History for All the People

History for all the People

Dr. Jeff Crow
Deputy Secretary for the
N.C. Office of Archives & History


A centennial is an important milestone in the history of any institution. As the deputy secretary for the Office of Archives and History, I wear several hats, including those of state historic preservation officer, coordinator of the State Historical Records Advisory Board, and secretary of the North Carolina Historical Commission. At the seventy-fifth anniversary of the North Carolina Historical Commission in 1978, I doubt that I even considered being present for the centennial of the commission. Now it is my honor to preside over the venerable state agency in its one-hundredth year.

When I joined the staff of Archives and History as heritage consultant for the American Revolution Bicentennial Committee in 1974 fresh out of graduate school at Duke University, the agency was one-half its present size in number of employees. Its expenditures, moreover, were one-eighth the present amount. Despite recent budgetary crises that have affected all of state government, the North Carolina Office of Archives and History remains one of the largest and most comprehensive state public history agencies in the nation.

The one-hundred-year legacy of Archives and History underscores two abiding features about the preservation of North Carolina's heritage. First, the people of North Carolina treasure their history. The General Assembly has provided the necessary funding to allow the programs of Archives and History to grow and to make available a wide range of services. Second, the people of North Carolina have been well served by a professional and dedicated staff whose work is highly regarded and respected.

At the seventy-fifth anniversary of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association in 1975, Frontis W. Johnston, the Davidson College historian, remarked: "Every organization as old as ours has some history to lean on, some history to overcome, and some history to make." As Archives and History enters its second century, it continues a long tradition of excellence in the service of history. Yet, as William S. Price Jr., former director of Archives and History, once observed: "We forget the 'public' in public history only at our peril." That sense of public service impels the staff of Archives and History. That dedication has led hundreds of employees—upwards of 2,800 over the course of 100 years—to devote all or part of their careers to furthering the promotion and preservation of this state's history.

In writing the new history of the agency, Ansley Herring Wegner has placed the service commitment at the center of her story. Receiving less attention are the inevitable organizational and personnel changes. Highlighted separately in accompanying features are initiatives and programs, some ongoing, some long since concluded. Assisting Ansley in preparing the twenty feature articles devoted to specific topics were her colleagues in the Research Branch, Michael Hill, Dennis F. Daniels, and Mark Anderson Moore.

History for All the People, the title of the book and the theme of the centennial commemoration, was a slogan applied to Archives and History programming by Christopher Crittenden, director from 1935 to 1968. "Our histories should be something of broad, general interest—not merely for the professional historians, not merely for the genealogists, not just for any other limited group, but instead for the people at large," Crittenden wrote in 1941. "There are opportunities in this realm of which we have only begun to take advantage," he declared. Crittenden's words are as timely today as they were more than a half century ago.

Jeffrey J. Crow
Deputy Secretary
Department of Cultural Resources
Director, Office of Archives and History


© 2004 North Carolina Office of Archives & History. All rights reserved.