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NEH Challenge Grant Will Help Create $1 Million Electronic Text Center Endowment

Dec. 7, 1999 -- The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a $200,000 challenge grant to the University of Virginia Library for its innovative Electronic Text Center. With this grant, matched four-to-one by private fundraising over a four-year period, the library will create a $1 million endowment that will be used to expand what has become one of the most respected online cultural and research sites.

A portion of the NEH funds will go immediately to train and support graduate students, as well as to keep computer hardware and software up to date, and to provide quick-response digitizing support. Once the endowment is fully funded, it will provide tens of thousands of dollars every year for the Etext Center's primary goals: to build and maintain an Internet-accessible collection of texts and images in the humanities, and to nurture a user community adept at the creation of these materials.

According to University Librarian Karin Wittenborg, "This grant comes at the perfect time as we are working to build on our already substantial accomplishments in the digital world to create the Library of Tomorrow here at Virginia. A little known fact about the Etext Center is that it started in 1992 as one English graduate student (now Director David Seaman) at a desk with a personal computer, and it is now a model for libraries worldwide."

The Etext Center provides access to over 45,000 electronic texts online and hosts a myriad of websites created by faculty for creative teaching and learning. The site provides access to texts in English and 13 other languages, including innovative sites in Japanese and Chinese literature, as well as specialized teaching archives on subjects ranging from Mark Twain to Samuel Taylor Coleridge to the Salem Witch trials. The Etext web server receives over 80,000 individual accesses per day, making it a prime cultural outreach vehicle of the University.

The center was the brainchild of Deputy University Librarian Kendon Stubbs, who early on saw the need for libraries to take advantage of emerging computer technologies. Throughout its history, the center has been a leader in setting standards for the coding and delivery of texts in order to guarantee universal accessibility. It has also garnered substantial funding for individual projects, including two major grants over six years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create an archive of images and texts from rare first editions of early American fiction.

"We pride ourselves on our local service," said Etext Center Director David Seaman, "and have an international presence in our areas of expertise. The endowment we build with the NEH challenge grant and our private donors will allow us to continue to thrive and support massive public use as well as an increasingly demanding local audience."

"Several friends of the library have already contributed nearly $100,000 in cash and pledges that can be counted toward the NEH challenge," said Hoke Perkins, director of development for electronic services. " In the coming years, we hope to use the challenge not only to build the endowment, but also to spread the word about the wonders of the new digital world here at the University of Virginia Library."

For more information about the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia Library, visit its web site at: or contact Director David Seaman at (804) 924-3230.

Contact: Melissa Norris, (804) 924-4254

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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