What is the Center for Digital Editing?: A Partner, a Leader, an Organizer

TOPICS: Digital Humanities, Documentary Editing, Financial Papers

by Jennifer Stertzer, Senior Editor at the Washington Papers and Director of the CDE
October 28, 2016

The Center for Digital Editing (CDE) at the University of Virginia has a very specific mission: to advance the practice of editing by creating and encouraging the growth of innovative project solutions. We aim to help projects accomplish the twin goals of documentary editing—scholarship and accessibility—by taking full advantage of the possibilities of our hyperlinked world. Over the past year, we have identified four elements we see as essential to advancing that mission: research and development, engagement, project consultation and development, and education.

Research and development

The CDE will create and experiment with designs, tools, and platforms for making digital editing projects increasingly accessible and engaging. The growth in digital humanities has made it possible for editors to experiment with a variety of tools and platforms. We seek to continue this experimentation, not only by developing entirely new tools but also by customizing existing technologies to specific content in creative ways.

For instance, one of our first partners, the George Washington Financial Papers project, presented the opportunity to consider publication alternatives outside of the traditional letterpress volume. To do this, we began experimenting with one of today’s leading online publishing platforms: Drupal. The intersection of Drupal’s flexibility with the unique features of George Washington’s financial records inspired us to create a website (to be made publicly accessible in late 2016) that puts those records in a variety of user-decided contexts, based on taxonomies we created specifically for the project.


The CDE will engage and collaborate with faculty, scholars, editors, students, archivists, and librarians to construct customized projects, resources, and teaching materials. Additionally, the CDE will serve as an incubator for developing creative solutions for outreach and engagement with content. Collaborative opportunities abound at the University of Virginia and beyond.

Currently we are working with archivists and librarians to build a platform, complete with findings aids and robust metadata, for digitized archival materials. Future plans include working with faculty and students to create online exhibits and experiment with opportunities for the community at large to engage with editorial work.

Project consultation and development

The CDE will provide access to editorial and technical expertise to support the development of effective project goals, editorial standards, creative interface design, innovative editions, and funding strategies.

Already we have helped a number of projects to expand beyond their initial boundaries in order to craft more engaging tools and to reach a wider audience. We look forward to continuing this work in the future: each of our partnerships provides an opportunity for us to learn about different editorial methodologies, workflow needs, and publication and accessibility goals, which in turn gives us a wider range of experience and tools to offer future collaborators.


The CDE will provide pedagogical resources, guides and tutorials, and hands-on training, which will address all aspects of editorial project workflow and technical approaches. Everything from technical documentation to how-to guides will be posted to our website.

For the George Washington Financial Papers project, for example, we created several videos and visualizations that improve content navigation and comprehension as well as enable visitors to connect with the material in more than one way.


Our mission and its four supporting elements are very much informed by our work on the digital components of The Papers of George Washington; by our conversations with colleagues in documentary editing, digital humanities, and publishing; and by the obstacles we have encountered and continue to see as opportunities for advancing the accessibility of edited materials.

As we continue to navigate the intersection of documentary editing and digital humanities, we look forward to the conversations, the development of tools and resources, the collaborations and partnerships, and the outreach that will help chart the course for future digital editing projects.


The Washington Papers first partnered with the Center for Digital Editing to produce a digital platform and resources for the Financial Papers project. Directed by Washington Papers senior editor Jennifer Stertzer, the CDE continues to evolve into the central organization for editing at the University of Virginia.

For more information about the Center for Digital Editing, visit centerfordigitalediting.org.