The Outer Banks History Center (OBHC) is a regional archival facility administered by the State Archives of North Carolina. The mission of the Outer Banks History Center (OBHC) is to collect, preserve, and provide public access to historical and documentary materials relating to coastal North Carolina, and to serve as an accessible, service-oriented center for historical research and inquiry.
The Outer Banks History Center continually grows its collections in support of this mission. The OBHC aims to serve as a laboratory for members of the local, national, and global research community to engage with unique resources documenting coastal North Carolina history. We encourage the use of our collections by a variety of users, including (but not limited to) local community members, genealogists, students (including K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students), historians, authors, media representatives, government entities, organizations, and visitors to the Outer Banks. The OBHC collects materials on a wide range of topics in order to meet the needs of our diverse patron base, and these topics are described briefly below. Particular efforts are made to acquire materials related to disadvantaged, marginalized, and under documented groups in eastern North Carolina.
Local Communities and Regional Organizations
One of the OBHC’s primary collecting areas relates to the people, organizations, and other communities active in the coastal North Carolina region. This region includes the Outer Banks (Dare, Hyde, and Currituck counties), “Inner Banks” (Camden, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Chowan, Bertie, Washington, Tyrrell, Beaufort, Pamlico, and Carteret counties), southeastern coast (Onslow, Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties), and the immediately surrounding counties (Gates, Hertford, Martin, Pitt, Greene, Lenoir, Craven, Jones, Duplin, Bladen, and Columbus). The OBHC actively seeks to document the lived experience of individuals, families, and organizations (including businesses, clubs, benevolent groups, societies, nonprofits, and associations) residing in this region.
Family History and Genealogy
The OBHC is frequently accessed by researchers in support of genealogy and family history research. Holdings in this area include family history files and published family histories, town and county histories, regional newspapers, and copies of public records such as deeds and marriage records from Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Tyrrell counties.
Maritime History and Operations
The OBHC’s holdings include a dynamic collection of materials related to maritime history and operations of the North Carolina coast and surrounding area. Specific subject areas covered include the U.S. Lifesaving Service and U.S. Coast Guard, shipwrecks, lighthouses and other aids to navigation, coastal military operations (particularly relating to the Civil War, World War I, and World War II), tourism, commerce, the fishing and seafood industries, boats and boatbuilding, and recreation.
Material and Non-Material Culture of Coastal North Carolina
The OBHC recognizes the high value of cultural influences on the history of the coastal North Carolina region and its people. Therefore, the OBHC attempts to document both material and non-material culture on the North Carolina coast. Material culture includes subjects such as regional cookery and foodways, vernacular architecture and landscapes, archaeology, domestic arts and crafts, commemorative landscapes, and medicine and homeopathy. Nonmaterial culture includes subjects such as folkways, language and dialects, traditions, social norms, and political/social activity.
Natural History and Coastal Ecology
Researchers visiting the OBHC can trace the influences of man and nature on coastal North Carolina through special collections of natural history and the environmental sciences. Specialties include terrestrial and marine biology, aquaculture, botany, geology, geography, hydrology and oceanography, and meteorology. Major collections include those of geologist Dr. Robert Dolan, a leading scholar of shoreline dynamics and coastal geology, and holly expert Barton Bauers, author of a photographic survey of plant life in eastern North Carolina.
Early European Exploration and Discovery
North Carolina’s colonial history is an intrinsic part of the larger history of the United States of America, Europe, and global colonization. Works in this area focus on the Roanoke Voyages and the Indigenous peoples encountered by the Europeans. Other holdings include the published writings of Richard Hakluyt and John Smith, published editions of John White’s watercolors, archeological reports, maps, and navigational charts.
Inventions and Innovations
The North Carolina coast has long played an important role in invention and innovation, particularly in the field of aviation. The OBHC holds materials related to the region’s notable inventors (such as the Wright Brothers, Francis Rogallo, and Reginald Fessenden) and regional activity in the areas of aviation, marine engineering, telecommunications, and technology.
The Outer Banks History Center is administered by the Division of Archives and Records and operates under North Carolina General Statutes 121 and 132 in carrying out its archival mission and programs. All are welcome to visit the Outer Banks History Center in person to conduct research. The reading room has reference and reading areas, a public access computer, a microfilm reader-printer, a photocopier, and access to audiovisual equipment. Our knowledgeable staff of archivists is available to assist with research and to retrieve materials from our stack room for use in the reading room. OBHC staff can conduct limited reference services by phone, e-mail, mail, and fax. Lengthy or involved research may require an onsite visit.
Searching our collections may be conducted online through our catalog, MARS (Manuscripts and Archives Reference System). The OBHC also maintains online finding aids to some of its holdings.
The OBHC provides in-house photocopy, scanning and photographic reproduction services for a fee. Some holdings are not able to be reproduced due to preservation concerns or donor-imposed restrictions. Researchers may also photograph unrestricted collections using a digital camera or mobile device, with flash disabled, with the permission of a staff member.
Requesting Information by Mail or Email
In accordance with the policies of our parent agency, the State Archives of North Carolina, a $20 search and handling fee will be required for all researchers who are not residents of North Carolina for each reference inquiry delivered remotely via e-mail, correspondence, or fax. The limits of this fee are established by statute and it includes up to 20 photocopies, 8 copies from microfilm, or 1 scanned image. If copies of the requested information cannot be covered by the $20 fee, there may be an additional charge based on our current fee schedule, in which case, a statement of copying costs will be included in our response. We encourage out-of-state researchers to contact the Outer Banks History Center by phone or e-mail with an initial inquiry to determine the degree to which we anticipate being able to fulfill the search.
Education and Outreach Services
OBHC staff members actively promote the use of our collections by members of the public. Staff members regularly conduct historical, genealogical, and cultural programs and activities and maintain an ongoing exhibit program. Additionally, OBHC staff lead workshops using our collections with area student groups and provide informative presentations and guidance to area organizations and clubs. Please do not hesitate to contact the OBHC if you are interested in collaborating on an event, presentation, or workshop.