Have you ever stared at the old annual reports and marketing materials in storage and asked yourself, “Who would want this stuff?”
The answer: Chris Hamrick and Akeem Flavors, the keepers of Duke Energy’s history.
The two archivists maintain an extensive collection – nearly 600,000 photos, an astounding number of Reddy Kilowatt knickknacks and even a cannon used to shoot transmission lines across the Catawba River during the flood of 1916. The items occupy several rooms in a Charlotte office building, and as the company grows, so do the size and importance of the collection.
Preserving Duke Energy’s history is critical because it’s also the history of company service territories. Although the collection focuses heavily on the Carolinas, Hamrick and Flavors are working hard to include more items from legacy companies in Florida, Indiana and Ohio, such as Cincinnati Gas & Electric, Florida Power Corp., Public Service of Indiana.
“A large portion of our collection really tells the story of the electrification of the Carolinas,” Hamrick said. “It was our founders’ money, brains and passion for the poor Southern Piedmont that grew the company into something that brought the South into the modern era.”
Outside organizations including newspapers, universities and researchers use the archives as a resource. The Charlotte Observer called on the archives to provide photos and information on the flood of 1916 for an article, and the University of South Carolina-Lancaster reviewed photographs and maps to research the locations of possible Native American burial grounds in southern South Carolina.
Duke Energy employees are able to use the archives, too. Several employees have solved maintenance issues by reviewing construction photos to see how plants were built, and others have proved land ownership by looking at documents that show company rights of way.
“This vault of information,” Hamrick said, “helps us look back on the past to make decisions in the future.”
While Duke Energy employs only two archivists, Hamrick and Flavors will tell you anyone can help preserve history. Recently, employee resource groups and departments have helped by organizing thousands of photographs and placing them in acid-free sleeves for protection.
Members of a networking group for new employees have toured the archives, mingled and learned about company history as they flipped through pictures.
In addition to volunteering, the archivists said they hope those who hold on to pieces of company history will donate them. Retiring employees often leave with artifacts they’ve gathered or, worse, throw them away.
Among recently donated treasures was an Edison Electric Institute 2006 Edison Award donated by a retired Progress Energy employee. The award was an industry-wide achievement for operational performance, reliability, customer service and environmental stewardship. It will be displayed with other company honors.
Hamrick said they want external signage from legacy companies, unique or outdated equipment, uniforms and clothing, scrapbooks, executive portraits, annual reports, photos and power station histories.
The archives are in most need of items from Cincinnati Gas & Electric and Florida Power Corp. Although Cincinnati Gas is the oldest legacy company, it has the smallest archive collection. So, the next time you're looking through your files, don't forget about the Duke Energy archives!
How you can help
Top items on the archivists’ wish list:
- Florida Power Corp. annual reports from 1956-1967, 1969-1970, 1975-1978, 1982 and 1987
- Cincinnati Gas & Electric and Florida Power Corp. news releases
- Cincinnati Gas & Electric holiday train photos, train pieces, advertisements, signage, scrapbooks
- A Florida Power Corp. hard hat from before the Carolina Power & Light merger
- Tidewater Power Co. publications or photos
- Issues of the Public Service of Indiana Co.’s Watts Cookin’ publication
To donate items or see if an item not listed above is of interest to the archives, contact Hamrick or Flavors at CorporateArchives@duke-energy.com or 704.382.6166.