12 years, 14,160 articles later, encyclopedia is online

When Richard Thiessen posted the 14,160th and final article from the Mennonite Encyclopedia onto the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (www.gameo.org), Feb. 20, his celebration was muted – everyone was asleep.

His post concluded 12 years of work by Canadian and American volunteers to scan, edit, and put on the GAMEO website the entire contents of the 5-volume encyclopedia, with articles from Aachen to Zwolse Vereniging.

“You wish you could wake up everyone in the house and say, ‘Guys, I’m finished,’” said Thiessen, who is also GAMEO’s associate managing editor. Instead, he just went to bed.

By day, Thiessen is library director at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, but the self-described night owl literally does his GAMEO work by night – after 10 p.m., when his three sons and wife are asleep, staying up as late as 2 a.m. “That’s when I am the most productive,” Thiessen said.

GAMEO was started in 1996 by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada as a project to put Canadian Mennonite information online. The Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee and the MB Historical Commission soon joined as the project expanded to make the entire Mennonite Encyclopedia available on the internet.

New phase

Now this task is completed, and GAMEO is moving into a new phase: updating and adding content. The encyclopedia was published in the 1950s, with a supplement in 1990. GAMEO is working with regional organizations to generate new biographical and congregational history material. About 1,000 new articles have already been added.

Another new initiative in process is making the encyclopedia available on DVD, particularly for Amish, Hutterites, and conservative Mennonite groups that use computers but not the internet.

Also under consideration is posting articles in other languages. “We had assumed we’d just be an English-language thing for a number of years,” said Sam Steiner, GAMEO managing editor and retired librarian and archivist at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont. But Mennonites in Quebec expressed interest in French-language content. GAMEO is now exploring the technological and financial requirements to make that happen.

Overseeing GAMEO’s work is a management board which includes representatives from Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite World Conference as well as the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee, and MB Historical Commission.

—Rich Preheim

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