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U.Va. Library to Build Digital Information Community to Support American Studies Research Worldwide

November 12, 2001 -- The University of Virginia Library, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will begin creating the technical infrastructure for an American Studies electronic "information community" that will support research and scholarship at the University as well as worldwide via the Internet.

Intended as a resource for scholars, students, librarians and anyone whose common link is a shared interest in American Studies, the effort eventually will provide online access to American literary, historical and cultural texts, images, videos, audio, maps and other collections. It will draw from the University’s extensive holdings in American literature and history.

The library plans to promote both formal and informal mechanisms for the scholarly exchange of ideas, and to encourage interdisciplinary study, said Thornton Staples, director of Digital Library Research and Development at U.Va., who will direct the project.

The project will work closely with the American Studies program at the University as well as with outside institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Staples said.

The Library’s American Studies Information Community project is funded by a $300,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation as one of seven projects demonstrating ways that scholarly material published under the foundation’s Open Archives Initiative can be collected to provide high-quality information services. Under that effort, libraries, archives, and museums publish electronic information about their collections so that it can be gathered and used in new ways. An important part of the U.Va. project will be to demonstrate how an information community can take advantage of material gleaned from publicly available archives and integrated into a digital library collection, Staples said.

The U.Va. Library will provide the technological, administrative, and organizational infrastructure, but will consult with other organizations both within and outside the University and will work with scholars to produce and identify content.

The information community will initially be based on existing digital collections of University Library materials such as the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, and a host of other rare books, manuscripts and archive collections at U.Va.’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Other key resources will be the Early American Fiction Archive (, the Holsinger Studio Collection (, and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps ( New online resources will be integrated into these existing collections.

Information communities are part of a larger U.Va. Library initiative to create the model University research library for the 21st century. "Libraries must take on the challenge of making sense of the flood of print and digital information threatening to overwhelm students and scholars," said Karin Wittenborg, University Librarian. "The Library’s objective in creating information communities is to integrate all forms of information in a coherent fashion and make those resources accessible to our faculty and students as well as to an international audience."

For more information on the Digital Library Research and Development contact Thornton Staples at (434) 924-3975 or

CONTACT: Melissa Cox Norris, (434) 924-4254;

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 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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