On Monday, November 20, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) launched one of the nation’s first digital repositories created by a humanities council to preserve its own content. Titled Discovery Virginia, the digital archive contains more than 6,000 of VFH’s preserved assets and projects since the organization’s founding in 1974.
The free digital archive is accessible to the public online at DiscoveryVirginia.org, allowing learners of all ages to easily access more than forty-years’ worth of dynamic cultural and historical resources. The goal of the project is to preserve and provide public access to the Commonwealth’s unique and rich cultural heritage.
The idea for the project came as a result of the physical degradation of some of VFH’s most valuable and celebrated content. Since early 2016, Discovery Virginia program director Sue Perdue and her team at VFH have addressed this time-sensitive dilemma by collecting and digitizing hundreds of hours of audio and film from VFH programs such as Virginia Folklife, With Good Reason, and more.
Discovery Virginia users can look up a topic through its easily navigable interface, and the website will generate hundreds of results across multiple collections, subjects, and VFH programs.
VFH executive director Matthew Gibson commented, “For almost 45 years, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has created programs and opportunities for Virginians to connect with ideas and one another to build stronger communities. Discovery Virginia is a digital archive of not only that past work, but also the work we’ll pursue in the next 45 years.”
The website will allow users to trace VFH’s current and most recent work back to its roots. For example, this past summer, VFH’s Encyclopedia Virginia launched a Google Street View 360-degree virtual tour of Tangier Island. But when searching the term “Tangier Island” on the Discovery Virginia site, audiences will find not only the virtual tour, but also an audio walking tour of the island dating back to 1981, before Google even existed.
The site will also serve as a platform to deliver the content of smaller organizations and VFH grant recipients across Virginia, many of whom lack the resources required to efficiently share digital content with broad public audiences.