Feb. 2-8, 2001
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Virginia Press to launch electronic publishing

By Robert Brickhouse

The University Press of Virginia will develop a peer-reviewed electronic-publishing program of original digital scholarship in the humanities with the support of a two-year, $635,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The new electronic imprint will publish large-scale scholarly projects that involve computerized research and are created in a digital format, not simply electronic versions of print publications or e-books.

The press will aim to publish two to 10 electronic publications a year in American history, American and British literature, architecture and archaeology, all areas emphasized in the press's book program. The publications will be available either on the Web or on CDs, or both. Staff will experiment with and document a variety of cost-recovery business models for electronic publishing in consultation with Darden faculty.

"By disseminating new knowledge, the electronic imprint will complete the cycle of digital scholarship at the University," U.Va. President John T. Casteen III said. Significant research is carried out at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and other digital centers, instruction is involved through U.Va.'s Teaching and Technology Initiative, and collection and preservation of electronic materials are an important role of the library.

"This is a unique opportunity to experiment in applying the skills and standards of scholarly publishing to electronic projects, to attempt to resolve some of the issues that have stood in the way of scholarly electronic publishing, and to share what we learn with the academic and publishing community," said Nancy C. Essig, director of the press.

Such electronic projects exceed the capabilities of print and are able to include vast amounts of original source material in multimedia formats, offering new insights, forms of understanding and further avenues of research, said John Unsworth, director of U.Va.'s internationally recognized Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, who has worked closely in the planning of the new effort. A well-known example is the award-winning "Valley of the Shadow" Civil War history project, created through the Institute by U.Va. professor Edward L. Ayers and recently published on digital disks by W.W. Norton.

While many innovative scholarly projects are being created within the University, the University Press will look nationally and internationally for pioneering digital work, Essig said. Each project published will be approved by the press's editorial board and will receive extensive peer review just as print publications do.

Operations will begin in the spring, as soon as a manager and staff are hired and advisory board established. The University will match the Mellon grant with institutional funds and a grant from the Alumni Board of Trustees.

The press eventually will build a list of as many as 10 electronic publications annually, in addition to the 50 or so books it publishes each year.

The $635,000 Mellon grant is part of a fund-raising effort to match a $25 million commitment to the University's Digital Academical Village by 1987 alumnus Halsey M. Minor, chair of CNET Networks Inc.



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