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Grant allows preservation program to digitize historic records

ISSUED: 23 November 2010
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
(Grant allows preservation program to digitize historic records)

Shepherdstown, WV--Shepherd University recently received a one year GeoExplorer Grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council in the amount of $15,000. The award will be combined with an additional $4,250 in support from the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission.

The project will create an innovative, geographically-based web resource for exploring the history, culture, and architecture of Jefferson County and serve as a prototype for similar efforts around the state.

The first phase of the project will focus on digitizing the land grants from the colonial and early national period that occurred within Jefferson County. The digital land maps will be stored in annual layers from 1720 to 1820 and will include detailed information on the location of all the features mentioned and the person who received the grant. Users will be able to link to transcripts of the original grant and search for other elements in the database, such as historical events and census records that pertain to that grant.

Other objectives for the project include scanning historic maps and creating a digital reference library of primary source materials. The project will also work to create a historical gazetteer of Jefferson County to create digital maps to link to relational databases that will contain specific information about a particular event or location. This will allow researchers to locate features and track them through time.

Dr. Keith Alexander, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies and coordinator of the Historic Preservation Program, said he sees this as efforts to share the historic landmarks with the citizens of Jefferson County and a new approach to preserve landmarks for the long term.

According to the grant application, work performed at Shepherd will be done primarily under the direction of Alexander and the other humanities scholars from that institution. Database and GIS development, website development, and programming will be performed by Shepherd staff working under the direction of their respective department head. A student intern will perform programming and database development work, giving a the student valuable work experience.

Collaborators on the grant include Dr. Ann Legreid, Dr. Julia L. Sandy-Bailey, Dr. William D. Theriault, and Christine Toms. Additional resources and collaborative assistance will be provided by local organizations including Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, the Jefferson and Berkeley County Historical Societies, the Jefferson County Assessor's Office, and the American Public University System.

A symposium will be held in October 2011 on campus to present the results of the program and how the research could be implemented in other counties. Dr. Anne Knowels, of Middleburg College in Vermont, will be the keynote speaker.

-30-KESNER

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