Catesby is Now Online!

By Kendall Hallberg

After months of hard work, two volumes of Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands and the Herbert Fitzgerald’s collection of Catesby’s prints have now been uploaded to our Digital Collections repository! There’s still plenty left to do as the University Libraries are home to 5 unique, hand-painted copies of the Natural History as well as two copies of the Hortus Europae Americanus. I will still be working to create more, and better, metadata for these additional books and prints.

Uncolored illustration of bird, a ghost pipe plant, and a toad stool, created in 1731 by Mark Catesby.
Catesby’s illustration, Plate 36, “Snow-bird, Broom-rape, and Toad-stool” from Volume I, 1731.
Photograph of a white plant native to the Carolinas colloquially called an Indian Pipe or Ghost Pipe. Green foliage in background. Photo taken by Kendall Hallberg in 2021.
Photo of Ghost Pipe, or One-Flower Indian-Pipe taken at Blood Mountain, by Kendall Hallberg, 2021.













This project and all the metadata that goes along with it would not have been possible without the assistance of the wonderful people with the Mark Catesby Centre. As I am not a naturalist, I have relied on their expertise to make this digital collection as usable as it is wonderful. I know that anyone who looks at these works will be able to learn something new about Mark Catesby and the natural world around us.


Illustration of a Polyphemus moth that is light brown with circular markings on its two back wings, created in 1731 by Mark Catesby.
Catesby’s illustration of a Polyphemus Moth in Plate 91 in Volume II, 1731.
Light brown moth with circular markings on its wings.
Photo of a Polyphemus Moth sitting in a potted plant taken in Columbia, SC, by Kendall Hallberg, 2021.












I have so enjoyed working on this project and learned a lot about the region I live in! While out exploring around the Southeast, I have stumbled upon some of the same things Catesby saw almost 300 years ago. Well, we all do every day, because squirrels… But some of my discoveries have been exciting for me and I spotted them either miles into the woods or on my patio.

Explore the collection! And as you explore your neighborhood, South Carolina, and the Southeast, see what you can find from Catesby’s Natural History!


Illustration of a mountain laurel twig with pale pink flowers and green leaves, created in 1731 by Mark Catesby.
Catesby’s illustration of Mountain Laurel, Plate 98 in Volume II, 1731.
Mountain laurel, green bush with white flowers.
Photo of Mountain Laurel taken at Blood Mountain in Georgia, by Kendall Hallberg, 2021.









Digital Academy: Here to Help

By John Quirk

WWI Letter
WWI Letter

As we all get used to this “new normal” of working-from-home: trying to find a balance between working remotely, juggling ever-present domestic demands…or just trying to keep the cat from walking across the keyboard while we respond to emails.  Many parents are finding yet another hat they are forced to wear, that of teacher. In the midst of everything else going on this additional demand can be especially challenging.

We here at UofSC’s Digital Collections in conjunction with the South Carolina Digital Library (SCDL) are here to help.  We can offer some additional resources that will help keep your home-bound student engaged — at least long enough for you to get through that next Zoom meeting! Digital Collections’ website and the SCDL’s website offer thousands of primary source materials that compliment many K-12 lesson plans. These primary sources, like photographs, newspaper articles, letters, audio clips, moving images all have a unique way of bringing course content to life. These resources offer a welcome supplement to traditional textbooks.

Whether it is photographs of agrarian life in the Upstate, images of the aftermath of the Charleston Earthquake, letters from a WWI soldier or movies of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, there are a great number of engaging primary source items available at your students’ fingertips.

In fact, it is possible that there is so much content in these collections across the state that it might be daunting to find just the right materials. To make the search easier, the University of South Carolina, in collaboration with professional educators, created the S.C. Digital Academy. This website offers easy to find, standards-based lesson plans that link directly to digitized materials on the web that will support many K-12 lessons.

The S.C. Digital Academy is easily searchable by grade level and Standards-Based topics. The Document Based Questions were originally designed for professional educators, but for newly ordained Parent/Teachers, they provide direct access to useful materials. We hope you will find these resources helpful and that your “students” will find them engaging and even entertaining.

SC Digital Academy
SC Digital Academy

Kline Iron & Steel Company Oral History Project

By John Quirk

Kline Iron & Steel Co., Inc. Logo. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit
Kline Iron & Steel Co., Inc. Logo. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit

What do the South of the Border’s Sombrero Tower and the massive antenna array that used to sit atop the World Trade Center in NYC, have in common? Weird question, yes…but in fact they were both constructed by Kline Iron & Steel Company right here in Columbia, South Carolina. These are just two of the very diverse projects created by Kline over it’s 80 year history.

Kline Iron & Steel Company (1923-2003) earned a reputation for supplying high quality steel products as well as being a company that fostered great loyalty and respect between employees and owners. Many who worked at Kline likened it to being part of a family, which contributed to its unusually low turn-over rate of employees. The fascinating story of the development of this long-time, iconic Columbia company is brought to life through the Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections  featuring over thirty oral history interviews compiled by UofSC’s Department of Oral History.

Sombrero tower, South of the Border, South Carolina. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.
Sombrero tower, South of the Border, South Carolina. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.

This collection is just one part of an exciting project we have been working on here at Digital Collections. We have been migrating various oral history collections into our Cdigital collections repository (hosted by OCLC’s CONTENTdm) from the Department of Oral History. They have a robust offering of oral histories that provide first-hand accounts and insights on life in South Carolina. Most of these interviews are available as both audio recordings and interview transcripts. Additionally, the Department of Oral History has created wonderfully rich online exhibits for many of these collections that feature photographs, print materials, manuscripts, timelines and more. Of course, we link directly to those exhibits from our landing pages.

By adding these oral histories to our digital collections repository they become discoverable along with the many other digital collections that are represented there. So, a user’s search will potentially return photographs, print materials, maps, and manuscripts along with oral histories all from a single database. Also, these collections will eventually be harvested into the South Carolina Digital Library and will be discoverable statewide along with items originating at over 60 institutions across South Carolina.

Antenna array atop the World Trade Center in New York City, 1972. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.
Antenna array atop the World Trade Center in New York City, 1972. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.

We are excited to be making the Kline Iron & Steel Company oral histories and the many other oral history collections more broadly available. We believe patrons will find them interesting and rich resources for South Carolina History. Go to the Dept. of Oral History to check out the many collections they already have available online and keep an eye on Digital Collections’ database as we continue to add those collections as well.

Listen to a Kline oral history here:




A Team Effort

By John Quirk

The creation of a digital collection always demands some amount of collaboration. Content matter experts, scanning technicians, metadata librarians, web developers…all working together to bring a project to fruition. The size of the team varies from collection to collection but it is always a collaborative effort.

UofSC’s Digital Collections has been involved in a project lately that not only exemplifies this spirit of collaboration but pushes it to unusual lengths. This project is the Abstract of Voter Registrations Reported to the Military Government, 1868.

This 31-volume abstract of voter registrations was originally created by order of the commander of the Second Military District who had ultimate responsibility for the registration of voters and the conduct of elections. The volumes record the name and race of each registered voter arranged by county and registration precinct. It is a fascinating and historically valuable snapshot of elections in South Carolina in the years just after the Civil War. The process of bringing these documents into the digital world has demanded the efforts of an unusual number of dedicated souls.

These historic volumes were originally microfilmed in 1987 by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. The South Carolina State Library recognized their significance and the potential value of having them digitized and made available on the web. The University of South Carolina’s Digital Collections department scanned the microfilm, creating the digital files using its Mekel Microfilm scanner. The South Carolina State Library then created the metadata describing each volume. UofSC’s Digital Collections used that metadata to upload the digitized Abstract of Voter Registrations to its CONTENTdm database make them freely available online. The road often ends there…but in this case the road has a few more twists and turns…

Having such historic documents digitized and online certainly extends their discoverability and accessibility well beyond volumes on an archive shelf or in a microfilm drawer. However, if a text can be made fully searchable the usefulness and discoverability is hugely improved. When scanning text that is printed or typewritten it is possible to create a searchable text file using an optical character recognition program (OCR) that can decipher text in a still image. However, automated OCR is not an option when the text is handwritten as it is in this Abstract of Voter Registrations. This is where the collaborative aspect of this project grows exponentially.

Richland County Library’s Walker Local and Family History Center has been marshalling a phalanx of intrepid volunteers and librarians to manually transcribe each page of the entire 31 volumes. These transcribers are peppered across the state and as they complete their efforts the transcriptions are sent to the Walker Local and Family History Center to be collated.  Those transcriptions are then sent from Richland Library to UofSC where they are integrated into the digitized items online. In the end, this process will make the entire Abstract of Voter Registrations fully searchable for names and locations thus improving its reach and usability.

One example of the broad reach these files can have is the recent featuring of an item from this very collection on a segment of Henry Louis Gate, Jr.’s PBS program Finding Your Roots. Click here to see a clip: After so much coordination and concerted effort, it is quite rewarding to see the fruits of those labors pay off in such a way.

All of this cross-institutional collaboration is aided by established relationships developed over time as partner members of the South Carolina Digital Library. The SCDL is a statewide search portal that aggregates digital collections from over 60 institutions bringing together over 300,000 digital items. The UofSC Digital Collections department is the  scanning hub helping to coordinate collections being created in the Midlands and hosts collections for smaller institutions that do not have the means to do that.


Abby Munro: Educator for destitute children in South Carolina, 1870-1890s

By Sarah Moore

Abby Munro was a teacher from Rhode Island who came to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina to help Cornelia Hancock in teaching Black freed men and women at the Laing School. At the Laing School, students received an education and were given an opportunity to learn a trade. (Laing Middle School of Science and Technology; Fludd; Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). In the 1870s, Munro took over for duties from Hancock and became the principal of the school. She expanded on the original work of Hancock, when in 1882 she opened a Children’s Home for Destitute Children, one of the first orphanages for African Americans in South Carolina (Fludd; Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). Though older than the Jenkins’ Orphanage, the Destitute Children’s Home was smaller and served  the local population of Mount Pleasant. (Fordham, 2009).

This collection consists of a range of items related to Abby Munro’s work at the Home of Destitute Children and the Laing School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, like legal documents signed by parents giving custody of children to Abby Munro. Additionally, documents in the collection frequently outline that a child will be cared for while receiving an education. A second medium found in this collection is photographs, most of which are of the Laing School. These photographs allow for a glimpse into education at the Laing Normal and Industrial School. One photograph shows students learning to cobble shoes. Another photograph shows young girls learning to sew.

Arthur Macbeth, an African American photographer based in Charleston, South Carolina, took many of these photographs of the Laing School. After studying with German, French, and American photographers, Macbeth opened his own studio in Charleston in 1886 (Bowser, 1999). A few of Macbeth photographs were used some of the in Laing School publications that reported on progress of the school and home. Both the Laing school and Children’s Home relied heavily on donations and these publications used to show how the donations were being used, plus how the donations were making a difference.

Check our our digital collection, Abby D. Munro papers, 1837-1913. The physical collection is held at South Caroliniana Library.


  • Bowser, P. “Pioneers of Black Documentary Film.” (1999). Struggles for Representation: African American Documentation Film and Video. (page 4)
  • Fludd D. “Laing School History” Accessed October 17, 2018.
  • Fordham, D. L. Voices of Black South Carolina: Legend and Legacy.(2009).
  • Laing Middle School of Science and Technology: For a New Generation of Learners. “School History.” Accessed October 16, 2018.
  • Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission. “Mount Pleasant Home for Destitute Children.” Mount Pleasant Historical. Accessed October 15 2018.