Colorado Encyclopedia provides learning resources for those stuck at home

Charlotte Lang

The Colorado Encyclopedia offers over 700 main entries about the state’s history, geography and culture. 

The encyclopedia, which ranks nationally with similar sized encyclopedias of fewer than 1,000 entries, has achieved a global ranking better than some encyclopedias with many more entries, according to the encyclopedia’s website

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For educators and parents seeking to teach while at home, the encyclopedia strives to serve as a helpful source. It specifically supports K-12 teachers and parents in helping children learn about Colorado while they are unable to attend formal classes at school. 

The Encyclopedia’s readable yet professionally informed essays are also useful to humanities researchers, businesspeople, journalists, legislators and anyone seeking reliable information about Colorado, whether they are currently able to work or not.” Dawn Paschal, managing editor of The Colorado Encyclopedia

It contains a subset of articles written for fourth, eighth and tenth graders, and some articles have accompanying curricular materials that are aligned with state educational standards.

“The encyclopedia’s readable yet professionally informed essays are also useful to humanities researchers, businesspeople, journalists, legislators and anyone seeking reliable information about Colorado, whether they are currently able to work or not,” wrote Managing Editor Dawn Paschal.

Anyone confined to their residence — including potential tourists — can enjoy reading about a variety of topics and interesting facts about the Centennial State, Paschal wrote.

“It’s a nice break from television or other activities,” Paschal wrote. “And learning about Colorado is fun!”

William Wei, editor-in-chief and state historian, wrote that one of the encyclopedia’s most meaningful testimonials comes from the Adams 12 school district students in the Discover Colorado Preservation Program.

“In 2017, they wrote a letter to History Colorado Executive Director and Colorado State Historic Preservation Officer Steve Turner expressing their support for Colorado Encyclopedia,” Wei wrote.

Highlights from the letter include a statement of full support for the Colorado Encyclopedia program and the belief that it is an important resource for Colorado.

“They are willing to make the encyclopedia really student friendly,” according to the letter. “We have used this website in the classroom, and we like the fact that it can be translated into all of the languages we need in our class.”

The project was originally conceived by Wei, a professor of history at the University of Colorado, as a way to develop an online compendium of reliable, authoritative information about the state using the encyclopedia format.

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In 2009, as chair of the Colorado Humanities’ board of directors, Wei and the Colorado Humanities convened a group of “Colorado enthusiasts” to discuss the possibility of following in the footsteps of other states that had created their own encyclopedias.

“Beginning with this conversation, an encyclopedia for Colorado began to take shape, and development started in earnest with grant funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities awarded in 2013,” Paschal wrote.

During the first phase of development, articles were organized by six themes: origins, diversity, community, ecology, political economy and place. 

In 2014, the encyclopedia received a $199,639 grant from History Colorado’s State Historical Fund to include entries on historic and archaeological sites, which were selected based on a combination of importance at the local and state level, Paschal wrote. Historical and geographical coverage were also considered to ensure that every county was included.

“With the current grant, phase two of development is to add content that expands, enhances and deepens the inter-connections between the site’s entries and to enable readers to more thoroughly explore the encyclopedia’s humanities themes,” Paschal wrote.

The encyclopedia has recently submitted another grant proposal to the State Historical Fund to add virtual tours of historic sites in underserved communities, which, Paschal wrote, have been neglected even though they are an essential part of the state’s history and culture.

The encyclopedia also plans to participate in Colorado’s Women’s Vote Centennial.

“The 19th Amendment granting women equal voting rights was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified by 3/4 of the states in August 1920,” Paschal wrote. “But Colorado women started voting in 1893, 26 years earlier!”

To commemorate the 19th Amendment’s passage, the encyclopedia will be showcasing and adding content focused on Colorado’s experience with women’s suffrage and linking to information about celebratory events around the state.

The CSU libraries and the University of Colorado Boulder and Denver campuses have partnered to recruit and pay authors to draft the new entries.

Charlotte Lang can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.