A recent Web search conducted by students at Portland State University for all things Oregon revealed that only 17 percent of the people in the results were women. The Oregon Encyclopedia Project hopes to change that—and a whole lot more for browsers interested in the Beaver State.
Supported by $350,000 from the Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University and a smattering of other public and private donors, the online Oregon Encyclopedia officially launched this year on Oregon's 149th anniversary—Feb. 14. Its goal? To be the most comprehensive place on the Web for research regarding Oregon.
Organizers hope to have at least 3,000 entries at oregonencyclopedia.org by fall 2009. Project coordinator Susan Martin says the online encyclopedia will include groups, such as immigrants and Native Americans, typically overlooked by textbooks that focus on the Oregon Trail and the Portland area.
"You're going to find things on rural communities," says Martin, a cultural historian and guide on boats before becoming involved full-time with the project. "You're going to find things on women. It'll be a broad population."
Most of the funding will go to pay writers and researchers $50 per entry. The money also helps pay for the organizers to travel around the state holding community meetings, where professors, folklorists and armchair history buffs can suggest topics to include.
The community meeting in Portland was Saturday, Sept. 27, and drew about a dozen people who generated dozens of proposed additions. Among their suggestions: including the Church of Elvis, the world's smallest park—Portland's Mill Ends Park—and Voodoo Doughnut.
But with each of those three suggestions already in Wikipedia, will the Oregon Encyclopedia offer anything in a Web search that Wikipedia doesn't yield already?
Project organizers say yes. Beyond their effort to include underrepresented groups, a lot of time will be spent on each post—two to three months per entry, to be specific, as each works its way through the hands of fact-checkers, a 25-member editorial board, and, finally, three editors-in-chief.
"Wikipedia uses a community to judge their material, which may or may not be to your advantage," says Martin. "We're different from Wikipedia in that everything that we have is authoritative and definitive and rigorously fact-checked. Plus, it's genuinely created with an intention of being unbiased."
Encyclopedia organizers hope to keep the site free, but must raise more money to cover costs.
The next community meeting is Saturday, Oct. 4, from 1 to 4 pm at the Pendleton Public Library.