Planning grant to launch online North Carolina encyclopedia

November 12, 2002

When complete the encyclopedia, a project the partners call ENCO, will be published on the World Wide Web, capitalizing on the Internet’s accessibility, interactivity, multimedia capabilities and potential for expansion and frequent updates. The project partners have received a $50,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a year of planning for the encyclopedia.

Partners will work during that year with consultants, scholars, educators and citizens around the state to explore ways in which the project can most effectively use the Internet to tell the story of North Carolina. Besides traditional encyclopedia entries, such information may include audio and visual materials, supplemental text and links to existing digital resources.

The audience for the free encyclopedia includes North Carolina residents; teachers and students; faculty and students at community colleges, four-year colleges and universities; businesses and civic organizations; community organizations; cultural and arts groups; and legislators and policy-makers. The goal is to represent and connect to culturally and geographically diverse constituencies across North Carolina, allowing a growing number of Internet users to learn about the state and participate in the continuing development, recording and interpretation of its history and culture.

“The encyclopedia will present a web of existing, new and related material,” said Kate Douglas Torrey, director of UNC Press. “It will include connections to digitized primary source material available online; Web sites maintained by state and local organizations and individuals; and other information outlets around the state, including, for example, Web sites for North Carolina’s major newspapers. The partnership of these three strong organizations makes such a project possible.”

For more than 30 years, the North Carolina Humanities Council, based in Greensboro, has supported public humanities programs addressing fundamental questions about identity, culture and historical self-understanding. The council aims to make the best academic scholarship and teaching available and accessible to citizens. Since 1972, the council has brought more than $13 million to the state’s communities in all 100 counties. Every dollar has been matched by the citizens of North Carolina, mostly through in-kind contributions of time and energy.

“Every effort will be made to make ENCO accessible to the widest possible audience of users in North Carolina and beyond,” said Douglas Quin, executive director of the council. “Our partners share a vision that ENCO should be available without subscription costs or other fees to access content, both to individuals within North Carolina and to those outside the state.”

The UNC Press, the oldest university press in the South founded in 1922, is charged with publishing deserving works, the advancement of the arts and sciences and the development of literature.

The encyclopedia will be “a marvelous resource that marks an important milestone not only for UNC Press but for the citizens of North Carolina and beyond,” Torrey said. “Such a project combines the talents of many individuals and institutions to create a whole that will be more than the sum of its parts.”

A key strength of this project is the ability to build on successful print reference works published by UNC Press. “The Encyclopedia of North Carolina History,” edited by William S. Powell, will be published in a print version by UNC Press late in 2004 or early in 2005, before the new encyclopedia is available online. Other print material that may be included in the encyclopedia will be the multi-volume “Dictionary of North Carolina Biography” and “The North Carolina Gazetteer,” both also edited by Powell, professor emeritus of history at UNC-Chapel Hill, and published by UNC Press.

“Publishing a traditional state encyclopedia is particularly daunting because the pace of change in North Carolina almost guarantees the need for a new edition the moment it is available,” Torrey said. “For this reason, as well as the opportunity to connect the state’s key reference works, ENCO is particularly appealing. Byond that, ENCO will serve as a dynamic gateway to a wide range of ever-increasing information about the state.”

UNC-Chapel Hill’s library includes more than 100 libraries. Its collections total more than 5 million volumes, 4.8 million microforms, 1.6 million printed government documents, 20 million manuscripts, hundreds of thousands of audiovisuals, maps and photographs, and thousands of electronic titles. The library’s scope covers the biological, physical and medical sciences; fine arts; law; humanities and social sciences. It has republished on the Web an award-winning digital library project of more than 1,200 texts that document the history and culture of the American South. The project, “Documenting the American South”, is available for free and is heavily used by people around the world.

“We bring to this project our expertise regarding the organization and presentation of information,” said Dr. Joe Hewitt, associate provost for university libraries and university librarian. “The library’s experience with rapidly evolving technical standards, our rich bibliographic tradition and our existing partnerships in the development and dissemination of electronic information will help to develop ENCO into a resource that will significantly benefit students, researchers and the general public. ENCO also enhances the university’s strong commitment to preserving the history of the people of North Carolina and of the American South. ”

The planning phase for the encyclopedia is expected to be completed in the summer of 2003 and will conclude with a grant proposal to the NEH seeking funding to complete the project.

For more information, go to the UNC Press Web site:

UNC Press contact: Mark Simpson-Vos, associate editor, UNC Press,, (919) 966-3561 ext. 238

UNC News Services contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593,