Virginia Historical Society Creating Searchable Online Slave Database
The Virginia Historical Society (VHS) recently received a $100,000 grant from Dominion Resources and The Dominion Foundation to fund the creation of Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names. This free, online database will contain personal information about enslaved Virginians gleaned from some of the more than eight million processed manuscripts in VHS collections.
“The Unknown No Longer database is the first of its kind and will serve as a national model,” said VHS president and CEO Paul Levengood. “The database will be a valuable tool for academic researchers, family historians, and genealogists alike. A website visitor could enter as much or as little information as he or she knows about a particular African American to conduct a search. The results can lead to previously unknown connections between people, families, and places.”
“This project is an example of both the VHS and Dominion’s commitment to using technology to increase access to historical collections and our dedication to reaching out to a diverse constituency.”
The road from emancipation and Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement and the election of Virginia’s first black governor is well documented in Virginia history. But early African American history (from the arrival of the first slaves through the Civil War) is often represented only through the words of white observers, freed persons who looked back on slavery many years later, or the records generated by others about African Americans who achieved recognition for their actions. For most enslaved Americans, the only physical record of their existence may be a name in a register kept by a slave owner.
Unknown No Longer will be searchable through the use of a variety of keywords, such as name, gender, location, occupation, and plantation. It will also include images of original source documents for easy reference.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.