VFH Receives Mellon Grant for Founding Era Project

April 9, 2010 — The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has received a two-year, $660,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to continue the work begun by Documents Compass on "People of the Founding Era."

The project will be a new kind of electronic biographical dictionary that highlights the lives of a broad population of early Americans – not only members of the elite but also slaves, artisans and Native Americans.

"This generous grant from the Mellon Foundation provides vital support for the development of digital research and publication in the humanities," said Robert Vaughan, VFH president. "Through the efforts of Documents Compass, scholars will be able to publish historic texts and modern research in a format that will be accessible and searchable by new generations of scholars worldwide."    

Documents Compass, headed by Holly Cowan Shulman, founding director and American historian at the University of Virginia, and director Susan Holbrook Perdue, is a VFH program that aids scholar-editors, publishers and others interested in developing digital projects. Created to help plan and develop documentary editions of historic texts, the service helps to locate, develop and employ tools best suited to each project's needs, and facilitates transcribing, proof reading, tagging and copy editing.

"People of the Founding Era" will be published by Rotunda, the digital imprint of the U.Va. Press, as a resource for scholars of the founding of the American republic. Rotunda publishes original digital scholarship and newly digitized critical and documentary editions in the humanities and social sciences, combining the originality, intellectual rigor and scholarly value of traditional peer-reviewed university press publishing with thoughtful technological innovation designed for scholars and students, according to its Web site.

The grant will be used to extend work begun under a previous grant from the Mellon Foundation, based in New York, that allowed VFH/Documents Compass to explore the feasibility of creating a data resource for scholars of the American founding. 

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, affiliated with U.Va., is dedicated to promoting the humanities and to using the humanities to address issues of broad public concern.  In all of its programs, the foundation works to make scholarship accessible, to promote understanding and discussion of enduring and contemporary issues and to broaden the range of educational opportunities available to all Virginians.   

— By Anne Bromley