May 17, 2022

University of Virginia: Digital Social Network Linking the Living and the Dead Expands

From the University of Virginia:

Frderick Douglass, an ex-slave who became a noted abolitionist and author, drew the attention of many influential people, including American writers Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson, with whom he corresponded. Douglass also traveled to Europe to give lectures and gain support for abolishing slavery, after which Charles Dickens sent a copy of the African-American orator’s “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” to actor William Charles Macready.

These facts and much more readily show up with a new digital search tool and resource begun at the University of Virginia.

The Social Networks and Archival Context, or SNAC, tool that can reveal these kinds of connections aims to blow open the doors of libraries and archives and revolutionize the way primary documents are organized and made accessible. The digital platform addresses the longstanding research challenge of discovering, locating and using historical records stored all over the world. It can show links between the living and the dead, and between individuals, families and organizations, across time and place.

The growing cooperative that created SNAC – which includes several partners around the country – began at UVA’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. It will be permanently housed at the UVA Library, which will serve as its administrative and technological home. The final phase of establishing the SNAC Cooperative is underway, thanks to a recent $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


The cooperative enables institutions and even individual scholars to share more efficiently, in a standardized way, the descriptions of people referenced in historical documents, and then make the information open to anyone who uses the SNAC website. When a person, organization or family is documented by one member institution, it is available for use by all of the other members. Rather than duplicating descriptions within each institution’s descriptive system, one well-curated description is available to all.

Read the Complete Article

Direct to Social Networks and Archival Context

See Also: Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities Explores Expansion of ‘Social Network for the Dead’ (November 6, 2011)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.