Q&A with Edward Hatfield, New Managing Editor of the New Georgia Encyclopedia

NGE block logoOn April 1, Dr. Edward Hatfield began work as the new Managing Editor for the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Hatfield earned his M.A. in history at the University of Georgia in 2006 and completed his Ph.D. in history at Emory University in 2015. He is currently an editorial board member for Atlanta Studies, the open access digital publication that features work from scholars, writers, artists, and activists who are working to both preserve and continue Atlanta’s legacy. Previously he served as the Digital Scholarship Coordinator for the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship as well as the Civil Rights Project Editor for the New Georgia Encyclopedia and Civil Rights Digital Library.

As NGE’s new Managing Editor, Ed will oversee day-to-day operations; work closely with NGE staff to leverage the encyclopedia’s authoritative peer-reviewed content; and collaborate with the Executive Committee on building relationships throughout the state. He succeeds Sarah McKee, now Senior Associate Director of Publishing at Emory’s Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.

Launched in 2004, the New Georgia Encyclopedia is the first state encyclopedia to be conceived and designed exclusively for publication online. This authoritative resource contains original content and helps users understand the rich history and diverse culture of Georgia’s still-unfolding story. The NGE is a program of the Georgia Humanities Council in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.

Today we check in with Ed to see how it’s going, the collaborative nature of the NGE, and its importance as a teaching resource in Georgia.

First off, congratulations on the position!

Thanks much! The first few months have been great fun, and I received such a warm welcome at the Press.

You’ve been a contributor to the New Georgia Encyclopedia for a while, so the institution is not exactly new to you. In fact, by my count you’ve authored thirty-two articles yourself. But now that you’re a couple of months in as the new managing editor, what have you learned about the NGE that you didn’t know before or didn’t really appreciate until you started the job?

A great deal actually. When I last worked at the encyclopedia so many years ago, I had a grant-funded position. Much of my work focused on civil rights content creation and in addition to contributing to the NGE, I had the great privilege of watching the Civil Rights Digital Library take shape. I have a somewhat different perspective on the project in my new position and have learned just how much it depends on its partners. It really is a model of academic collaboration and would not be possible but for the combined efforts of the Press, Georgia Humanities, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and UGA Libraries.

The NGE has become a really important tool for educators, especially at the middle and high school levels. What kind of outreach and partnerships does the NGE have with our state educators? And are there plans to build on these and expand?

The NGE has done a great job of reaching out to the educational community— so much so that it’s become something of a de facto textbook for students taking Georgia Studies. We recently revised our educator resources to conform to the new state standards and look forward to continuing those partnerships in the years ahead.

Let’s talk a little bit about how entries get added to the site. How rigorous is the submission and editorial process? Can anyone write an article or do contributors need to be credentialed historians?

The great majority of our entries are written by academics, many of whom are authorities in their field. And while much of our content covers state history, the NGE also explores a range of other subject areas, including geography, science, foodways, and more. New submissions undergo multiple rounds of editorial and academic review and are then vetted for accuracy by librarians at the University of Georgia Libraries. Only then are they ready for layout, final edits, and publication.

When the NGE launched in 2004 it was the first state online encyclopedia. With Wikipedia, Google, and other sources freely available on the web, one might wonder why a state-specific site like the NGE is still relevant in 2017. Can you talk about what distinguishes the NGE that makes it such a vital public resource for Georgians?

What a good question! In a word, the NGE is authoritative. There is a great deal of content online these days, much of it very good, and some of it less so. But because our content is produced by established scholars and subject to such extensive review, readers can have every confidence in the NGE. I’m happy to report that state encyclopedia field is something of a growth industry these days, too. In the years after the NGE’s launch, states like Alabama, Virginia, and Minnesota followed suit. And in the past few weeks alone we’ve had discussions with folks from Missouri and Florida who are interested in doing the same.

In 2013 the NGE launched an updated website. You’re on social media via Twitter and Facebook. There’s clearly a lot of work being done to ensure the viability of the encyclopedia for years to come. Can you talk about what your hopes are for the future? What are some of the biggest challenges that you face over the short and long term?

There are so many exciting developments in store for the NGE! They’re still in the early going, but we’re hoping to develop a mapping platform for the site and are exploring the possibility of a book publication focusing on the civil rights movement in Georgia. We also have talked about collaborating on a couple of public history projects around the state and partnering here and there with various digital humanities projects.

Keep up with the New Georgia Encyclopedia online on Twitter and Facebook. You can also subscribe to the UGA Press monthly “News from UGA Press” email newsletter where we regularly feature content from the NGE. 

 Jason Bennett is a publicist and the social media manager at UGA Press.

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