NGE >> About
The New Georgia Encyclopedia was developed through a partnership of the Georgia Humanities Council, the Office of the Governor, the University of Georgia Press, and the University System of Georgia/GALILEO.
The initiative grew out of a partnership forged in the mid-1990s when the Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press jointly published The New Georgia Guide. Five years in the making, the Guide was a monumental effort that involved hundreds of individuals throughout the state in the planning, fund-raising, researching, and writing. The result was an accurate and thoughtful portrayal of the state and an outstanding example of what can be accomplished through bringing together people and resources from state government, the university system, and the Georgia Humanities Council, with support from the private and public sectors.
Seeking to build on the success of that collaboration, in April 1998 the Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press convened a group of the state's leading scholars, archivists, educators, and policymakers to explore the feasibility of developing an "encyclopedia" for Georgia—a comprehensive reference work that would document the state's history, culture, and resources. The representatives of the state's institutions of higher learning and cultural and governmental organizations who attended that meeting strongly and enthusiastically supported the new initiative. There was a ready consensus regarding the need for an encyclopedia. The discussion moved rapidly to an exciting vision for a reference work that would be of interest and utility to the citizens of the state, policy and decision makers, institutions of learning at all levels, libraries, and others interested in Georgia. The project was seen as an opportunity to produce much more than a reference book and to break ground with new technology.
The name, New Georgia Encyclopedia, pays homage to The New Georgia Guide, but it is "new" in a much larger sense. As an online publication the encyclopedia can be continuously updated and expanded and thus be perpetually new.
Following the 1998 meeting, the Council and the Press presented a preliminary proposal for the project to then Governor Zell Miller, who had commissioned The New Georgia Guide. Governor Miller made a commitment to fund the initial phase of planning and development. A planning committee met regularly over the next several months to outline a blueprint for the project and fund-raising strategies. The encyclopedia was initially proposed as both a print volume and a Web-based multimedia electronic publication.
As the planning process unfolded, however, the clear consensus among the project partners was that a reference work of this scope and magnitude could best be published in an electronic format and should be developed as such from the outset. The proposed encyclopedia would manifest the same editorial standards and integrity as traditional print publications from the University of Georgia Press, the scholarly publisher whose imprint the electronic encyclopedia would bear.
In fall 1998 GALILEO joined the Press and the Council as a project partner. As one of the nation's first virtual libraries, GALILEO (GA LIbrary LEarning Online) was a natural third partner. Launched in 1995, GALILEO began as a database for the institutions in the University System of Georgia to share information resources. Over the next five years, as funding became available, private colleges and universities within the state, public libraries and schools, and private citizens also gained access. Additionally GALILEO (in partnership with the University of Georgia Libraries) was creating the Digital Library of Georgia, a project in which historical documents and otherwise unavailable materials are digitized so that they may be accessed online.
As an NGE partner, GALILEO offered the perfect "home" for the online encyclopedia as well as professional expertise, consulting, and high-level technical support. Soon thereafter the planning committee engaged Merrill-Hall New Media, an Atlanta-based computer technology firm specializing in the development of custom-made Internet applications, to design and build the "information architecture" to support the online encyclopedia.
In fall 1999 and spring 2000, the Georgia Humanities Council spearheaded an intensive fund-raising effort for the project. Governor Roy Barnes, who succeeded Zell Miller as the state's chief executive, committed additional funds to the project early in his new term. Funding commitments were also secured from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Georgia Power Foundation, BellSouth (later AT&T), Peyton Anderson Foundation, James M. Cox Foundation, UPS Foundation, Historic Chattahoochee Commission, and from the original project partners who made substantial commitments in kind.
The Office of the Governor joined the initiative as a fourth partner, with Governor Barnes agreeing to serve as honorary chair of the project and former Governor Zell Miller agreeing to serve as honorary co-chair. The project also has an Advisory Board, whose role is to offer advice, guidance, and recommendations to the project's Executive Committee. Appointed by the Governor, the Advisory Board includes institutional as well as individual (at large) members who serve three-year terms.
The partners in the project and the editorial staff believed that The New Georgia Encyclopedia should cover a wide spectrum of subjects rather than focus, as many state and regional encyclopedias have, on history and culture. They also believed that the NGE should examine issues affecting the state's present and future as well as its past. Because Georgia is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, documenting its story in any full sense means including articles on the problems and opportunities created by this rapid growth.
In the early months of the project, the editorial staff evaluated other print and electronic encyclopedias, consulted with editors and publishers of other large reference projects, and traveled within the state to promote the project and to build partnerships that would support the encyclopedia in significant and essential ways. In meetings with college and university faculty and leaders throughout the state, the editors identified potential contributors and documentary materials that could be incorporated or linked to the online encyclopedia. Invited to become Institutional Partners, libraries, museums, research centers, institutes, and other cultural organizations in the state committed to share the riches of their archival collections and the expertise of their curators and archivists with the project.
Because citizen input was vital, a number of "town meetings" were held around the state. The editors invited active, informed individuals representing various aspects of the community—governmental, cultural, business, philanthropic, and educational—to attend the meetings and to share their thoughts about topics that should be covered in the encyclopedia.
The organizational structure for the content of the encyclopedia evolved over the course of many months. Individuals with expertise in particular subject areas were invited to serve as editorial advisors whose role would be to act as "section editors" and assist the NGE staff in identifying, soliciting, and evaluating articles for encyclopedia. Together these individuals serve as the project's editorial committee.
In the summer of 2000 the editors began the ongoing process of commissioning articles to be written by scholars, teachers, journalists, and other authors from all parts of Georgia and beyond. As the completed articles are received, editors and fact-checkers review each one. The NGE staff also identifies visual or audio material to accompany the online article and relevant external links.
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.