JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University (ETSU) faculty and staff are starting the arduous journey to completely remake and reformat one of the most labor-intensive publications to come out of the region: the Encyclopedia of Appalachia.


ETSU’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, headed by Dr. Ron Roach, partnered with the university’s Archives of Appalachia to rework the 2006 first edition.

“It’s a 2000-page item with over 2000 individual articles in it that tell about the entire history and culture of the Appalachian region that is now almost 20 years old,” Jeremy Smith, director of the Archives of Appalachia said. “So it was due a refresh and an update.”

ETSU announced on Tuesday that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) had greenlit a nearly $50,000 grant to help rebuild the book and offer it in a digital format. The first stage of the project, Smith said, was the creation of a plan. 2000 articles aren’t rewritten overnight, and the entire effort is expected to take years.

Jeremy Smith spoke with News Channel 11 on Friday. (Photo/WJHL)

“The time that went into the original print edition, which was published in 2006, it took them about a decade from conception to implementation,” Smith said. “It will not take us that long because we already have the entire volume to start with. But the current grant that we’ve gotten through the NEH will give us one year to develop a very precise timeline of different phases we want to accomplish.

“I would anticipate this being a five to seven year process, but that is not firm until we finish our planning, which is happening right now.”


The encyclopedia modernization effort tackles two problems: accuracy and accessibility. Smith said the academic world has progressed since the book’s first run of printing and its reach is limited by physical form. Once the new digital version is complete, it will be free to access online.

“It’s not going to be hidden behind a paywall,” Smith said. “That makes it immediately available to a global audience. And there will be a global audience interested in this content because we’re pulling together the leading scholars from the entire region to coordinate these efforts and to write the specific articles.”


The first plan-making phase of the project includes a wide-ranging team of editorial advisors that will review each entry to determine if an update is needed:

  • Dr. Theresa Burriss (Radford University)
  • Drs. Daryl Carter and Tom Lee (ETSU)
  • Dr. Keith Green (Berea College)
  • Dr. Meredith McCarroll (Bowdoin College)
  • Dr. Emily Satterwhite (Virginia Tech)
  • Independent scholars Drs. Donald Davis and William Turner

Once the project is online, Smith said much more than text articles will be available.

“It not only increases access,” Smith said. “But you can provide access to streaming audio, streaming media, photographs, interactive content like mapping features. There’s a lot of functionality and a lot of added material that will be available in the online version that just technologically can’t be in a print edition.”


Once the project begins moving along, Smith said more widespread efforts from the community can be expected. Reworking a book that large is expensive and time consuming, Smith added, and a large number of writers and donors will be needed to put ink to page.

“The editorial board will be small, but the authors will be in the hundreds, if not over a thousand,” Smith said. “So there will be a wide community creating and contributing to this publication.”

At the end of the day, Smith said the document will provide a valuable resource and provide a voice to a region that can be misrepresented.

“A document like this, an entity like this really helps to provide a robust and nuanced on what this region is about,” Smith said. “And that’s one of the great needs to counteract those one-dimensional stereotypes, accurate and up-to-date information.”