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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2011 / 03 

Virginia Tech launches Civil War newspapers repository website

March 30, 2011

The American Civil War Newspapers website is now online, coinciding with the observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

Under the supervision of William C. Davis, professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Science and director of programs at the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech, graduate students have thoroughly indexed the site’s first journal, the Macon, Ga., Daily Telegraph for the period July 1860 to June 1865.

“There are already some excellent website newspaper resources for Civil War newspapers,” said Davis, “but most have limitations.” Some index only headlines. Others employ programs allowing for keyword searches in body text, but these programs customarily catch only about half of the appearances of a search term. Moreover, such systems capture only words, but not concepts or ideas, and they cannot produce cross-references. Our graduate students have greatly enhanced the digital search for Civil War newspaper clips, as their own eyes have captured every name and keyword."

A quick browser search and a couple of clicks will usually yield results. 

“This site provides cross-references and analytical indexing to refer researchers to concepts like ‘slavery’ or ‘diplomacy’ or ‘economy,’ even when those actual words may not appear in the indexed text,” said Davis, who noted that work on this project has taken place for several years.

The site is available free of charge, as one of the continuing projects of the center to further awareness and understanding of the Civil War era. The site is located on Virginia Tech's Discovery Commons repository. Users may then search by keyword, or browse the pages either on their own or by predefined topics. Each page provides options for downloading and viewing printable digital images of the newspaper columns in which a search finds a hit, and also to browse the pages throughout an issue.

American Civil War Newspapers has been funded in part by a grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation with the cooperation of ProQuest of Ann Arbor, Mich.

The repository site development and additional support for digitizing the newspaper pages and image preparation for the individual columns of the Macon Daily Telegraph was made possible by staff members working in Digital Imaging and Archiving at Virginia Tech under the Director for Imaging and Repository Initiatives Gary M. Worley. This university repository initiative is sponsored through Virginia Tech’s Learning Technologies Division of Information Technology. 

The Macon Daily Telegraph represents the inaugural project for the repository at Virginia Tech, says Worley.

The ultimate goal of the American Civil War Newspapers website, said Davis, is to index up to 10 or more newspapers from the Civil War era -- Northern and Southern, Eastern and Western, urban and rural, white and black -- in order to offer a balanced cross-section of opinion, observation, and experience, from all across America. As each journal is completed, its index will be consolidated with the master index, so that in the end a user will be able to call up references from all of the newspapers in a single search.

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