The formation of monolithic and transparent transition metal containing aerogels has been achieved through cooperative interactions of high molecular weight functionalized carbohydrates and silica precursors, which strongly influence the kinetics of gelation. After initial gelation, subsequent modification of the ligating character of the system, coordination of the group VIII metal ions, and supercritical extraction afford the aerogels. The structures at the nanophase level have been probed by photon and electron transmission and neutron scattering techniques to help elucidate the basis for structural integrity together with the small entity sizes that permit transparency in the visible range. They also help with understanding the chemical reactivities of the metal-containing sites in these very high surface area materials. These results are discussed in connection with new reaction studies.