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.
“We do every page. If it’s blank, we’ll still do it,” said Digital Production Group project manager, Lois Widmer. “We try to have the same experience you would have if you were turning the pages.”
Widmer oversees a team of four students and one part-time staff member working on the McGregor Collection. All are specially trained to handle the volumes. Here, manager of the Digital Production Group Christina Deane helps a student photograph a particularly fragile page.
“The work up to this point has all been done by students. That’s been a real key component in this project and really all the projects that we do here,” Deane said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the students.”
Access the Digital Collection Online