Texts Maps Visualizations
  • Cumberland Gap
  • Falls of the Missouri
  • Lenhi Pass

Envisaging the West:
Meriwether Lewis and the Local Roots of Jefferson's West

Mike Furlough, Director, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center, Alderman Library
Earl Mark, Associate Professor, Director, Computer Technologies, School of Architecture
Doug Seefeldt, Director, Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Project

This project, a collaboration between the University of Virginia's Alderman Library, the School of Architecture, and the Virginia Center for Digital History, seeks to examine the attitudes and perceptions of the natural world held by the first generation of Anglo settlers who came to Albemarle County and the greater Virginia Piedmont region. We seek to examine how their understanding of the region's natural resources and Native American land tenure informed the interpretations of early cartographic representations of the North American West by two Virginians: Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson.

We have created an electronic archive of selected manuscript maps, land entries, surveyor's notes, letters, diaries, travel journals, and published accounts and compiled a geo-rectified cartographic database to highlight several significant intellectual and physical encounters in Virginia's Piedmont. The project aims to create a cross-section of relevant materials with which to examine these encounters and understand how this legacy contributed to the vision of the Far West held by Lewis and Jefferson as they made plans for the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-1806.

Our research has focused on identifying, collecting and digitizing pertinent documentary materials and developing three-dimensional visualizations and a spatially oriented information system that will form the foundation of the digital history project. These include pertinent data from the personal papers of Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson. In addition to digitization, the process includes transcription, markup and rendering of the materials and the ultimate integration of these textual and visual materials into a larger data set for the information community hosted by the University of Virginia Library.