Weekly Feature

Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021

University of Northern Iowa to create digital encyclopedia of Iowa history

University of Northern Iowa to create digital encyclopedia of Iowa history

An important statewide resource for teachers and the public is being developed by UNI’s history department. The EncyclopedIA project, a digital state history encyclopedia, is aimed to launch in 2022.

The idea for this digital initiative grew out of requests from Iowa teachers for curated quality resources on Iowa history, following its embedding in the K-12 curriculum in 2015. UNI announced that it would host the state encyclopedia in the summer of 2019. The vision for the project has expanded significantly since that point, with a mission to provide needed teacher resources as well as to inform the public about aspects of Iowa history, life, and culture, with special attention given to the inclusion of traditionally underrepresented voices and experiences.

EncyclopedIA will have online content entries of four types, based on the K-12 curriculum: the lengthiest will be overview articles covering broad chronological periods in Iowa history and the histories of Iowa's 99 counties; the second-level entries will be topical/thematic in nature, covering Iowa's politics, geography, education, agriculture, business, culture, and more; the third-level entries will briefly examine sub-themes and significant persons in Iowa's history; and the shortest entries will identify and contextualize historical artifacts that comment on the lives of Iowa's residents, something that will connect EncyclopedIA with Iowa's vibrant museum and historic site communities as well as engage UNI student interns.

UNI faculty experts will play a foundational role in this important enterprise. The project is currently being funded by a campus Capacity Building Grant, to support the development of the encyclopedia's online platform through UNI’s GeoTREE. UNI’s history department also recently received a $15,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to support the beginning stages of the project.

EncyclopedIA entries will be accessible to the public as well as educators responsible for integrating Iowa history into their elementary and secondary school classrooms. The state encyclopedia is an outgrowth of Teaching Iowa History, an award-winning, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant-funded project under the leadership of the Iowa Museum Association that supports K-12 educators teaching Iowa history using primary sources.