Roy Summerford, 334/844-9999


AUBURN -- In a few years, people all over the world will have a single source for everything they may ever want to know about Alabama. That source will be the online Encyclopedia of Alabama, which faculty at Auburn University are assembling.

Still in an early stage of development, the Encyclopedia of Alabama is a major undertaking for scholars in virtually all subjects that describe Alabama, its history, politics, culture, literature, natural environment and unique characteristics, says Jeff Jakeman, the encyclopedia's managing editor.

The online encyclopedia is scheduled for launch in 2007 or 2008, depending on financing and logistics, Jakeman said. A partnership of the Department of History in Auburn's College of Liberal Arts and the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the project will eventually involve dozens of scholars from public and private agencies, foundations and universities.

The editorial staff from AU's Department of History includes Jakeman, Editor-in-Chief Wayne Flynt and Associate Editor Steve Murray. They are coordinating technology and content plans with faculty and staff in several other offices across campus, including Information Technology, AU Libraries and the Truman Pierce Institute in the College of Education.

Eight other government and private agencies and foundations are participating in the project.

Bob Stewart, executive director of the Alabama Humanities Foundation, is coordinating efforts to raise funds during the developmental stage and for long-term maintenance.

"The Alabama Humanities Foundation is very excited to be working in partnership with Auburn University to develop an online encyclopedia for the citizens and students of Alabama -- not to mention people from across the United States and around the world who are interested in our history and culture," said Stewart.

Historians at Auburn and other universities are contributing material, but the encyclopedia is not limited to historical topics, Jakeman said. "We are looking at literature, popular culture, sports, entertainment and other areas that help define Alabama," he said. "This will be an authoritative reference work that will be very helpful to scholars, government, businesses and anyone who has an interest in the history and culture of Alabama."

The encyclopedia will be a source of information for everyone, not just school teachers, students and university professors, he added. Journalists, business leaders, tourism promoters and even vacation planners will have the information at their fingertips, Jakeman said.

"This will be a very powerful tool for teachers," he added. "It will serve the academic needs of K-12 and the universities. Beyond that, it will offer the people of this state the opportunity to understand and more fully appreciate the rich culture that we share as Alabamians."

Stewart of the Alabama Humanities Foundation added, "The Encyclopedia of Alabama represents an unprecedented collaborative opportunity for scholars, citizens, and educational institutions from across the state to make this resource a reality. The humanities belong to all Alabamians, and the encyclopedia will tell all our stories for generations to come."

Additional partners in the project, include the University of Alabama Press, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the Alabama State Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Alabama Public Television, the Alabama Public Library Service, the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries and the Alabama State Department of Education.

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