The Civil War 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access

The Library of Virginia is working to assemble and digitize a statewide collection of private Civil War documents and memoirs and make them accessible to the public.

Courtesy of the Library of Virginia

Letter, 21 February 1864, from Edmund Lee Smith, while at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia.

The Civil War 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access is a partnership between the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and the Library of Virginia to create a statewide online collection of original private documents and memoirs of the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. As part of the Commission’s mission to coordinate and develop plans for the commemoration, including travelling exhibits, conferences, and educational resources, the Legacy Project has the potential to become a premier resource for historical documentation, representing a greater diversity of perspectives of the era, including global and pacifist perspectives and the viewpoints of individual African Americans and women.

A multi-year digital project, the CW 150 Legacy Project focuses on manuscript materials that reflect social, political, military, business, and religious life in Virginia during the period of the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. The Library of Virginia’s experience and recent acquisitions show that many original manuscripts are held and maintained in private hands. These firsthand accounts, often in fragile or deteriorating condition, are carefully guarded treasures that many families are reluctant to relinquish. By scanning these items and providing online access, the CW 150 Legacy Project allows individuals to retain their original items, yet preserve the intellectual and historical content of these valuable documents.

Working with local sesquicentennial committees established by the Commission and through a partnership with the Library and a network of statewide connections, 23 scanning events have been held across the state as of February 2011. This includes events in Amelia, Campbell, Charlotte, Dinwiddie, Fauquier, Gloucester, Hanover, Henrico, Mecklenburg, Nelson, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Shenandoah, and Tazewell Counties, as well as Galax, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Virginia Beach. Over 5,400 images have been scanned and are currently being edited and cataloged to be posted online.

Many interesting collections have been discovered, including the letters, 1864, from Drayton S. Pitts, a South Carolina soldier at the entrenchments in Petersburg, to his sweetheart in Dinwiddie County

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