Eric Elliott is seeking new opportunities to add lasting value for your organization or project, with history-appreciative and community-building insights developed over his three decades of professional service.
Eric’s work product is highlighted here in four thematic areas. Throughout a career dedicated to serving valuable public institutions, he has remained an entrepreneurial and passionate information-sharer – a leader of good things.
The church’s Archives, founded in 1753 with a collection of unique German- and English-language records of the settlement of colonial North Carolina, was funded two-thirds from church sources and one-third from private gifts. When Eric began, there were four persons on full- and part-time staff. When his position was eliminated due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, there remained but a staff of one. He was able to make and meet a budget of approximately $300,000 for each of his years there.
A first charge of Eric’s was to secure the support of its major private donor [featured section image above and below]. Cherokee Nation had for ten years funded the work of the Archives to publish translated missionary records in the book series Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees. Beginning in 2008, five volumes had been produced in the series’ first six years; but only one came out in the three years prior to Eric’s arrival. Decoupling archives’ administration from the previous Archivist’s duties allowed that series editor to complete four volumes during Eric’s tenure, and the series’ creators were honored with the 2020 Samuel Worcester Award for preserving Cherokee heritage.
Eric’s administrative innovations included:
Clarity in Budgets and Administrative Procedures – Streamlined budgeting with each expense assigned a budget line, eliminating draws from general funds; made more transparent the need for increased private support to supplement shrinking church funding capacity; nearly doubled the governing Archives Commission size to ten and standardized its meeting schedule, implementing board job descriptions, mission and strategy visioning, a board planning retreat and staff performance evaluations.
Donor Cultivation and Retention – Began an annual “Supporters Appreciation Night” social event (made into an online video for the pandemic in 2020), and worked with Moravian Ministries Foundation partners to create planned giving information and online giving options; repurposed the biannual donor newsletter with color images and visitor news and charts showing operational income and outflows, with record amount of individual giving ($43K) in 2020; scheduled a first “Archives Sunday” fundraising invitation in supporting churches.
Merchandising – Using WordPress templates, personally re-made the Archives Web page that had sat stagnant in content for five years; added online sales for books, goods and services which netted $4K in new income in its first year.
Social Media and Digital Communications – Grew interest in Archives through the introduction of daily Facebook postings and directing invitations to “follow and like” to identified site visitors (followers increased from 350 to 2600); also began a graphics-designed monthly e-mail events newsletter.
Volunteer Engagement – Introduced a new Family History Docent program, recruiting and training a dozen volunteers in genealogy research unique to our holdings; began an annual volunteer recognition luncheon for the expanded number of Docents, volunteers and student interns.
Growing the Collection -reintroduced the Archives’ acquisition of secondary reference literature and created a public Book Fund to support such purchases and the creation of new Archives publications; added structure and training to the gathering and regular submission of church records for the Archives; and began a special $20,000 fund for technology (fully funded just after his departure) to replace aging equipment used to create and navigate aids to Archives holdings.
Eric has been a public advocate for a number of causes through the years – some springing from or leading into work projects, others simply because of his desire to see better things for the community.
Project work advocating for others was facilitated by the consulting business Eric began in the 1990s, Echidna Design, allowing Eric to work on text, Web and promotional marketing for clients. Eric’s skills were no doubt also aided by his training in law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Villanova University
Public Education – as PTA/PTSA president at his kids’ first two schools, Eric cheer-ledschool community and raised funds purchasing new signage and playground equipment at Brunson Elementary and beautification and signage at Hanes Middle. The great disparity in playground equipment at poorer neighborhood schools, and the general segregation of resources available to schools, led Eric to run in 1998 and 2002 for school board. Though unsuccessful politically, that led to Eric’s service as a local precinct chair, and to his designing the first Web sites for the local Democratic party and for then-new Winston-Salem mayoral candidate Allen Joines.
Public Art – After his Grace Court clock work, in 2000 Eric was appointed by Winston-Salem Mayor Jack Cavanagh to chair a Task Force on Public Art, which kick-started conversations between arts leaders and local officials but ended within a year with the election of a new mayor. In helping neighbors place a sculpture in Grace Court after the 2007 Historic West End Artsfest, Eric returned to envisioning with others the role of art and design in “placemaking.” He joined the local Arts Council’s Public Art and Design Committee as they explored the creation of a city public art plan and public art commission, and lobbied with the Creative Corridors Coalition, imagining design possibilities in the planned rebuild of the cross-town Business I-40 highway. Eric began sharing his own research and news of local efforts on his new blog Ars urbi serviat -“Art serving the city.” and helped lead community meetings seeking support for creative highway design and lobbied for public art. In 2013 Winston-Salem made a public art commitment and began a planning process, and in 2021 the new Salem Parkway features two innovative pedestrian bridges and a nearby US 52 bridge with a symbolic crossing Twin Arches design.
Greenspace Preservation -returning to his family home in Gastonia, NC, Eric led two fights against commercial rezoning of a fourteen-acre wooded and wetland parcel that residential neighbors had battled for four decades. He went door-to-door to rally opposition with flyers, assembled a steering committee to fight, created a media catchphrase for both the parcel and the fight, started a blog to share the history of the parcel fights and current efforts, wrote editorials, created videos of the flooding made worse by development, invited political candidates to new monthly neighborhood meetings, raised money to hire an attorney, networked local media and a 300-person neighbor and friend e-mail list, and won a surprising unanimousvictory. Eighteen months later a second smaller footprint proposal won a 4-3 approval in the last council meeting led by a leading development proponent, despite Eric’s work with a new rallying-cry blog and editorials, and media coverage and neighbor opposition. Though unable to “Keep Franklin Woods,” “No Big Box” development came. Academy Sports would later re-purpose an existing building in a nearby shopping center, a win-win for the town. And neighbors got a renewed sense of purpose and problem-solving in the fight.
Discovering a talent after placing second in a statewide oratorical contest in junior high, Eric has always enjoyed public speaking. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the leader of his high school’s future educators club has paired his lifelong interest in learning with a passion for sharing knowledge, sometimes in unexpected places and ways.
Teaching– though he held teaching assistant posts for two grad school classes in history of science at the University of Pennsylvania, Eric’s most consistent teaching experience was as a twenty-year instructor for small group studies at Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, including a year as interim youth minister and founding the Celebration Sunday School Class. Eric’s Sunday School classes were a seminar discussion format, focusing on Bible studies, life issues, religious history and literature. A favorite summer session course he designed surveyed the gospel story as told through art history. He also served a terms as education representative on the church’s administrative board and chair of its child care center board.
Trainer/Facilitator – receiving training in nonprofit board best practices from Karl Yena and HandsOn Northwest North Carolina, Eric later ran board workshops for Winston-Salem Writers, Inc. and the Moravian Archives. He’s also led training sessions for the Forsyth County Board of Elections and for a variety of group day retreats. Eric’s years of interactive teaching have made him an excellent meeting and discussion facilitator.
Public History – Eric’s first efforts to create interpretive history on-site came in 1991, volunteering a sketch of ideas to a task force seeking to create a new Forsyth County history museum (a form of which finally opened in 2008 and is now being re-envisioned as MUSE). In 1993 Eric worked with task force member Barry Miller, company archivist at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, to create a lobby display of that company’s historic product packaging. Eric’s 2004 photo history of the historic West End neighborhood – home to the Reynolds, Hanes and Gray families when Winston-Salem was the largest city in the state – is a book that reads in part like an on-site tour guide. In 2005 Eric fashioned a display of some of the book’s most compelling images into a twice-appearing exhibit at the Winton-Salem Visitor Center. Eric’s later sketch of a permanent display on the history of the former Fries factory housing the Visitor Center was interrupted by a request in 2012 by family friend Lynette Matthews-Murphy to tell on-site the story of the A. H. Bahnson House, the location of her new Spring House Restaurant. Finally, in 2013 owner Dana Bryson invited Eric to tell the story of the Fries factory alongside a large “family tree” in the lobby of her Historic Brookstown Inn, the conference facility which also shared the Visitor Center space.
Oral History – Eric assisted with research for several oral history interviews with chemists for the Center for History of Chemistry in grad school. In 1999 he was recommended by Barry Miller, then at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, to University Archivist Betty Carter as she sought to conduct interviews with World War II women veterans in preparation for the Class of 1949’s fiftieth reunion. That class contained the first group of alumnae who attended school on the GI Bill. Eric created release forms modeled after those from the Oral History Program at the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill (now Southern Oral History Program); and he designed an Access database form to track biographical, donation and processing information on each interviewee. 128 of Eric’s interviews, mainly with the first generation of vets to “free a man to fight,” have been transcribed and are now accessible through UNCG’s Betty Carter Women Veterans Historical Project (WVHP). In 2003 Eric authored a successful $50,000 NEH Consultation Grant to help the school examine options for the use and distribution of the the oral history collection.