African American Studies at the University of Virginia, has been named the director of Virginia Center for Digital History. It is an independent center located in Alderman Library. French was appointed VCDH Director in July. French is currently exploring new technologies and collaborations. French said, “I am working to put together a team for it to enter a next age.” French envisions growing staff and assembling an expert resource to address the digital needs historians. He also hopes to encourage the use of emerging technologies to push the boundaries and visualize history in new ways.
He has a long list of priorities, including a web interface that will link all VCDH projects and allow users access related data from other projects. French stated, “It’s time to rethink current projects and imagine new ones.” He would like for the VCDH projects – which currently stand on their own – to speak to one another more by illuminating common themes and allowing users access to points of intersection.
French, co-director of the Woodson Institute’s Center for the Study of Local Knowledge, has been creating a digital historical project for the past 2 years. Schuyler Espit and LuAnn Wils, along with a team consisting of student researchers, have been gathering data and digitizing it to build an archive. The archive would include materials that relate to Vinegar Hill. It was once a thriving African-American residential and business area in Charlottesville. It Scot French was destroyed in 1960s as part of broad urban renewal efforts. French plans to create a virtual reconstruction of Vinegar Hill, using maps, data and photos as well as cutting-edge technology, such photo-wrapping. The project will be local and will include information about Jim Crow, civil rights and African American community life, from 1865 to the present.
French envisions a second collaborative effort linking Angola (African nation), where records of the slave trading are rapidly deteriorating, and Brazil (destination of many of those seized in Angola to be slaves and shipped to Brazil). Roquinaldo A. Fereira, an assistant professor in French’s course “Africa in Africa,” is seeking funding for a project to study the slave trading between the two countries. It would link the data with historical developments and also shed light on African diaspora in Americas. French described this type of collaboration as “very exciting” to him.
The Virginia Center for Digital History, an independent college within the College of Arts and Sciences of University of Virginia, is a center that focuses on digital history. VCDH was established to create new forms of historical scholarship as well as perform outreach and public service. VCDH hosts a range of digital projects covering American history. They are designed for K-12 educators, the general public, and college students as well.