Center County Historical Society Launches “Living Document” Online Historical Encyclopedia | State College News



After 18 months of work, the Center County Historical Society released its Encyclopedia of Center County History and Culture online on October 3 in hopes of educating the local community.

The virtual encyclopedia is a source of Center County and Penn State history, with topics including the Penn State Blue Band and Meyer Dairy, as well as prominent figures like George W. Atherton. Co-editors Ford Risley and Lee Stout brought the idea to the historic company’s board of directors over a year ago, and gradually the resource has come to life.

“I was considering writing an updated Center County story, but I couldn’t decide on an approach that I liked,†said Stout, Emeritus Board Member and 2021 Communications President. historical society, by e-mail. “I had recently discovered The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia and thought it was a wonderful resource.”

From there, Risley, a distinguished professor at Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, said he and Stout “had signed up more than 40 people to write articles and take photos.”

Risley said the hardest part of the process was ‘managing it all’, but the ‘contributors were great’.

Stout agreed and said the process had many parts – such as “determining the scope and nature of the articles, finding volunteers to write and edit articles, work with the developers and programmers of the Center’s new website. County Historical Society â€and more. .

Risley described the process of producing articles for the site once they received ideas.

“We find an author that we [think] would be appropriate, we ask them to write it, they research it, write the article, it’s edited and then published, â€Risley said. “It takes several months from start to finish.

Risley also said the company has “a lot of great photographs” – some of which are historical and others taken more recently.

The project was funded by the Center County Council of Commissioners and the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau through the Tourism Grants program, according to Center County Historical Society executive director Mary Sorenson.


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“There really is something for everyone,†Sorenson said via email. “Residents of communities all over Center County will find something about their area, from Aaronsburg to Philipsburg… you can [also] discover the role of Center County in the [American] Civil War, the development of cable television, and the history of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Risley said that in addition to learning more about the Boroughs of Bellefonte and State College, “all the great natural resources” and the “Amish people” have been interesting parts of Center County’s “rich history” since 1800.

Sorenson said that the most “exciting” part of the encyclopedia for her is that it is “a living document that anyone can access and that will continue to develop and be updated throughout. as the story unfolds in real time “.

“The advantage of this over a book is that it can be continually updated, corrected and supplemented,†Stout said. “There are a wide variety of ways we can use it to empower the people of Center County to ‘make’ history. “

Sally Heffentreyer, a freelance writer and editor who volunteered to write for the online encyclopedia, said it was important that the encyclopedia “highlights familiar and lesser-known people and places” in the county. from Center.

Launched with 100 articles, the encyclopedia will only grow, according to the team.

Anyone with comments or ideas for topics for the encyclopedia can contact us by email, Sorenson said.

“COVID restrictions made research a bit difficult because we couldn’t visit libraries and other research sites in person,†Heffentreyer said via email. “But it was a reminder of the value of online resources such as the encyclopedia.”


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