Guest post by Karen Sieber
The Digital Innovation Lab at UNC is holding an open house at the repurposed Loray Mill in Gastonia on April 17. Once the largest textile mill under one roof in the South, it is now the site of the largest adaptive reuse preservation project under one roof in state history.
The open house, running from 2-4:30 p.m., will give the community a preview of the mill’s future Alfred C. Kessell History Center, and will showcase the work of UNC students, faculty and staff in the preserving of the mill and mill village’s history. There will also be screenings of a historical film shot in Gastonia, live music and art, a self-guided historic walking tour and refreshments. The event is free and open to the public.
The History Open House will be a chance for community members to get a first look at the history center, slated to open later this year. Dr. Julie Davis, a postdoctoral fellow who lives in the mill and serves as UNC’s “public historian in residence,” is coordinating the history center’s creation, funded by UNC alum Rick Kessell in honor of his father (and the men and women like him) who worked in the mill. Exhibits on display will showcase the work of UNC faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students over nearly three years to create a digital archive of the history of the mill and mill village, interactive maps and timelines, and 3D models of mill village housing.
Students from Prof. Robert Allen’s AMST 350H class (“Main Street Carolina”) will be on hand to share their research on families who lived in the mill village a century ago. Digital Innovation Lab General Manager Will Bosley has turned a 20’x10’ window into an 8-screen projection surface to display more than 300 images from the Digital Loray archive. Attendees can also browse copies of the mill’s newspaper or watch a moving montage of images from the archive.
Also on tap for the afternoon of April 17 will be the “premiere” of H. Lee Waters’ film of Gastonia, made in April 1942, which shows hundreds of employees and children from the mill and village. One of the project partners, Duke University Library, has made a digital copy of the original Kodacolor film, which will be screened for the first time since April 1942.
American Studies professor Robert Allen will lead a short program at 2:30 to recognize the Digital Innovation Lab’s partners in this endeavor thus far, including Preservation North Carolina, the UNC Library and the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, Duke University Library, Preservation N.C., Gaston County Museum of Art and History, the Loray Baptist Church, the Gaston County Public Library and the developer, Loray Redevelopment LLC. Individual project partners integral to the project, Lucy Penegar and Bill Passmore, will also be recognized.