As digital tools and data analysis grow in their importance to faculty research and teaching, the UVa Law Library hosts the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow of Digital Humanities aimed at fostering collaboration between the librarians who build digital research tools and the scholars who use them. Since the Law Library began funding this multi-year postdoctoral position in 2011, three historians have served adjoining terms as Library Fellows. All have worked closely with the Library’s Digital Collections Librarian to enable new scholarly research in the Library’s digitized collections and produce new scholarship using materials from the law school archives.


Current Fellow

Jim Ambuske earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia in 2016. He joined the Law Library as the Postdoctoral Fellow in the summer of that year. Jim's dissertation focused on the imperial politics of Scottish emigration in the era of the American Revolution, with a focus on how emigration provoked a wider transatlantic conversation about the meaning and purpose of Britain's American empire in a moment of imperial constitutional crisis. 

Jim happily joined the Law Library in 2016 to continue the work of his friend and predecessor, Randi Flaherty, on the Scottish Court of Session Papers Project. These under-explored documents are not only valuable to legal scholars probing the evolution of Scottish law, but they have wider value for scholars in a variety of historical fields and humanities disciplines. Each case is a mini archive itself as they often contain personal correspondence, census data, corporate contracts, marginalia, maps, or architectural renderings that illuminate the lives of women and men living in a British Atlantic world undergoing dramatic change. Jim is overseeing the continued development of this project and its promotion among the scholarly community while pursuing new research questions within these lovely materials.

When he is not working on the Scottish Court of Session Project, Jim expends energy developing ways to make the Law Library's rich archival and rare book materials on early American, Virginia, and transatlantic legal history more accessible to scholars at UVA and the wider academic community, and laying the ground work for the library's next major initiatives.


Former Fellows

Randi Flaherty earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia in 2014 before joining the Law Library as a Postdoctoral Fellow that fall. Her scholarship focuses on early American political and economic history, particularly the origins of American trade to the Indian Ocean.The deep archival collections at the Law Library have enabled her to pursue her own research interests while also promoting these collections for further scholarly use.

In 2014 Randi joined the Library’s ongoing 1828 Catalogue Project and began work on a Virtual Bookshelf of the original 721 law books listed in U.Va.’s first library catalogue. This new digital tool for engaging with historical libraries continues a forty-year-long effort by the Law Library to collect duplicate editions of the rare legal titles purchased for U.Va. under the direction of Thomas Jefferson.  Built on a rich database of bibliographic information compiled by the first Library Fellow, Philip Herrington, this immersive website provides a deep look into U.Va.'s first legal library and positions the U.Va. Law Library as a leading archive for the history of early American legal education.  Further, the website’s presentation of book spine images aligned on a virtual shelf in the order of their original classification, filterable by subject, author, and other bibliographic criteria, preserves the critical explorative experience that libraries have long offered.

In 2015, after re-discovering a large collection of Scottish Court of Session Papers that the Law Library had acquired at auction in the 1980s, Randi initiated a project to inventory and digitize this rich resource. Upon reviewing these printed case files presented before the Scottish Court of Session from 1759 to 1834, Randi was amazed at their value not only to legal scholars, but to researchers across many disciplines. Legal materials in this period that originated as manuscripts and include rich historical information, like these Session Papers, rarely exist in printed forms that can be so easily harvested for digital searching, visualization, and analysis.  As a court of appeal and first instance and the highest civil court in Scotland, the Court of Session held jurisdiction over matters of succession and land ownership, divorce, intellectual property rights, contested political elections, and contract and commercial cases, including many on the colonial North American tobacco trade. The Law Library expects this collection will support new scholarship on the British Atlantic of the 18th and 19th centuries and on American history, particularly in the years surrounding the American Revolution.

She is currently a research fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies.


Philip Mills Herrington served as the Law Library’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities from January 2013 to August 2014. Prior to his role as a Law Library fellow, he earned his Master’s in Historic Preservation from the University of Georgia in 2003 and his Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia in 2012. His scholarship combines architectural and environmental history to examine the plantation as a conceptual and physical space in the development of the United States. In fall 2014, Philip became an Assistant Professor of History at James Madison University, where he teaches U.S. History and Historic Preservation.

At the Law Library, Philip’s background in architectural history led him to explore the history of the Law School through its physical spaces, from its original location in Jefferson’s Academical Village to the current Law Grounds. Uncovering a surprisingly rich archive of material at both the Law Library and the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library on Central Grounds, Philip authored a monograph on the Law School’s architectural evolution over nearly 200 years. This work, which will be published by the University of Virginia Press in 2017, serves as both a history of the Law School and a case study in the expansion of the University of Virginia. Philip also initiated a comparison of Jefferson’s selection of law titles for the new University library from 1824-25 and the list of law books included in the published catalog of the library in 1828. Now part of the ongoing 1828 Catalogue project, this endeavor seeks to better understand Jefferson’s conception of the study of law at the University and the degree to which the new library reflected this vision. Philip was instrumental in developing a new exhibit now on display in the library’s entrance showcasing the history of the Law School from 1819 to 2000.