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Conversing with the McGregor Library: a reflection on the digitization project

I began working on the McGregor digitization project in January 2018, and since that time an untold number of volumes from that collection have passed through my hands. The McGregor Library is remarkable for several reasons: the items in the collection are in incredible condition; they contain a wealth of historical information on the European exploration of the Americas; and they offer a fascinating look at the religious beliefs of Europeans in their interactions with the people living in that region of the world. And while I certainly didn’t have time to read any of the books in detail, I sometimes had to read particular pages in order to figure out the metadata for a given book, such as a dedication, prologue, or other description. The little that I read in these volumes was always interesting, and from my superficial reading I felt that a much more prolonged and rich conversation was taking place among the authors of those works somewhere beneath the surface of the page. I felt that if I had the time to engage more with these materials I could begin to see the ways in which the authors of these texts were participating in a dialogue that stretched over a great many years. By way of illustration I would like to share one such “conversation” that I found particularly interesting.

When I was in the process of entering the metadata for a book that I had just finished digitizing, I came across a page variously written in English, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin that I was unsure what to name. Was it an epigraph? A prologue? I decided to look up the record in UVA’s Virgo system to see if there was any basic metadata information about that particular page that I might find useful. As I looked at the Virgo information I noticed that this particular book, written by John Norton and titled A Discussion of That Great Point in Divinity, the Sufferings of Christ: And the Questions About His Righteousnesse Active, Passive: And the Imputation Thereof, was composed in reply to an earlier book written by someone named William Pynchon. Pynchon’s book is titled The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption and was published in 1650, three years before Norton’s text. The last name Pynchon was very familiar to me, and I wondered if he was related to the modern American author Thomas Pynchon who wrote The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow, and other novels. It turned out that, indeed, William Pynchon is an ancestor of Thomas Pynchon, which I found particularly interesting. Even more interesting in my mind was that Norton’s book, which I had in my hand, was part of a debate about Puritan theology that was quite historically important. Pynchon’s The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption was apparently not well-received by the theologians of the time, and shortly after it’s publication it became the first banned book in the New World. It seemed, then, that A Discussion of That Great Point in Divinity was much more than print on a page; it was an important historical moment not only for the development of Puritan theology in the Americas, but it also recorded an important moment in our shared literary history. Norton’s book, of which I was completely ignorant, was an important document in a theological conversation that remained active for centuries. And I learned all this, simply because I was searching for the right description for a single page of that book.

It was truly fascinating to uncover a small moment in European literary history that was taking place between the covers of Norton’s book. That I could learn about, and in some way participate in, a centuries old conversation (and theological and literary scandal) between these authors was exceptional. I share this one story of my time digitizing books from the McGregor Library because I think it exemplifies the value of the project, and it also exemplifies my personal interaction with the items in that collection. There is a great deal of history that is being preserved through the McGregor digitization project, and that is certainly of the highest value. But there is also a great value in being at the forefront of that project and being able to hold in one’s hands artifacts of the religious, political, and geographical history of the Americas. It was a privilege being able to interact with the items in the McGregor Library, and I know for certain that the work done by the Digital Production Group for this project will benefit countless scholars in the future.

Adam Newman, Ph.D., Department of Religious Studies, 2019

Congratulations to our 2017 graduates

Digital Production Group (DPG) celebrates and thanks our graduating students. This year six experienced students graduate, each of whom made unique contributions to DPG:

  • Carter Bakkum, B.A., Economics / Statistical Analysis of Social Behavior minor
  • Fiorella Barreto, S., Architecture | B.A., Architectural History
  • Jay Epstein, A., Jewish Studies
  • Victor Naturale (Student Supervisor), S., Biology
  • Christine Naulty, B.A., English
  • Emily Umansky, A., Public Policy, English

We asked each to share their plans and to reflect on their experiences working in DPG.

Carter Bakkum

Plans: After family travel to Central and South America, he will continue a long family tradition of camping with his parents at a campsite they’ve enjoyed together for the last 15 years.

In August Carter will join the Berkeley Research Group, an economic litigation consultant firm in Washington, D.C. where he will focus on data analytics.

Take-aways: “Patience and an eye for detail.”

Memorable project: “I had never worked with the Cruse scanner until Jay Epstein went abroad and left me with a huge (~700 image) McGregor atlas. It took me an entire semester to scan all the maps. All the maps were absolutely incredible. I know this because it took 25 minutes to scan each map.”

Fiorella Barreto

Plans: Fiorella will move to New York for a six month internship at an architecture firm.

Take-aways: “I most definitely learned to be detail oriented as well as how to properly use a digital camera (including what the different buttons on the camera actually meant and how it bettered the overall image).”

Memorable project and people: “The first time I actually completed an order. I was originally given a 200+ page manuscript unit as my first project and I remember it took me over a week and numerous rescans to complete it, as I was not only inexperienced but the camera was having various focusing issues. I remember that I though about quitting numerous times but when it was finally done it felt amazing!”

“Adding to that, I think that a memorable person I met at the DPG team was definitely June who was alway super helpful and had a great story to share!”

Jay Epstein

Plans: Jay is exploring opportunities in the Jewish nonprofit community in Washington DC. In the future he intends to go to law school.

Take-away: “Patience and attention to detail go a long way both professionally and in life in general.”

Memorable projects and people: “Scanning a handwritten manuscript of the Red Badge of Courage, handwritten pages by Thomas Jefferson, and William Faulkner’s smoking pipes have been some of the highlights of the job. Beyond having these opportunities, I met some of the kindest people through this job – both the students who I worked alongside as well as the faculty members I worked below. Special thank you to Ophelia, Jocelyn, Patricia, June, Lois, Sam, and Christina for making my time here welcoming and enjoyable.”

Victor Naturale, Student Supervisor

Plans:  Victor has accepted a position in the Stanford University PhD program in Molecular Biology.  While he is interested in an academic or research career, he’s also open to other possibilities.

Take-away: “I would say the biggest take-away from DPG is that it taught me how to really pay attention to detail and communicate effectively to others.”

Memorable project: “A memorable DPG moment was scanning/handling one of the large and colorful McGregor world atlases when I worked full time in Summer 2015.”

Christine Naulty

Plans: Christine hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a Masters degree in Library Sciences and Archival Studies.

Take-away: “I have discovered a personal interest in practices and applications of digital libraries and curation, and working here has changed my career goals completely. I am hoping to work as a librarian or archivist in the future due to this job.”

Memorable project: “A memorable DPG project was working on a miniature, children’s version of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale and The Merchant of Venice – seeing two plays that are, in my opinion, extremely not-child-friendly re-written to teach children moral lessons was very interesting to look at from an English major’s point of view.”

Emily Umansky

Plans: Next year Emily will teach English to children in Rahat, Israel, as part of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship. Future plans include graduate school, possibly law school.

Take-away: “I have learned from my DPG experience how important it is to collaborate and communicate with your team. In DPG, we all help each other collectively produce the best quality work possible.”

Memorable experience: “Learning more about UVa’s history has been such a valuable part of my time at DPG. While I build the digital catalogs, I love getting to read through Cavalier Daily articles from 100 years ago, look at pictures of students in the 70s, handle letters written by Cabell and Minor, and gain exposure to the work of distinguished authors, historians, and scientists who have spent time on Grounds. It is fascinating to discover bits of the university’s history, and I am constantly reminded how fortunate we are to have such an extensive collection. I am glad to have been a part of its preservation, and I hope we are able to share access to UVa’s history with many others through our work!”

Congratulations again and best wishes from Digital Production Group.

Lost and Found

One of my favorite things about working here in DPG is the variety of material that I get to work with. Whether it’s newspaper clippings from the Civil War, hand-colored maps from the 1600s, or the personal effects of famous authors, we do get to see some very interesting items come through our door on a regular basis.

One such item came through last week while scanning some facsimile reproductions of a two volume set by Li Shangyin. Opening one of the volumes, somewhere in the middle of the book a dried leaf appeared, kept intact over the years, safely tucked away between the pages. What made this particular leaf more interesting was the hand-painted script that adorned the face – characters in Mandarin written in black ink.

"The Color of Autumn" Year of the Water Monkey (1872?)

Gifts from the past

Not being fluent in the language, I reached out to the patron who had requested the scans, hoping that she would be able to offer some insight into what the creator had written, or perhaps some other information on the object.

She replied immediately, explaining that the writing on the right said “The color of autumn.” On the left side is the date written in the Chinese calendar system, which she said could be autumn of 1872, but since this calendar system repeats every 60 years, could be 1932 or 1992. Although, these later dates seem less likely due to China’s adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1912, after which Chinese calendar dates were reserved more for holidays as time passed.

Which really only gives us more questions. Who created this? Clearly it is not a part of the text, but did it come from a student of the author? Or was it someone with great admiration for Chinese poetry? Was it a forgotten bookmark, or was it meant as a surprise gift for the next person to read this book?

The patron thanked me for sharing this little piece of art, simple yet beautiful, that had been long hidden for so many decades. I was happy to share, and really it only makes me curious about what the next treasure will be that lies hidden within the many books and boxes here in the library.

Stephen Crane’s Manuscript: “The Red Badge of Courage, an Episode of the American Civil War”

RedBadgeOfCourage-MSS_000033691Digital Production Group (DPG) recently added Stephen Crane’s hand-written manuscript of “The Red Badge of Courage, an Episode of the American Civil War” ( to the UVa Library’s Digital Library. The manuscript is part of the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, held by the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at University of Virginia.

A few interesting facts about the manuscript are:

  • It was written on five different kinds of legal-cap paper.
  • Many of the versos contain an early draft.
  • In editing his work for publication as a book Crane eliminated the original chapter 12.
  • Four removed leaves are now scattered among the collections at Butler Library, Columbia University, Houghton Library at Harvard, and the Berg Collection at New York Public Library.

For more on Crane’s manuscript see William Howarth’s 1965 article, the source of the above facts:
Howarth, William L. “The Red Badge of Courage” Manuscript: New Evidence for a Critical Edition, in: Studies in Bibliography, v. 18 (1965), pp. 229-247. (Stable URL for those with rights to access JSTOR: .)


Red Badge of Courage, Cover of First EditionPreviously, DPG digitized two early copies of the published work:

  • A first edition published by Appleton in 1895, (
  • Appleton’s 1896 printing, (

Congratulations to our graduating students

With May 2016 commencement, Digital Production Group (DPG) loses eleven highly experienced and accomplished student employees.  We congratulate them on the completion of their successful UVa careers and wish them well in their new endeavors.  Graduating this spring are:

  • Divya Babu, BSN, Nursing
  • Kaila Grenier (DPG student supervisor), BS, Biomedical Engineering
  • Allison Hackel, BS, Civil Engineering/Global Sustainability minor
  • Muhamad Khalid, BA, Biology/Cognitive Science
  • Kim Mellon, BS, Civil and Environmental Engineering/Global Sustainability minor
  • Amelia Peacock, BA, Women, Gender, & Sexuality/Media Studies minor
  • Robert Rust (DPG student supervisor), BA, Political and Social Thought
  • Karen Shufflebarger, BA, Art History/Architectural History minor
  • Tatiana Sokolova (DPG student supervisor), BS, Mechanical Engineering / Global Sustainability minor
  • Barbara Trein, BA, Media Studies/Foreign Affairs minor
  • Marianna Zabkowski, BS, Commerce with concentrations in Finance and Accounting

In addition to requesting their future plans, we asked each graduate if they had a take-away and a memorable person or project from their DPG experience.  Here are their responses:

Divya Babu begins her career as a Registered Nurse with Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX.

Take-away:  Having digitized numerous fragile books from the McGregor Collection, she sees parallels with the meticulous care she provides to her patients.  In fact, she says “you will be surprised how Nursing and Digitization have so many skills in common.”  This includes the attention to detail.

Memorable person:  Christina- Christina is one of the most compassionate leaders I’ve worked for. She genuinely cares for her students and therefore makes the work environment more comfortable. I am thankful for the experience I had with her.

Kaila Grenier, who’s worked in DPG for four years, will attend University of Pittsburgh for a Masters in Rehabilitation Science and Technology.

Take-away:  I think learning how to tackle all of the technological glitches or color issues has been challenging but a good skill to have. It has definitely been difficult at some points but helped me learn how to problem solve.

Memorable person: I don’t think I could choose just one, but if I have to, definitely Christina! She has been a wonderful person to work under for the last four years, and she is always extremely supportive in and outside of the work office. Thank you for everything, Christina!

Allison Hackel will join StonebridgeCarras, a real estate development firm in Bethesda MD this July.

Take-away:  Paying attention to details, but knowing which details are important and which are not worth stressing over.

Memorable project:  The live media feed of the JFK assassination, and scanned and live tweeted the feed on the 50th anniversary (see

Muhamad Khalid plans to apply to medical school, specializing in neurology and endocrinology. First though, he’ll take an exploratory gap year.

Take-away: A good eye for detail and an increased curiosity.

Memorable person: Christina showed me the vault and the passageways that connect the three libraries.

Kim Mellon will join Kimley-Horn, a civil engineering design and consulting firm in Reston, VA, where she will work on their land development team.

Take-away: After four years with DPG, patience! There were so many times when the cameras got finicky, Capture One crashed in the middle of a catalog, or I scanned a couple hundred pages only to find a dust spot on every one of them during the QA. It’s easy to get frustrated when that happens, so patience is definitely key with this job.

Memorable project: The first book I ever scanned was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and I remember thinking it was the coolest job ever. I think that’s still the most memorable book I have scanned, but there have been so many really interesting projects over the years.

Karen Shufflebarger will work in the Center for Marriage, Family and Life in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, VA.

Take-away: Working at DPG I’ve really gained a sense of the importance of history and rare documents.  This department is really unique in that there is so much emphasis on learning from the past and preserving the physical evidence of those who came before us.  After working here I definitely appreciate rare materials and documents and the stories they can tell us.

Memorable project: The Civil War Diary I scanned with conservator Quinn Ferris was quite a project!  The pages were hand-stitched together and no two leaves were the same.  I enjoyed learning from Quinn about conservation techniques and am glad that the project came together really well!

Marianna Zabkowski is starting as an analyst for Cornerstone Research, an economic and financial consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Take-away: I’ve gained a greater attention to detail and patience to work on long projects, which will be valuable wherever my career takes me.

Memorable person: One of my favorite things about working at DPG has been the opportunity to meet and get to know other students from different years, majors, and backgrounds.

Tatiana Sokolova, after a summer of travel in Europe, will become a public sector Global Business Services Analyst for IBM in Washington, D.C.

Take-away: Always be ready and flexible for change. The first summer I worked here we dealt with a lot of camera/software glitches during installation of new cameras and software updates. If the summer team was less responsive to the changes or was unwilling to work together to troubleshoot problems, we would have never been able to accomplish as much as we did.

Memorable projects: We have had some really cool stuff come through the office. One day we had a piece of skull from a Civil War veteran come through which was apparently cut out of his skull after he got shot. The cavity was then filled in with silver and the person survived, wearing the skull piece as a medal. I recall he lived to be 84. The amount of history lessons I learned both from the items we scanned and the students working here with superior history knowledge than I, an engineering major, has been incredible!

My favorite scanning project was a scrapbook from a WWII nurse about her war experiences. I got a real glimpse into someone’s life during the time and felt like I really got to know her (and her wonderful sense of humor) leafing through the pages as I scanned them. I would have never had an opportunity like that anywhere else, unless I went to a museum. Even then, I would be only getting the parts that the museum would have wanted for us to see and not the whole raw experience.


Again, our congratulations and best wishes.

Staying current with the digitized McGregor Library

Digital Production Group (DPG) has now digitized over 200 items on early European exploration of the Americas from the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.  With more in progress, you may wonder the best way to find all these digitized treasures and keep track of this constantly growing collection. To facilitate this we recently added a facet, a custom search statement, to the UVa Library catalog that points directly to the McGregor Digital Collection.

Here are two links to this new feature:

  1. The Bitly shortened URL to McGregor Digital Collection items in the Digital Library:
  2. The full URL to the McGregor Digital Collection


Screenshot of Virgo catalog Limit Results option

The McGregor search facet is only one of many such options in the Virgo catalog.  To view others, go to Virgo catalog advanced search, then explore the “Limit Results” options. The McGregor Digital Collection is listed, logically, under Digital Collection.

Title Page to first volume of Theodori de Bry Great Voyages series published 1590

Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarvm ritibvs Virginiae

As a preview of one recently added volume, here’s the title page to the first part of the Latin edition of Theodor de Bry’s Great Voyages, illustrated with impressive copper engravings. We’ll be writing more about this series when digitization of all 13 volumes is complete.










College Topics Rotunda Fire Anniversary

November 4th, 2015

120 years ago today, on November 4th, 1895, the Cavalier Daily (then called College Topics) released a special edition report of the fire that engulfed the Rotunda in the week prior: College Topics Volume VII, Number 4. Today, we’re excited to release the fully-scanned version of the six page report, which includes descriptions of the fall of the annex, endeavors to save the books of the library and the Galt Statue of Thomas Jefferson, and a particularly doomed attempt to stop the flames with dynamite. Read below for those stories and more, or just to enjoy looking at a snapshot of life at the University of Virginia right before the turn of the twentieth century.

The Digital Production Group is currently digitizing a great number of College Topics, so if you enjoy this edition, be sure to check back on the main library website for many others in the future!

Note: the front page of this edition includes two hand-drawn renditions of the ruins. If you’re interested in seeing a colorized photo of the flames, head over to this article from UVA Magazine.

College Topics 1895-11-04 page 1

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College Topics 1895-11-04 page 2

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College Topics 1895-11-04 page 3

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College Topics 1895-11-04 page 4

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College Topics 1895-11-04 page 5

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College Topics 1895-11-04 page 6

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-Robert Rust
Robert is a Student Supervisor at the Digital Production Group

Digital Preservation of Steve Keene’s WTJU art

KeeneArt02 KeeneArt05KeeneArt01

Digital Production Group recently digitized for preservation purposes 29 original paintings by artist Steve Keene, who attributes his time as a DJ for University of Virginia radio station WTJU in the early 1990s as the biggest influence on his work.1 Through the station he came to know and work with a variety of musicians for whom he created album covers, stage sets, and promotional posters.

Keene’s generous gift of his art was in response to Rock Program co-Director Nick Rubin’s reaching out to Keene with a request for an original image to use on the T-shirt for this year’s WTJU Rock Marathon fundraiser. As noted by Rubin, the April 2015 fundraiser coincided with the 20th anniversary of the release of indie rock band Pavement’s April 1995 release of album Wowee Zowee with Steve Keene’s cover art. Nick Rubin was “bowled over by Keene’s generosity.” He’s grateful to Steve and looks forward to fulfilling his request that the works be shared with the community: most of the paintings will be given away in a drawing. Rubin describes this year as a high point in donors’ requests for the annual T-shirt design:  it was overwhelmingly the preferred thank-you gift. Visit the station’s WTJU fundraiser webpage  for images of the two T-shirt designs, selected by the station’s rock DJs.

Once called the “Assembly-Line Picasso” by Time magazine, Keene’s objective is to make buying his paintings as affordable and easy as buying music.2 After many international shows of his works, in 2014 he had his first New York City exhibit, long his home town.

KeeneArt03 KeeneArt04 Keene-ThisIsFun


2Lopez, Steve (Dec 1, 1997). “ASSEMBLY-LINE PICASSO”. Time Magazine.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s “Discovery”

000032423_0012Recently digitized as part of the McGregor Grant digitization project, this title page includes an image of a headless human form representing one of Walter Raleigh’s beliefs from his exploration of Guiana and the Northern part of South America in 1595.

000032423_0047Both these images appear in “Die Funffte kurtze wunderbare beschreibung, dess Goldreichen Konigreichs Guianae in America oder newen Welt”, a translation and abridgement of Sir Walter Raleigh’s “The discouerie of the large, rich, and bevvtiful empyre of Guiana, with a relation of the great and golden citie of Manoa (which the Spanyards call El Dorado) and of the prouinces of Emeria, Arromaia, Amapaia, and other countries, with their riuers, adioyning. Performed in the yeare 1595.”

Quoting from Raleigh’s original English language work, “When I came to Cumana in the West Indies afterwards by chance I spake with a Spaniard dwelling not far from thence, a man of great travel. And after he knew that I had been in Guiana, and so far directly west as Caroli, the first question he asked me was, whether I had seen any of the Ewaipanoma, which are those without heads. Who being esteemed a most honest man of his word, and in all things else, told me that he had seen many of them; I may not name him, because it may be for his disadvantage, but he is well known to Monsieur Moucheron’s son of London, and to Peter Moucheron, merchant, of the Flemish ship that was there in trade; who also heard, what he avowed to be true, of those people.”

In antiquity various species of mythical headless men were rumored to exist in remote parts of the world (see

To view the digitized German translation from the UVa Library McGregor collection, visit  It is one of the 26 volume series translating European voyages of discovery, “Sammlung von sechs und zwanzig Schiffahrten in verschiedene fremde Länder durch Levinus Hulsius und einige Andere, aus dem Holländischen ins Deutsche übersetzt und mit allerhand Anmerrkungen versehen”, compiled by Levinus Hulsius, and printed from 1598 to 1663.  Soon all volumes will be available in the UVa Digital Library.




Adam Newman, student staff, departs for Fulbright scholarship in India

Thanks to a Fulbright scholarship, Adam Newman, PhD candidate in Religious Studies, is leaving the Digital Production Group (DPG) in July for India, his fourth trip to the country as part of his research in Hinduism. He’s been with DPG since August 2014 and brought to the work a special appreciation of the book as a physical object, having studied the subject, along with critical editions and text as historical evidence. He had done some scanning of Tibetan manuscripts in a previous job but more as working copies than for preservation and publication. His work in DPG reinforced for him the value and need for preservation, especially as he thinks about the Indian archives he has visited. There he observed the ephemeral nature of works on palm-leaf, subject to deterioration from humidity and insects. Although not previously interested in photography, he’s now considering the benefits of digital camera equipment for his research. Indeed, his experiences in DPG have led him to consider where Digital Humanities fits with his research and career plans. First, though, he is focused on completing his dissertation, “Regional Identity and Historical Memory in Mewar: A History of Eklingji Temple.”

Congratulations, Adam, on winning a Fulbright. We look forward to seeing you again in DPG on your return from India.