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Former state archivist from Harpswell launches online encyclopedia of Maine

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Former state archivist from Harpswell launches online encyclopedia of Maine

HARPSWELL — Did you ever want to learn about the political platforms of the Maine Republican Party from the past century?

Or perhaps you were curious about the landmarks Benedict Arnold passed in his 1775 march across the state to capture Quebec.

Now there is a homegrown online destination for those and many more Maine facts – with more than 1,750 articles, 4,000 photographs and 100 videos – and it comes from a former state archivist and deputy secretary of state.

After more than 10 years of travel, research and writing, Selectman James Henderson has released an online Maine encyclopedia for the whole world to see at MaineAnEncyclopedia.com.

"Maine: An Encyclopedia" is a compendium of state knowledge – with a few errors and typos, Henderson admitted. The project began in 2001 on a CD-ROM, and eventually expanded to a DVD format, that was available at all Maine public libraries, along with some schools and colleges.

The information comes from a series of sources, including more than 50 books or articles about the state, along with the Maine State Archives, which Henderson directed from 1987-2007.

"At the state archives, I realized a lot of information for the state was out of reach by most people," he said.

Henderson also had friends in politics and government who began scanning documents of the political platforms for the Maine Republican and Democratic Parties for the last century.

"Earlier ones were at the State Law Library," Henderson said. "I tried to scan as many as I could."

The website, which was designed by Wendy Clark of Freeport, organizes articles by alphabetical order on a sidebar and categories on a page-top navigation bar that includes history, government, society, economy, ecology and recreation.

Henderson said he decided to transfer his encyclopedia to an online format because he believes the information should be easy to access by the general public.

"It may reduce the frustration of Googling something and getting a million responses," the selectman said.

With that said, Henderson advised that "it's not the universe of information," though it's a good starting point for research.

With the information online now, Henderson said he hopes observant readers will point out mistakes and provide corrections in the articles' feedback sections.

In at least one case, that has already happened.

Referring to an article on Benedict Arnold's expedition through Maine, a reader corrected the name of one of the islands the treasonous American Revolution general passed on the trail to conquer Quebec.

Two days later Henderson amended the error and responded with "thanks aplenty. Help like yours definitely improves the project!"

Henderson said the project has never been about making money, but he does hope to recoup the "incredibly ridiculous amount of time" he has spent on the encyclopedia with targeted advertising on the website.

In the past year and a half alone, Henderson said, he spent 3-4 hours a day reformatting all of the information for the website.

"I would like to mitigate some of the personal time I've invested," he said.

With a little over 1,000 views since it was launched in August, Henderson said he's made $2.74 so far from the website.

But that's not stopping him from doing more work. He said he will update the site at least on a weekly basis.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.