A group of Library of Virginia (LVA) archivists recently traveled to Staunton, Virginia, to visit the Augusta County courthouse. Their goal was to transfer more than 300 boxes of the county’s earliest chancery records in order to begin a large digital scanning project. Their lunchtime reward was the giant meringue pie at The Beverley restaurant two blocks away.
Augusta County’s chancery records hold special importance to Virginia and the country. The collection begins in 1745 and covers a period of time when the county stretched north to the Great Lakes and west to the Mississippi River – a large part of the early American frontier. County court was often held in what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The scope of the scanning project is enormous and will result in close to a million digital images being added to the Chancery Records Index (CRI) on Virginia Memory. LVA Local Records archivists will review the more than 340 legal-sized Hollinger boxes to ensure that they are up to current processing standards. These boxes comprise the part of the chancery collection from 1745 to 1866. In June 2008, a team of archivists at the LVA completed a processing and indexing project that yielded an additional 659 legal-sized Hollinger boxes of Augusta County chancery, covering the years 1867-1912.
Scanning more than 1,000 boxes of Augusta County chancery records will not be inexpensive. The majority of the cost of the project will be borne by the LVA’s Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP). Additionally, archivists in the LVA’s Local Records department have applied for a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant to support the project. The NHRPC is the funding arm of the National Archives and Records Administration.
We will continue to provide updates as we prepare this collection for digitization. Several archivists plan to return to Staunton as tourists this summer and, of course, have another slice of pie.
– Dale Dulaney, Local Records Archival Assistant
Are any other chancery records in the process of being digitized? This is a wonderful collection.
Three localities are currently being scanned, Charlotte, Goochland, and Loudoun. However, due to the recent reductions to the Library of Virginia’s budget, the pace of the agency’s digital chancery projects will necessarily proceed more slowly. Please know these projects remain a very high priority for the agency and it is hoped that the initiative can be resumed in full when the economy and the agency’s budget situation improve. Please watch for announcements of newly digitized localities on the Chancery Records Index (http://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/chancery/available) and Out of the Box blog.
Since the process is slowing, Is there a way that it can be done in small chunks so that we can have access without waiting two-three years as has happened with Amelia and Louisa?
The comment about the pace of the agency’s digital chancery projects refers to the number of projects completed in a span of time, a calendar year for example. In 2009, the Library’s Chancery Records Index (CRI) added 1,864,381 digital images from 18 localities. In the future, that output will be necessarily reduced due to a reduction in funding. So, for instance, 2010’s output might be 650,000 images from 10 localities. There are no current plans to scan piecemeal in order to increase the total number of localities with some number of digital images. We will continue to digitize the pre-1913 (or later where applicable) chancery causes in their entirety. With larger projects that will take longer to finish, such as Rockbridge County, we have posted images in phases to make them available for research.
Various factors, such as vendor productivity, can impact the speed of a digitization project. The Library of Virginia has taken steps to ensure more consistent turn-around time, including consolidating its vendor services. Since the Amelia project was a pilot effort to determine the utility of digitizing from microfilm, it necessarily took longer since it involved more analysis and discussion. The Louisa records were sent to the vendor in February 2009 and the announcement of images posted to the CRI was made in May 2010, a turn-around time of 15 months.
Thank you. You are correct, the earlier Louisa records were not closed as long. It was the later 19th century ones that I was told by the county were closed because they were being scanned. I obviously should have checked with the Library.
I’m sorry I was not clear in my request. What I was asking was could Augusta be posted in phases like Rockbridge; the collection impacts research in a large area of Virginia and West Virginia.
The present plan is to release Augusta County chancery cause images in phases as the project progresses. First, however, The Library of Virginia has to secure funding for this large and costly project. The agency has applied for grant funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to support the digitization of the Augusta County chancery causes, 1745-1912. Recipients of the NHPRC funding will be announced in November of this year. Due to the collection’s size, nearly 500 cubic feet, the project is slated for completion over two years.
Local records staff is currently reviewing the pre-1865 chancery causes that were processed over many years in the locality. This portion of the collection will be brought up to current standards and prepared for digitization. In the meantime, the post-1865 (there are some overlaps in these two portions) materials have been made available for research until the time comes for them to be closed for scanning.