Hit me! UVA's E-texts lead the field


UVA's new library goes underground


UVA is known not just for its historic collections, but also for its vision in digitizing its collection.

Back in the digital stone age, 1992, UVA opened the Electronic Text Center, which began building a prodigious online archive of texts and images. Now, the University has won worldwide recognition for its work. The online holdings– which get about 40,000 hits a day– contain texts in 11 languages, including Latin, Apache, Latvian, Chinese, and Japanese.

Students and scholars from around the world read and download electronic editions of everything from Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars to Beatrix Potter's Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Also in 1992, UVA opened its Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Working closely with the E-Text Center, the Institute guides and supports the development of digital technologies in fields like English, foreign languages, history, art history, and anthropology – subject areas where 15 years ago computers were rarely used as anything more than word processors.

Today, the Institute has sponsored nearly 50 projects, two dozen of which are still active with websites covering such things as the history of England's Salisbury Cathedral; the geology and archaeology of ancient Pompeii; the text of Piers Ploughman, a medieval English classic; American circus history; and the Salem witch trials. The Institute's virtual tour of the 1851 Crystal Palace now stands as a centerpiece display in the Museum of London.

Closer to home, UVA hosts has digitized about one-third of the 9,000-plus photographs taken by the late Rufus W. Holsinger, whose most famous shot must be the 1895 Rotunda fire. UVA also serves up a good portion of the 6,000 photographs of African-American schools taken throughout the Southeast U.S. by Jackson Davis.

Students and scholars visiting Harrison/Small can tap into digital riches for their own research. Many exhibitions in Alderman and the new library are digitized, as are many of the library's most precious holdings, including a number of Jefferson's architectural drawings of the university.

The tour begins at lib.virginia.edu/small/.