It’s a new year, and Virginia Untold has a new look!
Starting today, when you go to www.virginiamemory.com/collections/aan, you’ll see our new landing page, which offers updated search features and resources for using Virginia Untold. There are a few things to be aware of with the new site. What you are seeing is a webpage that represents a controlled universe within the main Library of Virginia catalog. If you already use the Library’s catalog search, this new Virginia Untold search will be familiar to you. Some of the more helpful features of catalog searching, such as “advanced search” or refining by filters, are now available when searching for Virginia Untold material. This video tutorial provides an overview of some basic search functionality and may be a good starting point for using the new site.
The simple search (using the main search bar near the top of the page) is great for “keyword” searching. Once you’ve gotten results, you can use the “Refine your results” section on the left-hand side of the page to filter by year, record type, or locality (called “coverage” in the filters list). Note that when using filters, only the top 25 filter options will appear under each category. This is important to note in the case of coverage, especially, since there are over 100 localities represented in Virginia Untold. So, if an expected locality doesn’t show in the filter options for coverage, try adding the locality name to your original keyword search (e.g. “Eliza Westmoreland County” rather than simply “Eliza”). Alternatively, the Advanced Search enables you to build searches for specific localities and/or record types, which is helpful if you know exactly what you’re looking for.
You can also click on “Search by Record Type” at the top of the page to access digital collections of each record type via the Digital Collections Discovery area of the website. From there, click on any specific record type and then perform a keyword search of records within it.
Our Virginia Untold research guide provides search tips, additional resources, updates about Virginia Untold related events, and a project history section. If you feel like you are missing something on the new webpage, don’t forget to access the research guide! We’ve also provided links to other projects that are similar in scope to Virginia Untold and tried to break down our process of digitizing collections in the “Research with Virginia Untold” section. We hope the guide will bring attention to some of our underused resources, such as the Virginia Open Data Portal where we have uploaded our original indexes (in .csv format) of all Virginia Untold record types. Because Virginia Untold is record type driven, understanding the history behind why and when a document was created is instrumental to conducting effective historical research. To that end, we’ve also updated the Virginia Untold Record Types document, which provides a short context of each record type within Virginia Untold. For even more information, a bibliography is provided at the end.
I would like to give a special thanks to Je’Juan Hunter, our web developer, who implemented my countless revisions to various versions of the site over the last six months. Other members from our Digital Initiatives team played crucial roles in transitioning Virginia Untold material from our old digital repository, Digitool, to our new digital repository, Rosetta (Susan Gray Page, Jessica Burgess, and Kathy Jordan), as well as providing feedback and ideas regarding the layout and graphics on the site (Sonya Coleman and Kathy Jordan). I’d also like to thank our archival reference staff who provided input about the new site and who continue to be the main contact point between Virginia Untold users and the research material. Thanks also to those who manage our research guides at LVA, especially Lisa Wehrmann and Becky Schneider. These guides are important containers for the wealth of resources available here at the Library. It takes a team of librarians, archivists, and web developers to make a project like Virginia Untold possible, and I’m truly thankful to be a part of this work.
While these digital improvements to Virginia Untold require a team of creative, motivated, and hardworking professionals, it also includes you—our users, our volunteers, our readers, and our communities—to make this a successful project. This important history, which has long gone overlooked, is most powerful when we share it. We need the work of researchers, historians, genealogists, and curiosity-seekers to bring these documents of our past into our present consciousness and understanding. We are grateful for your input and the opportunity to serve you with these resources.
Stay tuned for a Virginia Untold Black History Month exhibition opening February 1, entitled “I have this day committed to jail…” On display will be a sample of records from the Richmond City Hustings Court selected for integration into Virginia Untold. These court records span nearly 80 years from 1782 to 1860 and document the rich urban networks of white, free Black, and enslaved people in this Virginia locality. We’ll be hosting a transcribe-a-thon with these records on Saturday, February 25 from noon to 2:00 PM. Sign up to join us!