SEATTLE - HistoryLink (www.historylink.org), the nation's first online encyclopedia of community history created expressly for the Internet, formally launched its new database dedicated to the story of Washington state on March 6.

The resource debuts with initial content of more than 300 original essays and features, complementing HistoryLink.Org's existing online encyclopedia of Seattle and King County history, which currently contains more than 3,200 entries.

"The new database will offer original, sourced, and illustrated essays on aspects of the histories of virtually every county in the state," said HistoryLink.Org director Walt Crowley. "It's just a beginning, but we hope people will learn new things about where they live, and we also hope they will share new stories about their communities with HistoryLink's statewide audience."

"We undertook this expansion at the urging of K-12 teachers and students across the state," explained HistoryLink.Org senior editor Priscilla Long. "While the site is designed to serve the general public, we are focusing on detailing subjects that aid state history instruction," she added. "As our state content grows, we think that the new state database will prove especially valuable for schools and communities without easy physical access to major libraries or archives."

The free, non-commercial resource is produced by History Ink, a 501(c)(3) non-profit historical organization based in Seattle. The Paul G. Allen Virtual Education Foundation funded initial design and content development for HistoryLink.Org's Washington state database. Other major launch sponsors include the City of Tacoma, Microsoft, Washington Forest Protection Association, Boeing, Seattle City Light, Washington Commission for the Humanities, Marler and Clark, and Puget Sound Energy.

"We believe that this is the first completely original encyclopedia of any state's history to be researched, written, and published exclusively for the Web," said Alan Stein, a HistoryLink.Org staff historian.

"Several states, notably Texas and Tennessee, have done a great job in adapting previously published historical encyclopedias for presentation via the Internet," Stein explained, "but they offer relatively little new content."

Fifteen states are also planning similar online encyclopedias under grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, but most are years away from launch, he added.

HistoryLink.Org's prototype Seattle-King County encyclopedia premiered on May 1, 1998. Since then, the site has served more than 33 million files to some 1.3 million visitors. The local history database contains more than 1.5 million words of text, illustrated with some 7,500 images. "If we published just the narrative in a standard book format, it would number nearly 6,000 pages," HistoryLink.Org deputy director David Wilma noted.

Foundations, individual donors, local governments, and corporate sponsors have provided more than $1.2 million for development and expansion of HistoryLink to date. Crowley estimates that completion of a comprehensive state database of 3,000-plus essays will require three years and cost about $900,000 to compensate participating researchers, writers, editors, designers, and local historical organizations.

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