Encyclopedia of Alabama wins award for digital history excellence

Published: May 05, 2016
Updated: May 06, 2016
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A web resource hosted by Auburn University that is used by millions of visitors from around the world has been recognized for excellence in digital history. The online Encyclopedia of Alabama, or EOA, has won the Alabama Historical Association's inaugural Digital History Award for excellence in projects that deliver information on Alabama's past using the internet and social media tools. The award was presented at the association's annual meeting in Montgomery.

The Encyclopedia of Alabama, at http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/, offers articles and multi-media resources on the state's history, culture, geography and natural environment. It is a statewide project sponsored by the office of the Vice President for University Outreach at Auburn with editorial offices located in the Ralph Brown Draughon Library.

"The Digital History Award committee was impressed that the Encyclopedia of Alabama provides an exemplary model of how to manage the tensions between digital accessibility and authoritative content," said Marty Olliff, committee chair. "Additionally, EOA's content offering is broad-based, programmatic and continually enhanced. The committee also recognized EOA's robust interaction with its user community through social media." Olliff is director of the Wiregrass Archives and an associate professor of history at Troy University Dothan campus.

The award committee chose the winners from more than a dozen entries. The selection criteria recognized projects that made obvious contributions to promulgating Alabama history, were historically accurate and exhibited superior design and navigation practices. The Encyclopedia of Alabama won in the large project category – designated as having outside funding and at least one full-time equivalent staff. The small project category was won by BhamWiki at http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Main_Page, an encyclopedic resource about Birmingham and the region around it.

The Encyclopedia of Alabama is used by a variety of audiences, especially Alabama's education communities. The site's content, which includes more than 1,770 articles and 4,500 images and multi-media, is widely used by libraries, museums and other institutions that support education initiatives in the state.

The Alabama-related content enhances lessons on national or international topics by making it easier for educators to give those lessons a local connection for students. In some areas, especially the natural sciences, it provides much needed credible online information specifically tied to Alabama that has been hard to find elsewhere. It is also a unique classroom resource for developing 21st century skills, such as digital-age literacy, effective communication and inventive thinking, across a broad spectrum of subjects.

For less than 50 cents per student per year, the Encyclopedia of Alabama supports the state's more than 46,000 K-12 educators and 746,000+ students with reliable, authoritative information that teachers accept for student papers and projects. This content is available free from any device with Internet access. Since it launched in 2008, the online resource has attracted more than 11.5 million page views from all 50 states and more than 220 countries and territories.

Content is frequently cited by national media, including CNN, Time Magazine, Discover, NBC News, USA Today, Huffington Post, New York Times and Slate. The topics they cover range from barbecue to football to famous people and historic events. Alabama's status as the home of the only person struck by a meteorite is a popular reason for a site to share a link to EOA. Links to the article on the Hodges Meteorite Strike have appeared in The Register (UK) and the very popular web blogs Redditt, LifesLittleMysteries, LiveScience and Real Clear History.

Family Tree Magazine, a national genealogy publication, recognized the Encyclopedia of Alabama in its 2014 "101 Best Web Sites" list. (The publication also recognized EOA's value to its readers in 2010 and 2012.) Its articles are popular posts on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media outlets where people share their family stories.

The Alabama Historical Association, the oldest statewide historical society in Alabama, is a volunteer led organization established in 1947 to provide opportunities for meaningful engagement with the past through publications, meetings, historical markers, and other programs. The Alabama Historical Association's Digital History Award will be awarded every odd-numbered year.