(book & website)

Book CoverFor the original hard cover book...

For years the staff of the Utah State Historical Society has discussed with other Utah history scholars the need for a one-volume Utah history reference book. The volume, it was argued, would be of tremendous value to teachers, students, historians, researchers, business people, government workers, and the general public.

In 1987 John C. McCormick, then an historian on the historical society staff, worked out an arrangement with the University of Utah Press for the historical society to compile a manuscript of approximately five hundred entries on Utah history topics, which would be published by the Press. In the summer of 1988 Dr. McCormick left the historical society to take a teaching position at Salt Lake Community College.

I was asked by Utah State Historical Society Director Max J. Evans to take over the project, working with a scholarly advisory committee that had been selected. University of Utah Press Director Nana Anderson offered strong encouragement and support for the project, and we continued identifying, researching, and writing articles for the encyclopedia.

A working list of more than two thousand potential topics was compiled based on recommendations from the division of State History Staff, the advisory committee, and other Utah historians. Once this comprehensive list was completed and arranged in six categories (individuals, events, organizations, institutions, places, themes, and subjects) the advisory committee held several meetings to discuss the merits of each topic and to develop a priority list of entries.

What emerged from this evaluation was a priority list of five hundred topics for the encyclopedia. The advisory committee then discussed possible authors for each entry; these individuals were contacted and invited to participate in the project.

Funds were lacking to pay any of the authors; therefore the project was presented to the Utah history community as a contribution by Utah historians and writers to the Utah statehood centennial commemoration. With only a few exceptions, all those contacted agreed to participate on that basis; hence, the project represents the voluntary efforts of two hundred seventy historians and writers, who have researched and written their articles at their own expense in behalf of the state, its people, and the statehood centennial commemoration.

The authors have been allowed to present and interpret their topics as they have seen fit within broad parameters set as to length, content, and style. Authors essentially were given free rein of what to include, how to organize each essay, and how to present it. There was no mandate of a rigid structure or a dry, data-filled chronicle. Rather, an interpretive, essay-like quality was encouraged.

Although this may disturb some readers, it has permitted the development of personalized essays that bring a livelier spirit to the work. It is hoped that if readers can accept this writing philosophy, then they can more easily forgive any perceived limitation or omissions and enjoy each essay as a more personal viewpoint of an incredibly rich and complex subject.

The entries are intended to serve as a basic introduction, recognizing that not all of the issues or pertinent facts always could be included in the limited length of the essays. In many cases, readers can find additional information by consulting the bibliographic citations offered at the end of the essays. Authors were encouraged to provide bibliographic references to published works that readers might find in public libraries. Therefore no manuscripts or archival collections have been included. A conscious decision was made not to include cross-references with other entries. Scheduled for publication in 1996 as part of the Utah statehood centennial is a new one-volume history of Utah by Thomas G. Alexander.

All of the two hundred fifty photographs used in the encyclopedia are from the Utah State Historical Society photograph library. With the encyclopedia’s emphasis on the past, a conscious decision was made to depict the old rather than the current, to celebrate Utah’s history as we point to the century ahead.

An overview of history of Utah has not been provided. Readers looking for a one-volume history of Utah might consider Charles S. Peterson’s Utah: A History, published as part of the “States and the Nation” series in 1977; Richard D. Poll, et al., Utah’s History (1978); or Dean L. May, Utah: A Peoples’ History (1987). Scheduled for publication in 1996 as part of the Utah statehood centennial are a new one-volume history of Utah by Thomas G. Alexander, and a four-volume history with volumes by Lyman Tyler and John Alley, Ronald Walker, Charles Peterson, and James Allen.

Not all of the articles we would like to have included are published in this edition of the Utah History Encyclopedia. Some were not completed on schedule; for some others we were unable to find writers who had the expertise or the time to complete them. Some readers may perhaps disagree with certain selections that are included, while more may be troubled by what has been excluded.

The selection of prominent individuals was a special problem. There is no fair or scientific way to determine who should be included and excluded. Ideally we would have an encyclopedia that recognized everyone’s contribution to the state and provided all the information anyone would like to know about any state topic, place, or individual. That, obviously is not possible; we have proceeded with the project with the hope and trust that the material that is provided, limited as it may be, will be of value, and that future editions of the encyclopedia will be able to include those important topics that are omitted in this edition.

Readers may also wish to consult two other useful encyclopedias. Andrew Jenson’s four-volume L.D.S. Biographical Encyclopedia includes biographical sketches of hundreds of early Utahns, while the four-volume Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1991, deals with many topics relevant in Utah history.

For the omissions and gaps in Utah History Encyclopedia, the editor must take responsibility; readers and users of the encyclopedia are encouraged to send their comments and suggestions to the University of Utah Press or the Utah State Historical Society.

The essays contained in this volume represent countless hours of research, study, and writing. The Utah History Encyclopedia has been a massive undertaking of an incredibly complex subject--Utah’s history from early geologic times to the present. The hundreds of writers have examined Utah history from many perspectives and, with their many years of study and experience, have hewn material from the mountain of Utah’s past that has been brought together to stand as a monument to the state’s history

Allan Ken Powell
Salt Lake City, Utah

For the website rendition...

In the mid 1990s, the department Media Solutions, The University of Utah, embarked on a project designed to give educators, students and the general public ready access to digital collections of Utah-related information and media items, specifically about the history, culture, geography, and landforms of the state. This project was called UCME: Utah Collections Multimedia Encyclopedia.

At that time, the project team became aware of the newly published Utah History Encyclopedia by the University of Utah Press. Part of the Press’s obligations included producing an electronic, web-based version of the Encyclopedia. We saw a mutually beneficial opportunity to bring the hundreds of articles from the Encyclopedia to those who did not have access to the hard cover book, especially when the single printing of the work would soon cause the book to go “out of print.” So we bartered for the Encyclopedia’s content by publishing a rendition of the articles and essays as a website and as part of the larger UCME project.

You can learn more about the Utah Collections Multimedia Encyclopedia with these links...

  • Access the 6600 audio, video, image, map and text entries of UCME

Thus, the content of the Utah History Encyclopedia was converted to digital form and made available to the public both as a standalone website and as part of the UCME project. Media Solutions has maintained the standalone website for over 16 years, collecting comments and addenda from interested readers across the globe. As of November 2012, we are passing responsibility of the website to the excellent stewards at the Utah Education Network.

We sincerely hope that readers will continue to visit the website and enjoy the scholarly work and labor of so many individuals.

Paul E Burrows
Manager, New Media Group
Media Solutions
University of Utah Information Technology

Disclaimer: Information on this site was converted from a hard cover book published by University of Utah Press in 1994. Any errors should be directed towards the University of Utah Press.