Encyclopedia project asks: What is Oregon? - Coast Weekend - Astoria

5/29/2008 8:00:00 AM

Encyclopedia project asks: What is Oregon?

By JULIA MABRY Coast Weekend

An encyclopedia is a dust-collecting assemblage of dry facts, pulled together by equally dust-collecting and dry professors for the sole purpose of making you feel stupid about all the things you don't know. Or is it?

The Oregon Encyclopedia Project kicked off in February and the dust hasn't had time to settle, if it ever will. This encyclopedia is a growing online resource for everything Oregon. Grouped into five categories (people; places; groups and institutions; events; biota), the facts are all the things you do know. The editors are asking for your input.

"There's a need for a comprehensive, authoritative publication like this," says Rick Hardt, professor at Portland State University and one of three Editors in Chief for the project. "The time is right."

After a couple of graduate students at PSU came up with more than 2,000 topics that could be included based on history books, the editors are now traveling across the state to hold community meetings and gather fresher ideas.

"What are the topics that should be a part of this?" is the question they are asking. What is part of Oregon's history and culture, and warrants eternal life online?

"It should be a record of things that are lasting," says Hardt about the encyclopedia. But that doesn't mean a record of things already recorded.

Butchering and cleaning at the Union Fishermen's Cooperative Cannery in Astoria, date unknown. Photo courtesy Mike Koskela. "We know the demographics of our state have changed dramatically in the last 30, 40 years," says Hardt. These more recent, but nevertheless lasting, changes will become entries in some form. The contribution of migrant workers and Hispanic immigrants to Oregon will not be overlooked.

Neither will the contribution of women. In the original list of 2,000 topics, only about 9 percent had anything to do with women. "That's just not acceptable," says Hardt. As editors collect information around the state, they will make an effort to invite those groups that have been underrepresented in current history books.

"We will not be republishing anything," says Hardt. All entries in the encyclopedia will be original and have single authors. They will be reviewed and fact-checked by an editorial board that currently consists of 25 people with varying specialties.

The online format will allow for the addition of audio, video and internal links between entries. "Because it's electronic, it opens up a huge number of possibilities," says Hardt.

The largely volunteer effort is relying on the public not just for ideas, but also for the entries themselves. During the meeting in Astoria, the editors will want to know what the topics are in our area, but also "Who should write these?" says Hardt.

The goal is to finish the encyclopedia in time for Oregon's sesquicentennial in 2009, with a total of 3,000 entries. An additional 200 essays will deal with more comprehensive topics, such as fishing.

Will the Scandinavian Festival become an "events" entry? Will anyone lobby for the Doughboy? "We're not going to be hard to persuade," says Hardt. "We'll be there with flip charts and pens." No dust.


To contribute ideas and to learn more about the Oregon Encyclopedia Project, the public is invited to attend a community meeting Saturday, May 31, from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Astoria Public Library, 450 10th St.

William L. Lang, editor-in-chief of the encyclopedia and professor of history at Portland State University, and Barbara Mahoney, editorial board member, historian and biographer, will facilitate the meeting.

For more information, visit www.oregonencyclopedia.org


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