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NEH Supports Digital Resource of Early Weather and Climate Records

The Center for Digital Editing, the American Philosophical Society, and the Papers of Thomas Jefferson Editorial Project at Princeton University Receive NEH Support to Plan a Federated Digital Resource of Early Weather and Climate Records

The forthcoming digital resource grew out of cooperative efforts among researchers to make the meteorological records of Thomas Jefferson, David Rittenhouse, James Madison, and others available online.

In January, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant of $44,570 to support collaborative planning by the University of Virginia’s Center for Digital Editing (CDE), the Center for Digital Scholarship at the American Philosophical Society (APS), and the Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Princeton University for creation of the North American Climate History project (NACH), an online free-access digital resource combining transcribed records of weather and climate before ca. 1850 from multiple repositories.

Inspiration for the project grew out of the creation of the Jefferson Weather & Climate Records, an ongoing collaboration between the Papers of Thomas Jefferson and the CDE, and digitization projects of the Center for Digital Scholarship at the APS that include the weather diaries of James Madison and David Rittenhouse. The first objective of the NACH project will be the integration of the Jefferson and APS transcriptions into a single searchable dataset. The project will also solicit transcriptions of early weather observation manuscript records held by other institutions for incorporation into this database, to be made available online through a single search portal. A second major objective is to provide access to climate and weather information that was recorded in forms other than tables of daily observations, including farm and garden diaries, agricultural records, almanacs, and notations of seasonal occurrences in the natural world (phenology).

page from rittenhouse weather records
Page from David Rittenhouse, "Meteorological observations, volume 2, 1792-1805." APS.

The NACH project is committed to open data and free access to all content of its online digital resource.

The planning phase will begin with a series of meetings and workshops with expert advisers later in 2022 and early 2023. Funds for planning come in part from the NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant program. Financial support also comes from the NEH’s special initiative A More Perfect Union, which—in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the writing of the Declaration of Independence—extends funding for “documentary editing projects that make significant texts available to a wide audience.”

Support for the Jefferson Weather and Climate Records has been provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson editorial project also receives support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The co-directors of the North American Climate History project are James McClure, General Editor of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Princeton University; Bayard Miller, Head of Digital Scholarship and Technology at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia; and Jennifer Stertzer, Director of the Center for Digital Editing and of the Washington Papers editorial project at the University of Virginia. A form for contacting the project’s collaborators is available at https://climate.centerfordigitalediting.org/.

About the Partners

The American Philosophical Society

The American Philosophical Society, established in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge,” is the nation’s oldest learned society. An intellectual bedrock of the early United States, the APS counts nearly all of the nation’s founders as Members of the Society. Election to Membership honors those who have made exceptionally significant contributions to science, the arts and humanities, and public life. The Society promotes scholarly research through its Library, including 40 fellowships each year, and through its research grant program. The Society sustains an informed citizenry through twice-yearly meetings and topical conferences and symposia. Public programs and museum exhibitions, which often draw close to 200,000 visitors annually, are inspired by the APS Library & Museum collections, which include 14 million pages of manuscripts, 275,000 books, and approximately 3,000 artifacts and fine art objects. The collection is strongest in early American history, Native American history and culture, and the history of science. APS publications are dedicated to publishing research that reflects a broad range of useful knowledge and is the oldest continuously operating scholarly press in the country.

The Center for Digital Editing

The Center for Digital Editing provides a distinct concentration of resources, knowledge, and solutions essential to the creation, publication, and discovery of digital editing projects in an endeavor to support and advance the field of scholarly editing. Work at the CDE involves continuously exploring and experimenting with new tools and practices in order to innovatively and expertly assist projects in the areas of instruction, conceptualization, web development, and public engagement.

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Princeton University is publishing the definitive scholarly edition of the correspondence and papers of Thomas Jefferson through Jefferson’s two terms as president of the United States. Princeton University Press publishes the edition’s print volumes. The edition’s content is also available in JSTOR, by subscription in the American Founding Era Collection of the Rotunda electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press, and without subscription through the Founders Online platform of the National Archives.