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NEH Preservation Grant Will Fund The Virginia Heritage Project To Provide Online Access To Major Virginia Research Materials

April 7, 2000 -- The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $250,000 preservation grant to the University of Virginia Library, representing VIVA, the Virtual Library of Virginia. The grant will support the creation of the Virginia Heritage Project, a database integrating thousands of Encoded Archival Description (EAD) tagged finding-aids that describe and provide online access to a large body of primary source materials held by major academic and research libraries in Virginia.

The database will be freely available on the Internet to scholars, students, and citizens worldwide; thus, from their desktops, users may discover new links among geographically separated collections. Scholars have expressed great enthusiasm for the project for the ease it will provide in searching numerous collections from one location, said University Librarian Karin Wittenborg. The database will also be a valuable resource for Virginia elementary and secondary schoolteachers and their students who, under Virginia’s newly adopted Standards of Learning, must develop skills for historical analysis, including the ability to analyze documents, records, and data.

"Many of the priceless documents of American history, literature, and political thought reside in the special collections of Virginia’s colleges, universities, and other research libraries," Wittenborg said. "This grant from the NEH will enable the University of Virginia Library and the other members of VIVA to participate in a worthwhile and cooperative approach to providing wider access to materials found in special collections and archives."

VIVA, founded in 1994, consists of the libraries of the 39 state-assisted colleges and universities within Virginia, and an additional 29 independent, not-for-profit educational institutions. VIVA’s mission is to provide enhanced access to library and information resources for the Commonwealth’s research libraries serving the higher education community. Initially, the Virginia Heritage Project will draw on collections held by 11 VIVA members: the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, the Library of Virginia, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the Virginia Military Institute, Virginia State University, and Washington and Lee University.

"Traditionally, the principal means of accessing collections held at these various institutions was to travel to each repository and page through a variety of highly specific and idiosyncratic paper finding aids," said Edward Gaynor, director of the project and associate director of the Special Collections Department at the University of Virginia Library. "The database will allow users worldwide to search standardized finding aids from all participating institutions in a seamless, integrated fashion."

The Virginia Heritage Project will establish its EAD processing center at the University of Virginia Library, which will provide the technological leadership. During the first phase of the project, the processing center will encode and provide online access to thousands of pages of finding aids representing more than 1,000 collections on African-American history and culture drawn from all 11 participating VIVA institutions. In addition, the processing center will encode related pages drawn from the Virginiana collections of the University of Virginia. The Virginiana collections are not only valuable in their own right as a resource of materials relating to Virginia, but also the collections serve as a rich resource that will help to place the African-American materials in context.

The processing center at U.Va. will also provide extensive training and support to the other ten participating VIVA institutions. Five institutions will begin their own in-house processing of EAD finding aids during the first year of the project and the other five will begin in-house processing during the second year.

For more information about the Virginia Heritage Project, contact Edward Gaynor at (804) 924-3138 or

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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