South Carolina Department of Archives and HistorySouth Carolina Department of
Archives and History
Centennial Exhibit - 1905-2005


A Century of Archival Effort
The Historical Commission of South Carolina, the predecessor of the South CarolinaRendition of the Archives and History Center Department of Archives and History, took charge of the state’s rich heritage of inactive public records on April 1, 1905. South Carolina had a long history of concern for its government records, rescuing them from war, hurricane, and fire, but it lagged behind its sister southern states in publishing its early records and establishing a separate state agency to care for them. Beginning with but one employee and two rooms in the State House, the agency outgrew two other sites before moving to the Archives and History Center in 1998.

North Carolina’s publication of its colonial records spurred an effort that led to South Carolina’s archival agency. Wanting a similar publication, the South Carolina Historical Society mounted a statewide petition drive that obtained legislative funding for a Public Record Commission in 1891. That commission obtained transcripts of colonial records in England and in 1894 successfully recommended the establishment of a permanent Historical Commission. The commission was charged with collecting historical records of all types but it had no staff and its collections were deposited with the Secretary of State. The commission was transformed into an archival agency by legislative act in 1905. The agency long made documentary publication one of its highest priorities.

South Carolina has one of the richest collections of colonial, state, and local government records in the nation. When the Historical Commission moved into the World War Memorial Building in 1936 it had but three staff members. The Archives Building on Senate Street, occupied in 1960 and doubled in size in 1971, and a greatly increased staff that reached 130 by 1980 allowed expanded programs and intensive work with the archival records. At its peak the department had the best research hours of any state archives. Reductions in recent years have curtailed the agency’s activities, but computer technology has allowed exciting advances in making its wealth of records available.

Alexander Samuel Salley,
South Carolina’s First State Archivist

Mr. Salley's original desk and Fireproof safe
A. S. Salley, Jr., took office as the South Carolina Historical Commission’s first employee, titled "secretary," on April 1, 1905. For nearly two decades, he was the only staff member. The commission and its successor agency the South Carolina Department of Archives and History have had only five directors in the century since its inception.
The original desk and fireproof safe used by Mr. Salley

J. Harold Easterby, who became the second director in 1949, was a College of Charleston history professor who modernized the agency’s archival and publication programs and, just before his death, obtained its first adequate building at the corner of Senate and Bull Streets. Charles E. Lee served as director from 1961 to 1987. In those years the agency greatly expanded its responsibilities and staff.

George L. Vogt, director from 1987 to 1995, obtained the funding for the Archives and History Center before leaving to become director of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Rodger E. Stroup, the current director, took office in 1997. Dr. Stroup brought an increased emphasis on programs to improve history education in the secondary schools.

Bust of Alexander S. Salley, 1st archivist of South CarolinaBust of Alexander Samuel Salley,
ca. 1935-1936

After 44 years Salley retired in 1949 at the age of 78.  A. Wolfe Davidson sculpted this bust more than a decade earlier.  By 1949 many history professionals believed that the time had come for Salley to step aside, but he still had his ardent admirers.

 The bust was a generous centennial gift to the department by Mrs. Ann Bowen of Greenwood.  It comes from the estate of her late husband Don Herd, a president of Lander College.  Herd purchased the bust from Salley’s widow.


Records Management
In the mid-1960s the department added a records management program. The State Records Survey program was established in 1966 to assist state agencies with managing their records. Staff worked with agencies to identify permanently valuable records and transfer them to the State Archives; to identify inactive records and schedule their transfer to the State Records Center, then operated by the Division of General Services; and to write records schedules authorizing the destruction of non-permanent records after specified retention periods. The records management program freed up office space where many useless records were being maintained, removed records from substandard storage areas, and slowed down the continued purchase of costly records storage equipment. In 1968 a County Records Survey program was established to provide records management services to the state’s forty-six counties.

Interior of the state Records Center



In January 1973 the State Records Center was transferred from the Division of General Services to the State Archives. Later that year the General Assembly passed the Public Records Act. This act gave the State Archives legal authority over the management of all public records and required agencies and local governments to work with the Archives in managing their records.



In 1974 the Central Microfilm Unit was transferred SCDAH staff microfilmingfrom the Division of General Services to State Archives control. The State Records Center moved to a newly adapted warehouse in 1976, and its capacity was doubled to nearly 100,000 cubic feet a decade later.

Records management staff provide assistance through on-site consultations; records management training sessions; storage of inactive records at the State Records Center; and microfilming, processing of microfilm, and security microfilm storage.

Record keeping has dramatically changed since the Archives initiated its records management program forty years ago. While the amount of paper records continues to grow, today many records are created and kept electronically. Just like paper records, electronic records must be properly managed to ensure that information will be available for future needs. The Archives is working with agencies and local governments to address issues associated with electronic records and develop policies and guidelines on issues such as digital imaging, managing e-mail, the care and handling of electronic records, and creating and maintaining trustworthy information systems.

Regardless of the type media on which information is recorded, the records management efforts of the Department of Archives and History are directed toward efficient records keeping in state agencies and local governments while working to ensure that permanently valuable records will be available for generations to come.

Historic Preservation
In the 1960s the Department of Archives and History expanded its mission to include promoting the preservation of historic buildings, structures, sites, and districts. This new direction was accelerated by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which created programs for encouraging the preservation of historic places important to the nation, the state, or the local community. The 1966 law also authorized matching grants to the states to help the National Park Service carry out these programs.
Octagonal Barn built circa 1915,
near McConnells, York County

In 1967 the Department of Archives and History was designated the agency to implement the National Historic Preservation Act in South Carolina. The division created within the department to administer historic preservation programs became the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Today the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO):

Preserving and Making the Records Accessible

Microfilm can save storage and preserve documents
Microfilm of records provides a security copy in case of disaster and allows inexpensive distribution of the information in the records. The Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade, 1710-1718, were microfilmed by the State Records Project of the Library of Congress and the University of North Carolina in 1949. That project filmed a number of the most important records in the holdings of the Historical Commission. A few years later the commission cooperated with the Genealogical Society of Utah in the filming of many courthouse records. The commission acquired its own first microfilm camera in 1953.

Indexing Records
Between 1974 and 1990 the department used the SPINDEX software developed by the National Archives to index in detail nearly 300,000 individual archival documents. Although these documents are only a tiny part of the department’s massive holdings, the resultant computer output microfilm indexes were a real boon to research. In the year 2000 this data was converted to SQL on-line software that allows more sophisticated searching of this index data anywhere in the world via the Internet.

Digitizing Records
In 2001 the department began to digitize a small portion of its holdings and placeDigitizing the Archives Records
the images on its website. With the assistance of funding provided by a Library Services and Technical Assistance grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the South Carolina State Library, a few series have been scanned and linked to the search results from the On-line Index. Follow this link to view the documents which have been placed on-line.


Items from The Collection

South Carolina's vote for George Washington in 1789- signed by the electorsSouth Carolina Votes for George Washington, 1789
South Carolina’s electors for the first president and vice president included a former president of Continental Congress (Henry Laurens), two signers of the Declaration of Independence (Thomas Heyward, Jr., and Edward Rutledge), and a signer of the United States Constitution (Charles Cotesworth Pinckney). Six of the seven men had been prisoners of the British during the American Revolution. This signed and sealed election return is a duplicate of one in the records of the United States Senate at the National Archives and probably was sent to the General Assembly.
Miscellaneous Communications to the General Assembly, 1789, No. 5. Generously returned to state custody by Mr. and Mrs. John Fletcher Hays of Lake Placid Florida

Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade
Commissioners of the Indian Trade. Journal of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade, 1710-1718, p.16
This volume records the proceedings of two commissions, 1710-1715 and 1716-1718. It was among the records rescued in the early 1850s by John Sitgraves Green, Agent for Colonial and Revolutionary Records. Green was in many ways the ancestor of modern archivists but his position lasted only from 1850 to 1853. The manuscript was deacidified and restored by the William J. Barrow method of archival lamination in the mid-twentieth century. The department acquired the equipment for this method of restoration in 1952 and began to phase out its use at the end of the 1970s.