Of Interest

Press Release
Documents Compass (http://www.documentscompass.org/DCAbout.html) receives Mellon grant for Founding Era Prosopography

October 25, 2008
Charlottesville, VA

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities announces that it’s newly formed service provider, Documents Compass, has received a $327,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create People of the Founding Era (PFE). The grant will allow Documents Compass to explore the feasibility of creating a biographical data source that will be a resource for scholars of the American Founding. It will include native-born and naturalized Americans born between the end of Queen Anne’s War (1713) and the Napoleonic Wars (1815) – and their children and grandchildren – and will be grounded in the existing documentary editions of the past half century.  It will begin by working with the Papers of the Founding Fathers and the Dolley Madison Digital Edition.

Lawrence Stone, in his now-famous 1971 essay in Daedalus, defined prosopography as “the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives.” Historians continue to debate the definition of prosopography, and this dispute may never be resolved: prosopography is a methodology and thus reinvented by every scholar who uses it in their analysis.  Even so, all prosopographical studies involve collecting and categorizing biographical information about a group of individuals.  Therefore the PFE is both a resource and a tool for future prosopographers.

The PFE will be the first electronic prosopography of the modern era and serve as a model for the over-documented 20th and 21st centuries. It will enable scholars to explore individuals and/or select groups of people, making it a crucial research tool in fields as diverse as political history, local history, social history, demography, biography, institutional history, and genealogy.

Documents Compass (DC http://www.documentscompass.org), established in January 2008, is an  intermediary resource for publishers and scholar/editors. Created to help plan and develop documentary editions, the service locates, develops, and employs the tools best suited to each project’s needs, and facilitates transcribing, proof reading, tagging, and copy editing.

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities announced the new organization in August. Rob Vaughan, President of the Virginia Foundation, is enthusiastic about the project’s potential to transform and streamline digital editing. “We are excited to host Documents Compass. The time is right to create such an organization.”

For additional information:
Susan Severtson
Director, Communications


One Response to “Of Interest”

  1. Lisa C Says:

    Yep, see my post about a month ago about Prosopography. Documents Compass will operate under my current colleague, Susan Holbrook Perdue (she’ll be leaving us at the end of this month), with our mutual friend Holly Shulman (Digital Dolley Madison Papers), and Susan Severtson, formerly of HarpWeek.

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