So You Want to Know Something about Oregon, or Maybe You Want to Know Everything about Oregon, What Do You Do?

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

So you want to know something about Oregon, or maybe you want to know everything about Oregon, what do you do?

Where do you turn?

You could check out the World Book Encyclopedia and discover that we're "The Beaver State," that the Western meadowlark is the state bird, the Oregon grape is the state flower and the Douglas fir is the state tree, but you already knew all that, didn't you?


But what this state really needs, in this day and age, are not pages to turn, but something to click on. With that, a joint project of Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society hopes you'll go to now and in the future.

"There's a lot of planning going on right now about what this is going to look like when it gets rolled out," says James Fox, director of the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon's Knight Library, and one of 22 members of the Oregon Encyclopedia Project's editorial board. Yes, the Oregon Encyclopedia Project is already under way, even if its official launch comes Thursday - Valentine's Day and the state's 149th birthday - during an event at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. It's all about getting the project ready for the state's big birthday, its sesquicentennial, next year.

And who's going to put this thing together? We are.

That's the great thing about it, the public will make contributions, tell their stories, says Fox, who will review entries and also write some himself.

The main goal is to produce an online encyclopedia of "people, places and events" that make up Oregon's history, not just for 2009, but deep into the future, says Bill Lang, a PSU history professor and one of the project's three editors.

The hope is that it will be nothing like Wikipedia, but more like a traditional encyclopedia based on verified facts, with one important difference: It'll have stuff no one knows about. Yet.

"And this is where, I think, our ambition is the greatest," Lang says.

A project team plans to visit with about 30 communities in Oregon during the next year - starting with Coos Bay in March and Madras in April - to begin culling stories, Lang says. "And we hope that the totality of these community meetings will do two things," he says. "One, make us aware of what's important about their places, and two, that residents will put their own energies into some of the entries."

The project also plans to produce a printed version in 2010, he says.

What was Vortex?

Oregon's online encyclopedia will hope to answer such questions as: Where did the name Oregon come from? When did northern Oregon become the state of Washington? When did Mount Mazama last erupt? Why and how did Russian immigrants come to Oregon? And what was Vortex?

Intrigued, aren't you?

But it won't just be updated every few years like a traditional encyclopedia you'd find on your shelf. It'll be updated and revised continuously, Lang says. "We are looking at the encyclopedia project as dynamic and organic," he says.

In addition to PSU and the Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon Cultural Trust, a public-private partnership that supports the state's cultural resources, and the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, which promotes research in the study and teaching of English language arts, are sponsoring the project.

Go to the Web site now, and you won't find much. Click on "Browse entries" and you'll find a few things listed from A to Z. This is the extent of the contributions so far. …