Virginia Tech's Virtual Jamestown Anticipates 400th Anniversary Observance With Extensive Digital History

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 28, 2003 – Virginia Tech is expanding the scope and use of rare historical materials through the award-winning World Wide Web site Virtual Jamestown.

Here, on-line, rarely seen documents, images, maps, and physical materials are integrated, historical context provided, and technology applied as an analytical tool. Already thousands visit the site each day to learn more about the history and legacies of Jamestown.

Virginia Tech history professor Crandall Shifflett is applying advanced technology to historical research, scholarship, and teaching to provide robust exploitation of historical resources, including extraordinary first-hand source material.

Under Shiffletts guidance, Virtual Jamestown is a pioneer project in the application of advanced technology to the humanities, said Dr. William Thomas, III, Director, Virginia Center for Digital History.

In 2007, scholars anticipate a vigorous reexamination of the importance of Jamestown in the nations history, as its 400th birthday is commemorated. While anniversary plans focus upon on-site visitations where recreated versions of Jamestowns past are presented, the Virtual Jamestown site encourages exploration via the Internet.

With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a comprehensive survey is underway of 26 archaeological sites in the Jamestown area. Virtual Jamestown will create a database to document vital information on site contents and also provide identification of artifacts, many never before seen by the public. An annotated census of digital collections on Jamestown in the Atlantic World will be posted this summer.

Virtual Jamestown sheds new light on the experiences not only of the well-known historical figures, such as John Smith and Bartholomew Gosnold, but also of marginalized populations, such as indigenous peoples, African slaves, indentured servants, and colonial women. The final assembly of the virtual collections will provide a teaching and research archive of unparalleled scope and depth for colleges and universities both at home and abroad.

The Web site highlights the underestimated significance of Jamestown, established thirteen years before the Mayflower, as a seedbed society. Jamestown sprouted from a global contest among competing commercial interests to become a locus for new forms of governance, evolving systems of labor and enterprise, and the diffusion of diseases, plants and animals, and diverse cultures, according to Professor Shifflett.

A major, national project in digital history, Virtual Jamestown has a well-informed advisory board comprised of scholars who represent various research and public institutions, including: Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (or Jamestown Rediscovery),Colonial National Historical Park (National Park Service), Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Library of Virginia, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Tech, the University of East Anglia in Britain, and the University of Virginias Center for Digital History. (See attachment for complete listing of scholars and their affiliations). Carole Schmidt, formerly of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, serves as the project consultant.

Virginia Tech, with its resources in technology, is uniquely positioned to become a center for applying technology to history, says Shifflett, project director of Virtual Jamestown. A new track in the VTs graduate history program has recently been approved to explore Atlantic World Studies through the techniques of digital history.

For tour of Virtual Jamestown, visit