As a student collaborator for the GrowingChange History Project, I quickly grew accustomed to driving the 77 mile stretch from Greensboro to the State Archives in Raleigh. My assignment was to pull and scan any relevant documents or photographs related to mass incarceration in North Carolina. I focused on the Governor Hunt and Governor Martin papers. Both governors held terms from the 1970s through the 1990s. Due to “tough on crime” policies during these years, North Carolina’s prison populated rose exponentially. In fact, from 1992 to 1996, the numbers rose from 20,351 to 30,775.
Although conducting extensive archival research was rewarding, my most enjoyable research experience came when I found a number of negatives owned by the News & Observer. These photographs (also can be seen in the content preview section) were taken by a staff member in 1988 and reflect the overcrowded conditions at Wagram. So far, we have not been able to find a News & Observer article linked to these photographs, but this was a neat experience for me because our partners at GrowingChange had never seen the photographs and expressed interest in using them not only in the exhibit but also for interpretation at the old prison site.
Sometimes images can tell a larger story than words. So we hope that including these photographs in the exhibit along with minimal interpretation will encourage people to start their own dialogues.