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U.Va., Va. Tech, VFH Partnership Will Lead Effort

New Regional Humanities Center Will Aim To Preserve South Atlantic Region’s Colorful Cultural Heritage

February 26, 2002-- The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities are joining forces to establish a center that has the potential to preserve the South Atlantic region's colorful heritage while also promoting tourism and economic development. The Southeastern region-wide cultural consortium will aim to engage hundreds of communities, universities, schools, private organizations, and governments in preserving and celebrating local and regional identities and educating the public about them. The presidents of the three institutions announced details of the effort today.

With the same chain stores and fast-food outlets dotting the landscape, the same Hollywood movies playing in every town, and the same national television programs in every home, the South Atlantic Regional Humanities Center (SARHC) will work to keep the historic and diverse southeastern United States from losing its distinctiveness.

Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and governed by a region-wide advisory board, SARHC will serve Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, the Virgin Islands and Virginia with a wide range of programs that focus on the promotion of regional history and the study of regional cultures, said Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger. "This collaboration between the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech will serve as a model for the rest of the region and the nation as we pool resources to further the appreciation and knowledge of the South Atlantic," he said.

The center will be headquartered in Charlottesville, under management by VFH, U.Va. and Virginia Tech, who were jointly awarded a grant of $379,000 from NEH to establish the center after two-and-a-half years of intensive planning and a competitive application process. The grant must be matched by triple the amount in three years, with 80 percent earmarked for a permanent endowment.

"The South Atlantic, the region of our country’s earliest settlement, holds a central place in our continuing national story," said U.Va. President John T. Casteen III. "But the distinctiveness of regional identity across the country seems to be receding everywhere. To fail to recognize the very real influences of region in our lives is to admit gaps in our knowledge of ourselves."

One of eight regional centers being established around the country by NEH, the South Atlantic center will use the region’s extensive cultural resources to develop a range of programs, publications, and digital libraries for Internet research, said VFH president Robert C. Vaughan, who will direct the center. "These will address the history, folkways, languages and literature, archaeology and architecture, arts and culture, and the technology and economy of the region. Programs will be aimed at students of all ages and teachers of all levels, as well travelers interested in cultural tourism and anyone interested in the humanities and the region."

Promoting regional and local identities should also have economic benefits by encouraging tourism and emphasizing the region’s distinctive qualities, Vaughan said.

Each of the three founding institutions is contributing faculty and staff, fundraising, libraries, research centers and technology.

The initial programs and research, as a result of ideas proposed in planning forums that have already been held throughout the region, will be on the following themes: settlement and migration; race and identity; cultures and traditions; technology and social change; economy and power; and landscape and environment. The center will explore the encounter between Native Americans and Europeans, the roots of the African slave trade, and the effects of various wars including the Civil War, as well as the region’s future as a dynamic new economic and cultural center.

"The South Atlantic is farms and businesses, people and troubles brought together by trade, the accidents of history, and the confluence of oceans and mountains," said Andrew S. Chancey, the consortium’s assistant director and one of its chief organizers. "It overlaps but is distinct from the South, the Chesapeake, the Caribbean and Appalachia," he said, pointing out that it holds the coastline of one of the country’s first place of European and African settlement. The South Atlantic also links the North American continent with the Caribbean islands and with centuries of trade and migration with Europe, Africa and South America.

"In a world continually drawn together by travel, telecommunications, mobility and a global economy, it is easy to overlook the importance of local experiences to our heritage and daily lives," Chancey said. "The South Atlantic Regional Humanities Center will aim to keep this heritage vital and strong."

For more information see the SARHC Web site under development at http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/SARHC/

Contact: Sheryl B. Hayes, (434) 924-3296

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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