Horry County Archives at CCU is up and runningby Russell Alston
Residents of Horry County have a new place to research their past or the history of the area—the Horry County Archives Center at Coastal Carolina University.
According to Ben Burroughs, director of the Horry County Archives Center, the new facility is a result of the need for a local place where the region’s local history can be collected and researched.
“Previously, the Waccamaw Room in Kimbel Library was basically a small room that was being used as a place for storing old books relating to local history,” says Burroughs.
Those books were collected and renamed the Waccamaw Collection, and they serve as the original contribution to the new archives.
Burroughs says he first presented a proposal in 2006 to then CCU President Ronald Ingle for a designated location to study the local history of not only Horry County, but the surrounding counties as well. The Horry County Higher Education Commission agreed and established the Horry County Archives Center at Coastal Carolina University. The HCHEC continues to support the Center with annual funding.
“So much is changing around here,” he says. “There needs to be a local spot for researching the region.”
Originally at the Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine & Wetland Studies, room 129, now the archives can be found on the second floor of Kimbel Library. A collection of books, pictures, letters, land deeds and other historical records from the surrounding counties are housed in Kimbel Library’s room 220.
While genealogical research isn’t the purpose of the archives, according to Burroughs, they can provide that service as well. The center is equipped with two microfiche readers, which researchers can use to look up land records on microfilm that Burroughs purchased for the center that details local records dating back to the 1730s.
“For example, these records show us the King is giving acres of land to John Alston, and later on Alston is selling it to Percival Pawley.”
Burroughs is also helping to usher the archives into the digital age with the help of Kimbel Library’s Scott Bacon and Bryan Briones, and they are beginning with CCU yearbooks. He believes CCU is “a major part of Horry County’s history,” although the university is a young 59 years old. He’s working on a project that involves gathering a newer type of historical record that will be easily accessed by the students and general public.
“We have been gathering yearbooks from every year going back to ’54,” he says. “Then we sent them to be scanned and digitized, and when they get back, we will put them online.”
Those yearbooks will be available through Coastal Carolina University’s online digital collection, which will consist of both Kimbel Library and HCAC items.
“And that’s just going to be the beginning,” he says.
Historical photographs, journals and letters from Confederate soldiers are also being digitized for placement into the archives. The process is a slow one, however. Burroughs has been scanning documents since the summer, and also transcribing handwritten letters from the 1860s.
“That’s what takes so long, the transcribing,” he says. “You’ve got to know how to read this stuff, and then make the data searchable online.”
Once the project is completed, however, everything will be searchable and available with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. The first material in the digital archives is expected to be online by January 2014.
Until then, the physical archives are open and ready not just for the CCU community, but they’re also available to the public. Burroughs envisions a day when researchers and history buffs from Horry, Georgetown, Marion, Williamsburg, Dillion and even Florence counties visit the archives to find out more on their local history.
“A lot of this is community outreach,” he says. “Once we get the word out there and get established, I believe they’ll come and use our research facilities.”
Burroughs says his niche is local history. His own family history goes back deep into the area’s past. He also previously served as the director for the Horry County Historical Society, where limited resources restricted the scope of local history research. That is not the case at CCU, however.
“Coastal has the power and the influence to do this and do this right.”