The Animal Turn

About the project

'The Animal Turn': Digitizing Animal Protection and Human-Animal Studies Collections is a three-year, grant-funded project undertaken in partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) with funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).This project will digitize some 239,000 pages of archival materials from NCSU Libraries' nationally significant Animal Rights and Welfare collections, and approximately 150,000 pages from the ASPCA’s archival records, documenting its history as a national leader in animal protection since its founding in 1866.

The “animal turn” describes a shift in scholarly interest in the growing field of human-animal studies. Sometimes referred to as anthrozoology, human-animal studies examines relationships between humans and other animals in a variety of contexts, and incorporates perspectives and methodologies from a range of different disciplines. In order to support scholarly research in this area, The Animal Turn project will bring together key materials from the NC State University Libraries’ Animal Rights and Welfare Collections, housed in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), and historical records of the ASPCA. NC State University Libraries’ Animal Rights and Welfare collections document the social, cultural, legislative, political, and intellectual history of animal welfare and animal rights, spanning from the 19th century to the present.  

The ASPCA materials to be digitized include annual reports, correspondence, photographs, publications, and other archival materials that document and provide insight into both the ASPCA’s history, development and growth as an institution, and its position as a leader in the field of animal protection and anti-cruelty efforts. The archives document the growth of the animal advocacy movement through the lens and experience of the ASPCA, which was the first animal protection organization in the United States. By providing scholars with access to primary source materials, this project aims to illuminate the history of animal protection and allow researchers to identify new historical connections within the field of human-animal studies.

Click here to find the materials that have been digitized as part of the Animal Turn project.

Featured Collections from NC State University Libraries Included in the Grant

Tom Regan Papers, 1899-2011

Tom Regan was a leading scholar on animal rights and animal liberation philosophy. His book The Case for Animal Rights brought the discussion of animal rights to new levels of serious attention within scholarly circles. His Papers, which span his professional career, contain correspondence, research files, lectures, presentations, and other materials.

Resources from this collection have been digitized and are available online here.

Animal Welfare Institute Records, 1930-2003

The Animal Welfare Institute was created in 1951 as a non-profit, charitable organization focused on reducing the amount of suffering inflicted on animals by humans. The records of the Animal Welfare Institute include files on the organization’s animal protection work, on animal protective legislation, and on the work of other animal protection organizations. In addition to these files, the collection contains photographs, publications, correspondence, and other materials.

Resources from this collection have been digitized and are available online here.

Wim DeKok Animal Rights Collection, 1891, 1911-2016

The Wim Dekok Animal Rights Collection consists of publications, leaflets, clippings, articles, correspondence, and photographs from national and international animal rights organizations. These materials originated in many countries, including Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Australia, and were published in a variety of languages. Topics include animal cruelty, vivisection, industrial farming and animal agriculture, strays and pet keeping, whaling, the fur industry, and animals in entertainment.

Resources from this collection have been digitized and are available online here.

Animal Rights and Animal Welfare Pamphlets, 1874-1952

The Animal Rights and Animal Welfare Pamphlets Collection contains educational publications, advertisements, informational pamphlets, correspondence, subscription forms, and ephemera related to animal rights and animal welfare. Much of the material originates from the United Kingdom and was distributed by organizations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). The collection contains published essays written by prominent animal rights activists anti-vivisectionist Frances Power Cobbe and early animal rights activist Henry Stephens Salt, among others.

Resources from this collection have been digitized and are available online here.

John Ptak Collection of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare Printed Education Materials, 1882-1937

This collection contains materials related to the animal protection movement in the United States and the United Kingdom. Topics covered in the collection include humane education, the anti-vivisection movement, and humane treatment of livestock, pets, and zoo animals.

Resources from this collection have been digitized and are available online here.

Archives of the ASPCA

Along with materials from NC State University Libraries' Special Collections, 150,000 images from the archives of the ASPCA will be scanned, marking the first time that these materials have been made openly available online. The ASPCA is the oldest animal welfare organization in the United States, and as such their records provide unparalleled insight into the earliest years of animal welfare activism in this country. While the physical materials will remain in the custody of the ASPCA in New York City, we are excited to host these images as part of our animal rights and animal welfare digital collections.

The following statement was provided by the ASPCA as a summary of their archival holdings included in this grant project:

Since its inception in 1866, the ASPCA has used education as one of the primary means of achieving its mission of preventing cruelty towards animals. As the oldest animal welfare organization in the Western Hemisphere, the ASPCA is pleased to be able to provide unprecedented access to its historic archives through inclusion in the Animal Turn. We hope that access for study and dissemination will continue to promote the ever-changing dialogue on the humane treatment of animals.

Please note that this archive contains materials that date back more than 150 years, which may not reflect current best practices or positions now held by the ASPCA. It also includes disturbing content, for example images and descriptions of graphic cruelty towards animals, as well as themes and language that may be offensive.

Covering a great range and depth of history, the archive will shed light on the development of the modern animal protection and humane movements. It covers the essential roles animals have played in our society and the evolution of humankind’s treatment of them in the United States.

The archive has tremendous institutional historic value, in that it tells the story of the formation of the ASPCA in 1866 and all that it has achieved since: helping to strengthen the inextricable bond between human and animal, and harnessing experience, skills and commitment to drive toward its goal of a nation free from cruelty to animals.

From the thousands of stories of people and animals – of legislators, scientists and humanitarians; of ordinary men, women and children; and of cats, dogs, horses, cows and apes – comes one, comprehensive and unrivaled look at the evolution of animal rights in this country and the world.

This is their voice throughout history.

Resources from the ASPCA archives have been digitized and are available online here.


This project is funded by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. CLIR's Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives awards program, which is generously supported by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, supports the creation of digital representations of unique content of high scholarly significance that will be discoverable and usable as elements of a coherent national collection.

Copyright, Reproduction, and Use

The NC State University Libraries provides digitized materials from its collections as part of its mission to support the teaching and research needs of the university community and partners. These guidelines apply to the reproduction of digital copies of materials held by NC State University Libraries and its Special Collections Research Center. Because of the nature of the NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections, copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NC State University Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials. For more information about copyright, reproduction, and use of the materials digitized through the Animal Turn project, click here.


For questions about the project or the materials being digitized, contact Gwynn Thayer, Interim Department Head, Special Collections Research Center.