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New features distinguish massive Simms digital project


Join us for a celebratory event on Thursday, September 25, 2014, that will mark the completion of this digital project.

After surpassing its original goals, The Simms Initiatives has wrapped up its fourth and final year. The University of South Carolina Libraries digital project provides worldwide access to the work of 19th-century author William Gilmore Simms (1806 - 1870), shown here at left in a Library of Congress photograph. Born in Charleston, Simms was a novelist, poet, short-story writer, essayist, speaker, and leading literary figure of his day.

“USC is home to the largest, most comprehensive Simms collection in the world, and now that collection is accessible to everyone,” said Todd Hagstette, Director of the Simms Initiatives. “The Simms Initiatives is one of the world’s largest single-author digital repositories, consisting of 110 printed works, nine scrapbooks, 37 journal issues, two manuscript novels, and pages and pages of support content.”

Jointly funded by the Watson-Brown Foundation of Thomson, Georgia, and the USC Libraries, the four-year project was charged with producing a comprehensive bibliographic database that would be a resource for scholars studying Simms and his work. The site does that, and more.

“We’ve gone beyond our initial projections for the project,” said Hagstette, shown in photo below. “We’ve digitized the full 21-volume run of The Simms Review, which is devoted to the study of Simms. We’ve added a customized scrapbook feature, and an interactive map feature called Simms’s World. Users also have the ability to download PDF or Jpeg copies of pages or a plain-text version of an entire text document at no charge, and they can print on demand a total of 65 works from the sites in a special reprint edition of the author’s selected works from USC Press.”

There are nine scrapbooks created by Simms. The books have an average of 200 pages each, and they are filled with the writer’s early poem manuscripts, his published newspaper clippings, notes, and writings that were never published. The new scrapbook viewer replicates the experience of thumbing through the scrapbook, page by page and item by item.

“We built the scrapbook viewer from the ground up, so we decided to add lots of desirable features to it,” Hagstette said. “Besides the innovative display that allows users to page through the books and select individual scraps from the pages, we also incorporated a download feature and an in-viewer search option. It returns targeted search results and allows users to search through individual texts. This makes all the material more accessible and more searchable.”

Now that the Simms project is complete, Hagstette will move from the USC Libraries to the Institute for Southern Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. He will maintain the Simms site and work on creating another Southern-themed site to expand the University’s digital efforts.

An event celebrating the completion of The Simms Initiative is planned for September 2014. The event, which will be open to the public, will include a keynote talk by an international Simms scholar. For updates, visit