Edward Ayers' research surrounding the Civil War, the Virginia Secession Convention, and American presidential voting patterns comes to life through collaboration with the University's Digital Scholarship Lab, combining the latest in multimedia technology with historical documents and records to create an interactive experience for exploring micro-level trends. The nature of this collaborative work also speaks to Ayers' belief in making academic research accessible and digestible for the general public, where it can have the most reach and impact.
The Valley of the Shadow project tells the stories of hundreds of people living in two American communities, from the time of John Brown’s Raid through the era of Reconstruction. In this digital archive, users can explore thousands of original letters and diaries, newspapers and speeches, census and church records, soldiers’ records, and battle maps left by the men and women of Augusta County, Va., and Franklin County, Pa., during the era of the Civil War.
Voting America puts political history in motion using animated maps to present changes in U.S. presidential voting patterns — down to the county level — during the past two centuries. Users can also break down a single election and explore patterns across a number of variables, including the percentage of votes won by parties, the winner of a given district, or the distribution of votes across the country. Depicting more than 40 presidential election cycles, the data reveals much about the gradual evolution and occasional sudden revolutions in voting across the span of U.S. history.
Secession: Virginia and the Crisis of Union compiles the fully transcribed text of Virginia’s secession debates, following the election of Abraham Lincoln and South Carolina’s decision to secede. Along with a team of web designers, database experts, digital curators, digital humanists, and historians, Ayers’ project allows users to see the progression of the proceedings and how representatives arrived at the decision to secede. Timelines, maps, and political and demographic data provide added context and depth to the transcripts.
Information about the Digital Atlas project, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, can be found on the Digital Scholarship Lab website: https://dsl.richmond.edu
American Historical Association
President Ayers is chairing a committee for the American Historical Association that will recommend ways for departments to evaluate and recognize digital scholarship in hiring, tenure, and promotions.