African American Studies was appointed the director of Virginia Center for Digital History. It is an independent center located in Alderman Library. U.Va. established the Virginia Center for Digital History in 1998. Founded in 1998 by U.Va., VCDH was founded by historians Edward L. Ayers III and William G. Thomas III. VCDH uses digital technologies to improve the teaching and learning of American history, as well as transform the access to, understanding, and teaching of American History. French has been involved in computing for humanities since his days as a graduate student at U.Va. in the 1990s. He was part of a team that supported Ayers, who is now the dean of U.Va. ‘s College of Arts & Sciences – in the creation of the ground-breaking electronic project “Valley of the Shadow”.
“Digital history remains in its early stages and there is no expert in the field. Ayers said that everyone is still trying to find their way, one step at time. Scot is a natural leader in VCDH, and he has the energy, creativity, and ability to work well with many constituencies. French recognizes Ayers’ pioneering efforts to establish this new field. He also demonstrated, through his scholarship on Civil War and Emancipation the immense potential of historical research and teaching. French stated, “Ed Scot French [Ayers] is influential in shaping me intellectual development and created an example of collaboration that i have adopted.”
From 1997 until this year, French served as assistant/associate/interim director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, where he developed numerous Web-based teaching and research tools for course work and workshops. French and Reginald Butler (then-Woodson Institute Director) created the digital archive “Race and Place, An African American Community In the Jim Crow South”. The project was intended to attract outstanding minority students, who are interested in advanced degrees in social sciences and humanities. The digital archive contains oral history, maps, census databases and city records. It also includes personal papers, photographs, and political materials that relate to the time of segregation in one South-based community.
French and Butler co-developed “The Chesapeake Regional Scholars Summer Seminar on African-American Studies: New Approaches for Teaching and Research in The 21st Century”. This program was created to bring together humanities computing students from historically black colleges and universities, as well as those outside of the academy. From 1997 to 2000, the annual program featured lectures, workshops, hands-on training and workshops that paired community members with scholars to create public history web sites.