SC Encyclopedia off the shelf and on the web

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember the row of dusty encyclopedias in your parents’ den — books that were the Google of their day but limited in what they could convey. Now you can open the “South Carolina Encyclopedia” and hear Dizzy Gillespie talk about be-bop or watch qualifying for a 1970s Southern 500 stock car race. That’s because the encyclopedia has gone digital.

“The book came out in 2006, and it was fairly successful. But they never had a push to do a second edition,” says Matt Simmons, project coordinator for the Digital US South Initiative in the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina. “There was always the idea to move the encyclopedia to a digital version, but funding was an issue.”

Now, everyone can access the original entries — with updates — from the printed encyclopedia as well as 1,300 images, 150 primary source documents and almost 40 videos, including the outtakes of an interview with South Carolina jazz great Dizzy Gillespie.

But, the primary audience — like for those dusty books in your parents’ den — is schoolchildren.

“We knew we wanted the entire state to feel like this was their project, not a USC project, but an all South Carolina project,” Simmons says. “And we knew especially we wanted it to be a great gift to schoolchildren in South Carolina, to use in middle school, for their South Carolina history course.”

Simmons says a neighbor of his is a middle school social studies teacher who has talked about the difficulty in getting students to understand the difference between reliable information and unreliable information on the Internet.

“The information on the S.C. Encyclopedia site will always be well vetted, well conceived and completely accurate,” Simmons says.

Now that the initial book is online, attention will turn to updating as new information and understanding of events develops.

“We are looking at ways to make the encyclopedia something that will grow indefinitely,” Simmons says. “And do it at the same level of reliability, vigor and integrity that the other entries have.”

The 1,120-page printed encyclopedia was a joint project of the S.C. Humanities Council, USC Press and the Institute for Southern Studies and was edited by university history professor emeritus Walter Edgar.

Learn more

Visit the Digital US South Project website to learn more.

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