West Virginia has a wealth of historic resources that could be used to interpret its past and help determine what part of its heritage should be preserved for future generations. In 1996, under a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Foundation, the West Virginia Division of Archives and History produced and published the Explorer West Virginia History Database on compact disc. This moduled focused on Jefferson County.
During the years since Explorer’s inception, computers’ capability and availability have increased exponentially while the Internet has become much faster and more reliable. Computer languages now allow different computer systems to share information quickly and easily. Geographic information systems (GIS) have become more sophisticated, allowing digital mapping to be integrated with more traditional methods of researching, writing, and publishing history.
The West Virginia GeoExplorer Project (WVGP) will create an innovative geographically-based web resource for exploring the history, culture, and architecture of West Virginia. Jefferson County will serve as the starting point for project efforts, which will later be expanded to encompass the rest of the state. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, digital imaging, and the rich concentration of local primary historical materials, it will be a freely-available resource for scholars, students, professionals, and laymen, with potential uses ranging from a digital archives of primary sources, to a research and educational tool, to an integral part of the community's planning and development process.
Consisting of a web-based GIS linked to a series of databases, WVGP will initially be the cooperative effort of Shepherd University and the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission. The project will be structured so that the number of participating institutions and the geographic scope can be expanded in later years to include other institutions and other counties if desired.