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UConn to develop online encyclopedia to catalog state’s history

by Jennifer Huber - November 13, 2006

Founded in the early 17th century, Connecticut played an integral role in shaping U.S. history. Its flagship university is now cataloging the state's rich history in a new online encyclopedia.

"The project is a joint venture among the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Office of the State Historian, and the Connecticut Humanities Council," says project director Walter Woodward, state historian and professor of history at UConn.

Woodward is based at the Greater Hartford campus.

UConn and the state-run Connecticut Humanities Council of Middletown will share the cost of creating the Connecticut Encyclopedia of History Online (ECHO), estimated at $700,000.

The council recently provided the seed money to kick off production.

The council previously developed a pilot program, the Laptop Encyclopedia of Connecticut History.

Its success suggests that ECHO will be well received by students and educators at all levels, according to Woodward and Bruce Fraser, executive director of the council.

"The pilot version is receiving 30,000 to 40,000 visitors per month who come to it for information," says Woodward.

"It's clear there's not only a significant need, but also a demand for it."

UConn faculty and graduate students from various disciplines will produce much of the content, constructing a comprehensive and up-to-date history of the state.

Woodward anticipates that, in addition to being an educational tool, the encyclopedia may inspire patriotism toward Connecticut, as residents learn more about significant local historic figures and events.

"Connecticut is a state that has so much history to be proud of," he says.

"It is history that has been disproportionately influential in the history of the United States, in pretty clear and remarkable ways.

Yet, as important as this history has been, its people and to a degree its students have lost sight of that," adds Woodward.

The new encyclopedia may "instill pride of place and rootedness."

The encyclopedia will be posted in stages.

The first portion is slated for early 2008, with the final portion in late 2009.

Woodward and Fraser note, however, that the project will never officially end.

"The incredible virtue of an online encyclopedia is that it can be continually updated," says Fraser.

With room to elaborate on topics, link to related web sites, and, most importantly, stay current, he says, ECHO will remain a viable and invaluable resource over time.

Adds Woodward, "The capacity to expand a project like this is infinite."  

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