SlaveVoyages.org has its origins in the 1960s when historians began collecting data on slave ship voyages and estimating the number of enslaved Africans to cross the Atlantic between the 16th through 19th centuries. Developing a single, multisource dataset was a pipe dream until the 1990s, when David Eltis, Robert W. Woodruff Professor Emeritus of History at Emory University, and other researchers began to collaborate on centralizing their findings. The data migrated from punch cards, to laptop computer, to a CD-ROM published in 1999, to a website that debuted at Emory in 2008.
Long-term sustainability has become an important question for granting agencies considering support for research in the humanities, says Allen Tullos, co-director of Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship, which has worked with Professor Eltis and other scholars to host, enhance and expand SlaveVoyages.org.
As a result, SlaveVoyages.org will now be operated by a newly formed consortium of institutions, ensuring the preservation, stability, and future development of what has become the single most widely used online resource for anyone interested in slavery across the Atlantic world. The new consortium, organized by Emory, will function as a cooperative academic collaboration through a contractual agreement among six institutions: Emory, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture at the College of William & Mary, Rice University, and three campuses at the University of California that will assume a joint membership: Santa Cruz, Irvine, and Berkeley.
“Twenty years and four million viewers after its first appearance as a CD-ROM, the future of 48,000 slaving ventures recorded in SlaveVoyages is finally secured for posterity,” says Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of Harvard’s Hutchins Center. Professor Gates has called the project “one of the most dramatically significant research projects in the history of African studies, African American studies and the history of world slavery itself.”