The University of Arkansas has debuted a new online archive of materials relating to Southland College in Phillips County, Arkansas. The school, established in 1864, was the first institution of higher learning for African Americans in the United States founded west of the Mississippi River.
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Originally established by Quakers from Indiana as an orphanage for slave children while the Civil War still raged, the Friends’ Freedmen Committee appointed Calvin and Alida Clark to form a school on April 19, 1864. The earliest buildings came through donations and the voluntary labor of the 56th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment during Reconstruction.
The exhibit includes photos and scanned images of letters, circulars, forms, the Southland newspaper and other ephemera, including invitations, the catalog of studies, a diploma and a commencement program. Sixty years of African American history and experiences are represented.
U of A history professor Thomas Kennedy played a key role in the transfer of the Southland Papers to the Libraries’ Special Collections department. Libraries staff who managed this project comprised Catherine Wallack, Project Curator; Deborah E. Kulczak, Head of Technical Services and Database Maintenance; Martha Parker, Digital Services Librarian; and Alyssa Willis, Cataloging Librarian.
“It’s been a privilege to collaborate in the retelling of Southland College’s remarkable history in this format,” said Wallack. “The story is both hopeful and heartbreaking, and it belies so many stereotypes about the Arkansas Delta.”
About the Scanning Process
Images were digitized and processed by the Digital Services Unit personnel, including the Digital Services Unit Coordinator, Lee A. Holt, Wendy McLean, Alexa Shephard, Rachel Ross, Jayleen Serrano and Alejandra Rubio, using an Epson Expression 10000XL flatbed scanner, a Contex HD Ultra 42″ scanner and Silver Fast Scanning software. Optical character recognition was added using ABBYY FineReader. Image optimization was performed using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat; transcripts were created and encoded using Notepad-plus-plus. CONTENTdm digital asset management software from the Online Computer Library Center was used to create metadata, using Dublin Core standards, Library of Congress Name Authorities, the Art and Architectural Thesaurus and the University of Arkansas Libraries CONTENTdm Cookbook. Dylan Hurd and Beth Juhl from Web Services contributed to the webpage design. The project was completed in May 2017.