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UVA Offering a High Tech Look at History

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Photo Courtesy UVA Library website Photo Courtesy UVA Library website

The University of Virginia Library is offering visitors a high-tech look at the Declaration of Independence.

The permanent exhibit, "Declaring Independence: Creating and Recreating America's Document,"  features a new Microsoft Surface computing platform that responds to human touch.

Rick Reifenstein is the library computer support engineer at the Mary and David Harrison Institute at the university.  He said Microsoft Surface provides a hands-on look at letters, paintings and documents from the time when America declared its independence.

"It makes it alive. It makes it something that's tangible to them not something that's happened in the past." 

With a stroke of a finger visitors can move and touch the scanned images.

"It's turned out the be a great teaching tool because we can have people gathered around the table and show them this material in a way that's not harmful for the material," said Reifenstein. 

Behind a protective glass are original letters written by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Caesar Rodney.  Using Microsoft Surface, visitors can get a closer look at them and even see what's written on the back side of Caesar Rodney's letter.

Microsoft Surface allows you to zoom in and out, making it easier to see small signatures in great detail.  Users can also look at the first printings of the Declaration of Independence in newspapers from the time period.

"You can see how it looks the London chronicle, you can see how it looks in a period newspaper in Philadelphia which is unique because before and after the important document for us, are ads for watches and sugar and coffee, and it gives you a good snapshot of the time period," said Reifenstein.

The exhibit will open on July 04. Admission is free.

Reported by Jennifer Von Reuter
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