Application Process and Dedication

Criteria for Historical Markers

For a variety of reasons, the state marker program simply cannot mark all historic places in North Carolina. To attempt do so would be impractical and beyond the authorized scope of the program. Aside from the cost involved, an unchecked proliferation of historical markers would create an obstruction to traffic flow and lessen the distinction of those signs designating deserving sites. 
Subjects of primarily local or regional, as opposed to statewide, significance are not eligible for state markers. An individual cannot be considered for a marker until twenty-five years after his or her death. Structures are not marked for their individual architectural value. Rather, an individual or historic event associated with a site is more likely to receive consideration. Architecturally significant buildings may be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the State Historic Preservation Office of the Division of Historical Resources. 

Over the years the Marker Advisory Committee has devised the following set of criteria, under which the program presently operates and which are promulgated in the state administrative code (07NCAC 04T.0104): 

  1. All highway historical markers shall designate places, events, or persons of statewide historical significance. Historical Significance shall mean any person, place, or event of the past that has been recorded, documented, or recognized in a primary or secondary source, such as in books, diaries, journals, newspaper articles, speeches, documentaries, textbooks, artifacts, or other items, as having a lasting contribution to North Carolina history. Subjects of local or regional importance shall not be approved for highway historical markers. Statewide historical significance must be documented by the applicant. Applications shall be submitted to determine historical significance as set forth in this Rule.
  2. Applications shall be requested from here or , ncmarkers@ncdcr.gov, 919-814-6620, and submitted in writing to the Historical Research Office of the Division of Archives and History, 4610 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4610, and include the following:
    1. the subject to be marked;
    2. the location associated with the subject;
    3. a detailed statement describing the subject's significance and its impact on North Carolina's history; and
    4. copies of primary and secondary sources detailing the subject's historical significance to North Carolina
  3. An individual shall be eligible for consideration of a historical marker 25 years following his or her death.
  4. Statewide historical significance shall be determined by the Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee based on the following factors:
    1.  the relationship of the subject to North Carolina's history;
    2.  the relationship of the subject to existing markers, such as whether the subject is included on an existing marker;
    3.  the subject's contributions to North Carolina; and
    4.  consequence of the subject on North Carolina's history.
  5.  If a person is named in the text of a marker, that individual will not be approved as the subject of a separate marker.

History Note: Authority G.S. 100-8; 121-4(7);
Eff. June 1, 1989;
Pursuant to G.S. 150B-21.3A, rule is necessary without substantive public interest Eff. July 26, 2015;
Amended Eff June 1, 2017.

Placement

The Department of Transportation restricts the placement of state historical markers to numbered state or federal highways, such as N.C. 49 or U.S. 64. Interstates, restricted access routes, city maintained streets, and "SR"'s are not eligible. Markers must not be allowed to create an unreasonable road hazard.
Applicants should specify the distance and direction from the proposed marker location to the site being marked. The members of the Marker Advisory Committee , when reviewing a proposal, will consider the feasibility of placing a marker within a reasonable proximity. Where possible, the marker will be placed at the site being marked. In other cases, they may direct the reader to a nearby site.

Pursuing a Private Marker

If the Marker Advisory Committee declines to approve a subject for a state historical marker, it may be an appropriate topic for a local or private marker. Several counties, cities, and historical groups have in place local historical marker programs for marking places of local and regional significance.
Individuals or groups are free to pursue the purchase of privately funded markers or plaques. A list of manufacturers, with addresses and phone numbers, is provided below. Such markers must be placed on private property outside the highway right-of-way, cannot bear the Great Seal of North Carolina, and should differ from state signs in color. They are not considered part of the official state marker program.
The Office of Archives and History as an agent of the State of North Carolina is prohibited from recommending any particular private supplier. The following companies have sent us material indicating that they manufacture historical markers or plaques. We suggest that interested parties correspond directly with companies listed. The State of North Carolina is not in a position to comment on the quality or reliability of service of these firms. 

Manufacturers for Private Markers (PDF format)

 

Request an application for a Historical Marker
 

Guidelines for Planning a Dedication and Unveiling Ceremony

Congratulations on successfully nominating a topic for a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker! These familiar silver-and-black signs are official recognition by the State of North Carolina that a traveler is near a site associated with a subject of statewide historical significance. As the applicant it is your prerogative as to whether to hold a program to dedicate the marker and it will be your responsibility to coordinate planning for such a program. However, the Office of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, is pleased to provide these guidelines. We stand ready to assist in making your event successful and memorable.

 

Selecting a Date

Once you have received a letter notifying you about plans to order such a marker, you should expect to allow four to five months to elapse before the marker is delivered. Once the order has been placed with the foundry, the Office of Archives and History will have a projected delivery date. Typically, deliveries for new markers are in April to May and October to November.

Selecting a Location

A key early decision on the part of applicant/planner will be where to conduct the dedication ceremony or program. With rare exceptions, these are held on or near the permanent site of the sign.

Scale

It has been our experience that a marker dedication can vary from the modest, a half-dozen people along the highway primarily for a photo opportunity, to the grand, several thousand in an auditorium, perhaps as part of a separately scheduled event. The typical program lies between those two extremes and it is that which we describe below.

Program/Invitation

Most event planners have found it useful to prepare a printed program for the day’s agenda. These can be reproduced inexpensively. The program, which might double as an invitation, can be four pages, akin to a church bulletin, or a single sheet of paper either full or half-size. We have digitized several programs as examples: Clapp's Mill, The Iron Steamer (SS Pevensey), and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly.

You might also depend upon e-mail as your primary means of issuing the invitations.

Speakers

Such programs vary widely in format but typically open with an emcee (perhaps the applicant), welcome from a local public official, recognition of elected officials and other guests, remarks about the marker program by a representative of Archives and History (participation dependent on travel budget), the keynote speaker, and the actual unveiling. Usually local planners invite the members of their legislative delegation. Should you wish to include in the invitations to speak members of the executive branch of state government, such as the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Secretary of Cultural Resources, please direct such invitations to the Department of Cultural Resources via ncmarkers@ncdcr.gov.

Publicity

The Department of Cultural Resources, upon receipt of details, will issue a press release about the upcoming dedication program. Three weeks in advance of the event, please email ncmarkers@ncdcr.gov about the time, place, and speakers on the program.

Website/Essay

Shortly after the marker has been approved, the Office of Archives and History will mount on this website an essay about the subject. You might find the essay useful to include in the printed program. We also will list your dedication program among the upcoming events on the website.

The Set-Up

If many people are expected, you likely will need a public address system, podium, and several chairs (particularly for older guests). Shaded locations are ideal and, if shade is unavailable, you may to wish to use a party tent as cover.

Length of Program

Ideally, the program will be around 20-30 minutes, variable depending on circumstances such as seating and the weather. The keynote speaker might be allowed ten minutes with all others limited to 3-5 minutes. Remember, the comfort of those who attend the program should be taken into account.

Safety

Since such programs usually are conducted alongside the highway, public safety must be a prime consideration. You might inquire about the availability of a policeman or sheriff’s deputy for the duration of the program. Special care must be taken when people are crossing the highway.

The Cover

The Office of Archives and History can provide a specially designed cloth to cover the sign for the duration of the program. When the Department of Transportation employees erect the marker, they likely will leave it covered with cardboard. The Archives and History representative will aim to arrive early and replace the cardboard with the cover.

The Reveal

The actual unveiling is the culmination of the program. Planners should select one or more special attendees to remove the cover.

Reception

It will be your option as to whether to plan a reception afterwards for those in attendance.