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Democratizing Access to Archives

Developing the Digital Library for the South Atlantic Humanities Center

Gail McMillan (director, Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries), Dr. Anita Puckett (Center for Interdisciplinary Studies; VT co-director, South Atlantic Humanities Center), and Jennifer Gunter (coordinator, Special Collections) recently received a $60,000 Virginia Tech ASPIRES grant. Their goal is to develop locally and distribute regionally state-of-the-art software for creating researcher-friendly databases of manuscript and archival finding aids. Building on its experience in the NEH-funded Virginia Heritage Project and the ETD (electronic theses and dissertations) initiative, Virginia Tech will bring together programmers, librarians, and humanities scholars to design a local system that is adaptable by participants in the South Atlantic Humanities Center (SAHC).

VT ASPIRES support for Democratizing Access to Archives will also enable DLA to develop and implement the prototype database in conjunction with a federated search component. This will further enable access throughout the region to the unique contributions to American identities and cultures from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, US Virgin Islands, as well as Virginia.

To accomplish this, the Digital Library and Archives will adapt existing XML open source technologies for implementation at Virginia Tech and other institutions participating in the South Atlantic Humanities Center. Adding the EAD standards and further developing federated searching to DLA's cadre of services and resources, will enable researchers to access and search online simultaneously Special Collections at many institutions through the SAHC digital library. Achieving this goal will strengthen Virginia Tech's contributions to humanities research and education.

Support from the following individuals at Virginia Tech contributed to the success of the proposal:

Lay Nam Chang Dean, Interim, College of Arts and Sciences
Betty Fine Director of Humanities, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies
Ed Fox Director, Digital Library Research Laboratory
Lance French UNIX Systems Administrator, Library Systems
Lawrence Grossman Head, Department of Geography
Eileen Hitchingham Dean, University Libraries
Carolyn Kletnieks Technical Director, Digital Library and Archives
Joseph Pitt Head, Department of Philosophy
James Powell Director of Internet Applications

SAHC is funded by a five-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant as a joint endeavor of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Through academic programs and services in and for the humanities, SAHC serves Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Virgin Islands, and Virginia.

The ASPIRES program at Virginia Tech is supported by funds provided from the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

by (GMc)