Mellon Foundation Awards Second Grant
Library Developments, (Spring 1999).
In a project that will create digital versions of first editions of Louisa May Alcott, Samuel Clemens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and some go other 19th-century novelists, the University Library will continue its groundbreaking digital work with a grant of $500,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This grant is spurred by the success of the Library's three-year project to build the Early American Fiction Archive, also supported by the Mellon Foundation, which has created high quality digital images and searchable digital texts of over 560 volumes of American fiction published between 1789 and 1850. A subset of these volumes can be seen on the World Wide Web at http:// etext.lib.virginia.edu/eaf. The present project (Early American Fiction, phase two, or EAF II) will carry this important body of digital work into the period 1851-1875. The books being digitized for EAF II come from Special Collections, primarily from one of the world's most complete collections of American Literature, the Clifton Waller Barrett Library.
Other than the benefit of viewing online such treasures of our culture as the first edition of Moby Dick, two major purposes are being met by the creation of these texts. Digital access to every page, including covers and endsheets, can substitute in many cases for a visit to examine rare editions; and an archive that allows searching across the range of American fiction offers unprecedented research opportunities for literary scholars. EAF I has proven that highquality digital data can be produced at a reasonable cost and on a large scale, and that users of printed books quickly see the research and teaching possibilities of a complementary digital collection.
According to Karin Wittenborg, university librarian, "this new grant allows us to build on the experience of EAF I to make an increasingly useful literary archive. We are gratified by this recognition of our technical expertise and the enduring value of the Barrett collections."
Cooperative ventures with faculty members have shown that the highest usage of digital materials comes when a context surrounds the primary literary archive, so an important aspect of EAF II will be the creation of teaching guides, with links to digital biographies, maps, photos, manuscripts, and other ancillary materials. The Mellon grant will support two graduate fellows to coordinate this work.
The grant will also support a conference in the summer of 2001 to bring key American literature scholars together to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working with digital materials, the economics of rare book usage in the digital age, and strategies for moving the cultural repositories of the past into the newest technological environments.
U.Va. Library staff responsible for the EAF project include Deputy University Librarian Kendon Stubbs; David Seaman, director of the Electronic Text Center; and from Special Collections, Director Mike Plunkett, Associate Director Edward Gaynor, Head of Public Services Heather Moore, and a host of students working with digital imaging and computer manipulation technology.