Kevin Cherry

Kevin Cherry photo


Deputy Secretary


North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources



Graduation year:

"[SILS] gave me a quick set of skills to use to get into the profession and taught me how to continually upgrade and adapt those skills."

What was your educational and professional background before coming to SILS?

I was a graduate student in History (specializing in History of Science) at UNC-Chapel Hill and working as a graduate assistant in Wilson Library's North Carolina Collection when I started taking classes in SILS. I later worked in a grant-funded position in the Southern Historical Collection and as the Local History Librarian at Rowan Public Library in Salisbury. While working for the State Library of North Carolina, I began taking PhD classes while working full-time, specializing in Archives.

How has your career progressed since you graduated SILS?

Following my work at UNC-Chapel Hill's special collections units and the local history collection at Rowan Public Library in Salisbury, NC, I became the Consultant for Special Collections at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources' State Library where I worked with the state's small and mid-sized library, museum, and archival collections, helping them transition to the digital age. I then taught in the College of Education at East Carolina University, and became a senior program officer at the Institute of Museum and Library Services where I helped coordinate the largest competitive grant program for libraries and archives the nation. One of the primary charges of this program was to help position the nation's memory institutions to better preserve the record of human achievement stored in digital form. This led to grants for research, curriculum development, professional development, recruitment, policy development, and scholarships. In 2012, I was given the opportunity to return home from Washington, DC to rejoin the NC Department of Cultural Resources as the Deputy Secretary of the Department and the Director of the Office of Archives and History. The department later doubled in size and was renamed the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. It includes the state's history, maritime, science, and art museums; state parks; aquariums; zoo, historic sites; archaeology; historic preservation; symphony; arts council; African American Heritage Commission; a publishing unit; and the division of land and water stewardship.

In your current employment, what are your job duties and responsibilities?

As the Deputy Secretary, I am the lead professional of the agency and the bridge between professional staff and political leadership for the entire department. As the Director of the Office of Archives and History, I provide direct supervision and coordination of the divisions of State History and Maritime Museums, State Historic Sites, Historical Resources (including the Office of State Archaeology, State Historic Preservation Office, and Office of Historical Research), State Archives, Roanoke Island Festival Park, the North Carolina Transportation Museum, Tryon Palace State Historic Sites and Gardens, and the Battleship North Carolina. As the State Historic Preservation Officer, I fulfill federal and state statutory responsibilities with regards to historic preservation, and the Secretary of the North Carolina Historical Commission, I execute the policy decisions of the North Carolina Historical Commission which has the approval and placement of all monuments on state property as part of its purview, and as the Keeper of the Capitol, I manage the museum aspects of the State Capitol and Executive Mansion while aiding the Office of the Governor with ceremonies of the Executive Branch.

What projects have gotten you most excited and/or what accomplishments have made you the proudest?

I am especially proud of the fact that our department's mid-1990's North Carolina ECHO (Exploring Cultural Heritage Online) project became a national model for statewide digitization programs. I am also happy to have been a part of the development of the National Digital Stewardship Residency Program at the Library of Congress and a small part of the curricular changes at the graduate level in a number of institutions that helped address digital preservation issues. I am happy to have encouraged and supported our department's current real-time streaming projects designed to carry subject matter experts into the classrooms across the state. The department-wide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the United States Civil War in 2015 brought our historical units the highest visitation they have ever experienced while winning accolades from colleagues around the nation for being especially sensitive and inclusive. I am also proud to be a part of a department that is working hard to conserve important natural resources through the creation of key pieces of managed public land. But perhaps most importantly, my colleagues and I have developed multiple streams of support outside of government appropriations to fund what we do making our work more sustainable.

What were some of your best experiences at SILS??

I enjoyed my internships in Wilson Library at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center greatly. I also enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow students from all over during class and outside of classes while we worked on projects together or just hung out. The professors were excellent, of course, but it was the wide-ranging mix of interests represented by the faculty, I now know, which made for the special experience. There is much to be said for being exposed to the highly quantitative and qualitative, the high tech and high touch and SILS faculty provided that.

How did your time at SILS prepare you for the future?

It introduced me to the profession that I thought that I knew, but I didn't. It put me in touch with national experts in a number of areas, some of whom I continue to call upon for advice. It challenged me and provided me with support while I worked to meet the challenges. It gave me practice in the processes of writing arguments based upon evidence, making presentations,  and working in groups, preparing me for what I essentially do on a day-to-day basis, even though the content is quite different. It gave me a quick set of skills to use to get into the profession and taught me how to continually upgrade and adapt those skills.

What inspires or motivates you?

Whenever I get tired of my "desk work," I wander out into one of our galleries or search rooms or look forward to a Saturday when I can watch the kids at a park, site, zoo aquarium or museum enjoy our institutions. Seeing their curious interactions with my colleagues and their work always gives me enough of whatever it is I need to go back to the paperwork and revisit the donors and the elected officials, and whatever else it might take.

Is there any other information you would like to share, or any advice you would like to offer current or future SILS students?

Don't neglect your out-of-class interactions with your professors and fellow students!