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In the Field

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities awarded a grant to create online access to the Founding Fathers papers

October 27, 2011 | By Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities is pleased to announce receipt of a grant of $2.5 million from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grant-making arm of the National Archives, to provide pre-publication access to 68,000 historical papers of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington, papers that have not yet been published in authoritative, documentary editions. The three-year cooperative agreement extends VFH experience in advancing the humanities through our Digital Initiatives and Documents Compass Program and Staff specializing in editing and publishing in the electronic age. The project will update and improve existing transcriptions of the papers of the Founders of the Nation and make them available online through a new website. This work builds on a 2009 VFH pilot project, funded through an NHPRC grant, and will expedite availability of the unpublished papers, giving the general public and scholars access to these primary source materials before they appear in official print editions.

“We have a remarkable opportunity to make these extraordinary historical documents available to the public in a timely and easily accessible manner,” says Robert Vaughan, President of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. VFH undertook electronic editing and publication in 2005 to construct Encyclopedia Virginia and later with funding from the Mellon Foundation to develop a prosopography of the founding era. For three years we have planned and hosted edUi, a technology conference for museums, libraries, historical societies, and other educational institutions. We also welcome applications for program grants and residential fellowships for digital humanities projects.

Providing access to the unpublished transcriptions is the second stage of the Founders Online Initiative undertaken by NHPRC in 2010. The first stage, currently underway, is being carried out by the University of Virginia Press to provide free online access to over 120,000 historical documents included in the published documentary editions for these key figures of the U.S. founding era. Users will be able to access both the published, annotated documents and the unpublished transcriptions through the Founders Online website.

David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, notes, “These documentary editions provide a treasure trove of information about the founding of our nation. The historical documents contain fascinating details about the thoughts, deeds, and lives of these seminal figures. This agreement [with the Virginia Foundation] ensures that we leverage the latest technology and processes to ensure that all Americans can access and use these papers.”

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, established in 1974, encourages exploration and discovery through the humanities by supporting and producing programs for a wide public audience. We work with individuals and communities to explore the past, confront current issues, and discover a promising future. For more information about the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, visit or contact Sarah Pickell at 434.924.3296 or spickell[at]virginia[dot]edu.