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Encyclopedia focuses on ‘everything Milwaukee’

“Our gift to the city.”

Encyclopedia focuses on ‘everything Milwaukee’ by Kathy Quirk

The photo was baffling: tiny hammocks suspended from the roof of an open pavilion. Senior history major Danielle Eyre put long hours into researching what role those “baby hammocks” played in Milwaukee’s history.

As she traced the story behind the photo, Eyre developed research and writing skills she says will serve her well in graduate school and the job market.

The editors expect the print edition to be complete in 2017 and to include more than a million words, 740 entries and 1,000 pages.

That photo – which Eyre eventually determined was of an early 1900s fresh air “spa” for babies near the lake – is just one small piece of the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, an ambitious 10-year effort begun in 2008 to compile a carefully authenticated, comprehensive resource with information on everything Milwaukee.

Lead editors for the project are Associate Professor of History Amanda Seligman and Margo Anderson, Distinguished Professor of History, both also members of the Urban Studies faculty. Working in collaboration with senior editors Thomas Jablonsky and James Marten from Marquette University, IT professionals and a team of students, they’re creating printed and online versions of the encyclopedia.

Seligman, who worked on a similar project in Chicago, calls the encyclopedia “our gift to the city.”

The editors expect the print edition to be complete in 2017 and to include more than a million words, 740 entries and 1,000 pages.

Total cost is estimated at $2 million, of which $1.3 million has already been raised through contributions and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

A preliminary website is going online this spring and a comprehensive print bibliography is due out later in 2014. The project’s Facebook page already has more than 400 followers.

The encyclopedia differs from a conventional, linear history, says Seligman. With the encyclopedia, researchers, journalists, students and others will be able to dip into the content at any point to learn more about a particular topic – whether it’s labor relations, Gertie the Duck or Hank Aaron.