort to centralize and promote access to the research of the Center for Appalachian Studies, Dr. William Schumann, director of the Center, proposed a collaborative project with the Digital Scholarship and Initiatives team and ASU Web Services. The project had three primary objectives: (1) create a central online ASU web presence where current and future research projects of the Center could be made accessible, (2) migrate a pre-existing website to the new platform, and (3) have the website up and running by the beginning of the Spring 2018 semester for their Black Mountain Semester project.

With the assistance of Amy Love in Web Services, we acquired web space on the domain and created Appalachia Online. The migration of their pre-existing website became Mountain Music in the Classroom. Then we created the page structure for the Black Mountain College Semester project. Throughout the semester, Appalachian Studies students will be adding content to the website to complete the project.

Keep checking Appalachia Online. There are more projects on the horizon!


Black Mountain College--Lake Eden


Save the date: October 27, 2017 4:00pm-7:00pm

Room 114 Appalachian State University Belk Library & Information Commons

You are invited to attend the Appalachian Online: Celebrating the Birth of Appalachian Studies event, which will feature a panel discussion on our most recent digitized collections followed by a reception with light snacks, wine, and music along with an open house in Special Collections at the Appalachian State University Belk Library & Information Commons, .

 Collections highlighted include:

 This event is sponsored by Appalachian State University Libraries Special Collections and Digital Scholarship and Initiatives and UNC Asheville. Additional details will be announced closer to the event date. For further information contact Pam Mitchem, Email:, Phone: 828-262-7422




Reels and VHS tape

Sunday, October 22, 2–4pm
218 College St, Boone NC

Have you been wondering what to do with your old home movies? Bring your old 8mm, 16mm, and VHS films to Room 421 on the 4th floor of Appalachian State University’s Belk Library. Members of the Digital Scholarship & Initiatives team and University Documentary Film Services are hosting this wonderful event, where you can view your footage while learning how to best preserve them. We’ve got the equipment, we just need your home movies! Come enjoy light refreshments, experience wonderful emotions, and play home movie BINGO!



by Adam Sheffield

Today, nearly everyone around the world has access to various forms of media and information just a few clicks away. The digital age has compressed practically everything we want to know into tiny byte-sized bits. Before the digital age, not all forms of media were so easy to swallow.

Prior to streaming and downloading files, most of our music and videos were captured and stored on analog tape or film. These sounds and images could only be played back using bulky equipment that you couldn’t carry in your pocket.  So what does it take to get all of that stuff onto YouTube, Facebook, or some other internet source? Digitization.  

A team of professionals in the library at Appalachian State University is charged to preserve and provide access to older media and information. The Digital Scholarship & Initiatives (DSI) team transfers analog formats, scans old pictures and publications, and performs other services in order to provide digital access by people at the university and beyond.

DSI uses state of the art equipment to transfer media, but not always. Some DSI equipment is older than team members themselves. They just don’t make things like they used to…



By Adam Sheffield

Appalachian State University’s Digital Scholarship & Initiatives (DSI) team is gearing up to help a couple of Appalachian communities digitize private images, and other documents. On August 20, members from DSI and University Documentary Film Services will travel to Dulatown, NC and on September 3 to Wilkesboro, NC equipped with laptops, flatbed scanners, and digital cameras ready to capture memories.

Residents of Dulatown and alumni of the Lincoln Heights school have been invited to bring photos, diaries, and other materials they would like to preserve and share. Eligible items will be digitized and copies will be delivered to the owners as well as included in the Appalachian State library Special Collections.

Dr. Beth Davison, Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Appalachian State University, is currently producing a short documentary film on an interesting family reunion in Dulatown, NC, and will be featuring some of the scanned images in her project. Davison plans to screen the film in various North Carolina film festivals.