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Digital scholarship gets boost from Mellon Foundation grant

Staff Report

The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) has received a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support scholarly research based on digital primary resources.

The project will address new technical, procedural and social issues that arise when scholars and libraries jointly create, maintain and edit electronic data, said IATH director John Unsworth. The institute will work in partnership with the University Library in a three-year project supporting scholarly use of digital images, texts, maps, models and other materials. Some of these materials already reside in library collections, but others will be developed and added to library collections, along with the electronic publications resulting from research.

"We are very pleased to have their support in turning our attention to the next generation of digital library issues -- the issues that will inevitably arise once scholars everywhere begin using digital primary resources in the way that scholars at the University already do," Unsworth said.

Among key issues scholars and librarians face are how to handle changes in updated and revised electronic materials and how to devise new classification schemes when needed for new types of digital research, Unsworth said.

Since its inception in 1992, IATH has focused intensive support and advanced computer resources on long-term humanities research projects proposed by faculty at U.Va. and elsewhere. To date, IATH has supported more than 40 fellows in a range of disciplines, including architectural history, religious studies, medieval and 19th-century British literature, classical history, music, film and history of science.

The University Library has been a leader in developing and adopting electronic resources, and in promoting faculty and student use of those resources. Library specialists, IATH's staff and fellows work closely on electronic text, geospatial information, digital images, and digital video and audio. Most recently, the library has established a Digital Library Research and Development Group, charged with long-range planning of digital library systems and procedures.

"The job of building and maintaining a library collection really changes when scholars develop their research and teaching publications online," said Thornton Staples, director of the digital research group. "Not only are they building thematic research collections that include an assortment of media, but in many cases they need to comment on, edit, or annotate primary resources held separately in the digital library. This means that the library must provide the technical expertise and infrastructure to keep track of all of these pieces, their provenance, and their relations to one another. This grant will allow IATH and the library to collaborate in experimenting with new technical solutions and to develop and test the policies and procedures that will be required to manage a research library in the next century."

Previous support by the Mellon Foundation to digital research at U.Va. includes major grants to the University Library for its Early American Fiction digitization project, an extensive World Wide Web archive.

See the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities is on the Web at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/


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