McGregor Library Offers Rare Digital History of the Americas

Man placing an old book on a stand to keep the book open

The University of Virginia has long offered public access to the rare and beautiful volumes of the McGregor Library, but until 2013 they could only be studied in Charlottesville. Now, thanks to a $245,000 grant from the McGregor Fund, researchers can access the library’s valuable primary documents, which focus on the European discovery and settlement of the Americas, from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

Over the last two years, faculty and staff have steadily digitized more than 50,000 pages of the McGregor Library and hope eventually to reach 75,000, working in chronological order.

“We started at 1475 and we’re now close to about 1640. We hope to make it to 1700 before the project ends,” said the collection’s manager, David Whitesell, a curator in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

The McGregor Library was established in 1938 when the McGregor Fund donated 5,000 volumes to UVA. Since then, the collection has grown to include more than 20,000 volumes. Due to the collection’s sheer size, Whitesell and his colleagues are focusing on digitizing only the oldest and most valuable volumes that are not already available in electronic form.

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Katie McNally

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