Student Grant Spotlight: Jefferson Society Archives Project

Today’s student grant spotlight: Jefferson Literary and Debating Society President Jack Chellman discusses the Society’s archives project.

What is the Jefferson Society Archives (JSA) project?

The Jefferson Society Archives Project aims to organize and digitize the approximately 30,000-item archival collection of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. As the oldest student organization at the University of Virginia, the Jefferson Society has played an important role in the development of student life and intellectual culture on Grounds. The JSA Project seeks to reunite the University with a critical piece of its own history by making the Jefferson Society’s archives accessible and enduring.

How did the Jefferson Society come up with the idea for the project?

We were inspired to create this project by the concerning conditions of the Society’s archives. Prior to the start of this project, the Society’s archives had no system of organization, nothing was housed in archival-quality materials, and we had no digital backups whatsoever. While the collection includes fascinating items like meeting minutes written by Woodrow Wilson, the state of the archives was such that these valuable items were in danger of being lost.

What are your future goals for the project?

Our goal is to have our collection organized by category and chronology and relocated to the Special Collections Library. We aim to digitize approximately 5000 of our most valuable items, making the images available on the University’s Virgo catalog as well as on a project website. We’d also like a searchable catalog of the collection to be available on the website, including metadata for each item we possess. Our hope is that this project opens the door for exciting new research into the University’s history.