Columbia Libraries Launches Enhanced John Jay Papers Web Site


NEW YORK, March 31, 2006 - Columbia University Libraries has relaunched The Papers of John Jay web site, an online database of abstracts and images of over 13,000 documents written by or to John Jay, a founding father of the United States, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and an early graduate of King’s College. This site provides access to research materials collected by the John Jay publication project during the 1960s and 1970s, as well as newly identified material from Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Papers of John Jay site is available to the public at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/jay/

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The redesigned web site has been significantly enhanced since it was first launched in 2002. While the site initially included Jay documents from about 50 institutions, today it represents over 90. The content has also increased considerably with the addition of over 1,500 documents and 12,000 page images. These include 1,300 new color scans from original documents in Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. In addition, users can now perform more complex Boolean searches, along with the standard searches by Author, Recipient, Keywords, Repository, Jay ID, and Date; and keyword results are now displayed ‘in context’ for easier browsing.

The new Papers of John Jay site builds on the original database released in 2002, which was created with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Florence Gould Foundation. The current three-year project (2003–2006) to expand the content and enhance the functionality of the database has been funded by Columbia University Libraries as a digital sustainability initiative of the Libraries Digital Program. One of the most significant accomplishments of the project is the creation of a ‘virtual archive,’ bringing together the holdings of many different and widely dispersed physical collections.

The Papers of John Jay is a marvel of accessibility that makes it possible for anyone to make detailed searches of documents without having to travel to multiple repositories, or spend hours reading page after fragile page seeking that one elusive bit of information,” said Diane Shewchuk, Director of the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, N.Y. “It allows one to follow up each new discovery quickly with a fresh inquiry, taking one on an investigatory odyssey that would be far slower and more difficult without it.”

The original John Jay print publication project, upon which the current database is built, was carried out in the 1960s and 1970s under the direction of the eminent Jay scholar Professor Richard B. Morris. During that period, Morris secured photocopies of original Jay documents from around the world in preparation for a four-volume letterpress series, The Selected Unpublished Papers of John Jay. By the time of Morris’ death in 1989, only two volumes of the edition had appeared, and no further volumes were ever published. The Papers of John Jay web site makes all source material gathered by the original project publicly available for the first time, along with significant new content.

The Jay online database is a key resource for The Selected Papers of John Jay,a complementary print publication project funded by National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), which is currently underway at Columbia.

“All of us will find our work simplified by the improved search capacities and revised abstracts now being made available, and enhanced by the addition of so many documents to this publicly available database,” said Dr. Elizabeth M. Nuxoll, editor of the new letterpress edition. “So too will the countless teachers, students, writers, genealogists, and history buffs unknown to us, who will log on to explore these varied and fascinating documents and to use them as building blocks for the scholarship of the future.”

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Columbia Libraries Digital Program Division works to improve the coordination and effectiveness of Columbia’s library-related digital initiatives. Currently staffed by eight full-time employees, its scope includes the development and support of the Libraries official public and staff websites; development of enhanced interfaces and tools for the Columbia community’s use of databases, e-journals and other e-resources; coordination of internal and external collection digitization and web-publishing programs; and implementation and management of Columbia’s institutional repository programs, including Columbia Image Bank and DigitalCommons@Columbia. The Division’s website can be found at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/inside/units/ldpd/

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns over 600,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 26 million manuscripts in nearly 2,600 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children’s literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive. For additional information about the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, please call 212-854-5153 or see: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/rbml/index.html

The Selected Papers of John Jay, a project sponsored by Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library and funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), is producing a multivolume scholarly edition of Jay’s papers to be published by Columbia University Press. Tentatively scheduled for completion in 2011, the edition is designed to revise and complete work begun in the late 1950s by Richard B. Morris, an eminent Jay scholar and Columbia University professor, who supplemented the major collection of original Jay Papers at Columbia with copies of Jay documents secured from archives throughout the world.

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03/31/06 ICL