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David Rogers Chesnutt archive

Identifier: SCU-RBSC-2016-4

A pioneer in the field of digital humanities, David Chesnutt was born to Thomas Brice and Lena (Moss) Chesnutt in Athens, Alabama in 1940. Chesnutt expressed an interest in journalism from an early age, contributing pieces to school newspapers throughout his grade school years. He went on to write and edit for the University of Alabama newspaper and was awarded a degree in journalism from the university in 1962. After college he worked for the Alabama Journal for several years covering a variety of stories, notably the Cuban missile crisis and the integration of the University of Alabama.

After earning his doctorate in history at the University of Georgia in 1973, Chesnutt was hired as a research professor at the University of South Carolina, a position he would hold for 35 years. A major project undertaken during this time was the Henry Laurens Papers for which Chesnutt served as both associate editor and editor. By the project’s closing in 2002, approximately 12,000 manuscripts form numerous repositories were included. Work on the Laurens papers led to the creation of the Association for Documentary Editing in 1978, with Chesnutt as a co-founder. He would later serve as its president from 1991-1992.

Realizing the growing need for digital access to historical documents, Chesnutt was instrumental in the creation of the Model Editions Partnership (MEP) using a modified version of the Text Encoding Initiative’s protocol. The goal of MEP was to standardize the markup guidelines for documents when digitized to ensure continued access while at the same time keeping records of their efforts in the process for use by others in the field.

Chesnutt’s passion for and expertise with historical documents led to him being selected as the editor of The Manuscript Society’s journal in 1979, a post he held for 35 years. His dedication to the field was further recognized when, in 2005, he was awarded The Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s ‘highest civilian honor for extraordinary lifetime achievement and service to the state and nation.’

Personal items in the collection include school yearbooks, articles and notes from his journalism career, photographs from throughout his life, and personal correspondence. A notebook containing bird watching records and a collection of material from his time spent studying Buddhism under Chögyam Trungpa shed further light on his personal interests.

The collection also contains material from Chesnutt’s varied professional career. This includes files from Benchmark Inc., records form both his manuscript editing and professorial work, and papers related to the Henry Laurens project in particular. There are also files and recordings from the Model Editions Partnership.

Finally, there is also a large collection of audio visual and computer materials that will be of particular interest to technophiles. There are numerous CDs and 5” and 3.5” floppy disks. If labeled correctly, some of these contain records of personal and professional material, while others are software disks. A number of disks are unlabeled. Also included are older model laptops and cords, microcassettes and recorder, 35mm color slides, and Beta and VHS tapes.

There is a box of material that has been closed from view, some for 10 years and some for 30. Every attempt has been made on the part of the processors to maintain the original file labeling provided by Chesnutt. In addition, items are marked with the amount of time they are to be kept closed.


  • 1946-2016


Access Restrictions

Open to research. One box of personal material is unavailable with 10 and 30 year restrictions.

Publication Rights

All rights reside with the creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.


6 boxes


Gift, 2016

Repository Details

Part of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene Street
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-3847

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