Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Drew VandeCreek
Drew VandeCreek

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

May 1, 2007

NIU Libraries’ Web project wins
2007 Electronic Lincoln Prize

DeKalb, Ill. — The Lincoln/Net Web site produced by Northern Illinois University Libraries has won a major national award for excellence.

During a formal ceremony held Monday evening at the Yale Club in New York City, Gettysburg College presented Drew VandeCreek, creator of Lincoln/Net and director of University Libraries’ digitization unit, with the 2007 Electronic Lincoln Prize. The ceremony also included presentation of the Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize for the best non-fiction historical work of the year.

Accompanied by a $10,000 cash award, the Electronic Lincoln Prize is given for significant contribution in new media to scholarship about Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War era. The Lincoln/Net site is located online at

“It’s a significant award,” said Mary Munroe, interim dean of University Libraries. “The eLincoln Prize is an indicator of the national recognition that the Abraham Lincoln Digitization Project has received and of its importance to humanities scholarship.”

Lincoln/Net was selected from two dozen sites reviewed by the prize jury, which included judges from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, the University of Maryland and West Springfield High School in Virginia.

“We’re happy to have won the prize,” VandeCreek said. “I think it brings visibility to our work, the university and our partners who have contributed to the project.”

Launched in 2000, Lincoln/Net was the first of many projects now overseen by the library’s digitization unit, which has won numerous grants to digitize scholarly materials for the Web on topics ranging from Southeast Asia to Mark Twain.

The Lincoln/Net site focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s life before the presidency, using it as a lens through which users can examine his context in antebellum America. The site contains interactive maps, more than 3,000 images, hundreds of video and sound files and in excess of 30 million words of searchable text, including Lincoln’s speeches and writings prior to his presidency.

Used frequently by scholars, educators, students and the general public, the site attracts thousands of unique visitors daily from across the world. It provides users with “primary source” materials—or materials created or published in the period under study, in this case 1818 through 1861.

“We have a good size audience of teachers and students,” VandeCreek said. “We also have lesson plans for teachers that address state and national standards. But I think the thing that’s different about our site is we also try to reach the public with interpretive materials that help the layman make sense of primary sources.”

VandeCreek credited his staff for Lincoln/Net’s success, including programmer Anitha Paruchuri and the late Tara Dirst, who served as technology coordinator for the digitization unit. Dirst, a 33-year-old NIU alumna who worked on Lincoln/Net from its inception, died April 8, as the result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident in early March.

“The concept of Lincoln/Net was my idea,” VandeCreek said, “but its execution and creation as an online resource was almost entirely Tara’s work. She was a very important part of what we do and a wonderful colleague.”