Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Libraries, in partnership with the Atlanta History Center, the Georgia Historical Society and the Board of Regents’ GALILEO virtual library initiative, is part of a new project to digitize more than 80,000 documents relating to the American Civil War.
Funding for America’s Turning Point: Documenting the Civil War Experience in Georgia has been provided by the National Historic Publications and Records Commission and is enabling archivists to digitize 81,319 letters, diaries, military records, account books, poetry, photographs and maps that document the American Civil War.
“Events in Georgia, particularly Sherman’s Georgia campaign and the blockade of the coastline, were critical factors in the outcome of the War,” said P. Toby Graham, deputy university librarian and head of the Hargrett Library. “This project provides the raw material for building a more complete understanding of Georgia’s role in the conflict.”
The Union capture of Atlanta on Sept. 2, 1864 had a direct impact on the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln, hastening the end of the war and ultimately reuniting the nation. For that reason, the fall of Atlanta was a decisive turning point in American history. As the nation commemorates the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and interest in this subject increases, the need to provide enhanced access to these materials has never been greater, said Paul Crater, vice president of research services at the Atlanta History Center and project director.
Manuscript and visual materials are available only in their original format, and the project partners are among the leading research institutions in the Southeast for the study of the Civil War, with hundreds of researchers visiting their locales annually.
“The records include the diverse experiences and perspectives of military leaders, soldiers and civilians whose lives were directly impacted by the Civil War,” Crater said. “Thousands of first-hand accounts of Union and Confederate soldiers and officers document their hardships and opinions of the war and national politics. Military documents, including orders issued by William T. Sherman, describe the strategy of the Atlanta Campaign. Letters and diaries from Georgia civilians, young and old, male and female, describe in compelling detail the anxiety leading up to the war, the blockade of Georgia’s coast, the siege of Atlanta and General Sherman’s subsequent march through Georgia. Financial and military documents reveal details of the buying and selling of slaves by private parties and by governments in the defense of the Confederacy. Letters, questionnaires and 20th-century photograph collections capture the memories of Civil War veterans and document important Georgia Civil War landmarks a few decades after the conflict.”
As part of the two-year venture, a blog on the progress of the project will be available to scholars and the public. Access to the materials will be through websites at each institution.
The digitized documents will be available via the Digital Library of Georgia, a GALILEO initiative based in the UGA Libraries. “The Digital Library of Georgia site is a significant source of exposure for project results, as DLG received more than 4.5 million page views during the past 12 months, including visits from every state and internationally,” Graham said. The records also will become part of the recently launched Association of Southeastern Research Libraries Civil War portal (http://american-south.org), which the DLG hosts.”
The manuscript section of UGA’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library houses more than 500 collections of original documents relating to the war. In addition to being used by authors, Hargrett’s Civil War manuscripts have been used by more than 700 researchers of all types during the past three years. Similarly, the Georgia Historical Society and the Atlanta History Center Civil War collections are in constant use for books, publications and broadcast documentaries.
“Scholars and authors, public school educators, university professors, students, museum educators, developers of public humanities programs, journalists, preservationists and documentarians access these collections to better understand and interpret the Civil War,” Crater said. “Since such high researcher demand exists for access to these historical documents, digitization and the creation of an online digital resource of the materials would simultaneously expand access and use of resources while also helping to preserve the originals.”
The grants program is carried out through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for the National Archives.
Information on the partners involved in this Civil War project is available at the following urls: UGA Libraries, http://www.libs.uga.edu/hargrett/; the Atlanta History Center, http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/; Georgia Historical Society, http://www.georgiahistory.com/; and the GALILEO virtual library, http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/.