News & Events

Encyclopedia of Arkansas Celebrates Five Years

Encyclopedia of Arkansas

The online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture (EOA) celebrates its five-year anniversary on May 2. Since its launch five years ago, the EOA has surpassed all initial goals for number of text/media entries. A project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System, the EOA is the only state encyclopedia in the nation developed by a library system.

Senior editor Nathania Sawyer said, "Five years ago, we had a vision for what our state encyclopedia could be, but no real concept of how well it would be received. Today, we know that it is being used extensively by educators, journalists, historians and the general public around the world-to date, EOA users have come from 188 countries. We started the project hoping that the site would receive 50,000 hits per month. Currently, we receive more than 3 million hits each month. I find references to EOA entries on all kinds of web pages-from the New York Times' quote from the EOA in The Blob writer Kate Phillips's obituary to the Southeast Sasquatch Association's link to our entry on the Fouke Monster."

The encyclopedia collects and disseminates information on all aspects of the state's history and culture. In 2004, the project received a major grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation for $1.2 million. The site launched on May 2, 2006, with approximately 750 entries and approximately 1,000 pieces of media. Today, the site has 2,545 entries and 3,336 pieces of media.

Kay Bland, Butler Center educator, says that educators across Arkansas use the EOA as a reference for students' research, as a computer lab resource, and as a source for teachers that provides lesson plans and other assistance in teaching Arkansas history.

The project relies heavily on a mix of EOA staff and volunteers. While six library employees work on various aspects of the EOA from editing and fact-checking to collecting media, more than 1,000 volunteers from around the world have written entries. In planning how to cover the diverse state of Arkansas, Sawyer says she knew the best way would be to tap into the collective knowledge of people ranging from nationally known academics to local historians and genealogists.

The EOA has entries on every Arkansas county and county seat, as well as hundreds of other towns and cities, and adds new entries and media on a weekly basis. Biographical entries focus on the well known to the obscure, including governors, U.S. senators, U.S. representatives, writers, artists, musicians, scientists, explorers, religious figures and war heroes.

For more information on the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, visit www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net or contact Nathania Sawyer at (501) 320-5752.

About the Butler Center

The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System, was created in 1997 through an endowment by the late Richard C. Butler Sr. for the purpose of promoting a greater understanding and appreciation of Arkansas history, literature, art and culture. The Butler Center's research collections and offices are located in the Arkansas Studies Institute in Little Rock at 401 President Clinton Ave., directly adjacent to the Main Library. For more information, contact Kathryn Heller at (501) 320-5717.

About the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

For 35 years, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation has worked to make a difference by helping to build and sustain the organizations that serve and strengthen Arkansas. Through grant making and strategic partnerships, the foundation seeks to close the economic and educational gaps that leave too many Arkansas families in persistent poverty. For more information on the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, visit www.wrfoundation.org.