Relevance, Revelation and Iranica


by alborz

The monumental work that Encyclopedia Iranica represents is being produced with the labor of love and dedication.

When it was initiated, the internet and its utility was neither conceived nor anticipated.  The Encyclopedia with its many volumes of hardbound books represented the one reference to which all could turn to for a cursory knowledge of all that one was curious about.  The world has indeed changed since Iranica was conceived and this change will no doubt impact its relevance to the cursory examiner of the entries found in Iranica.

The researchers and contributing authors and editors are making a valuable and historic contribution to the preservation of all that is known today about the Iranian world. This preservation will contribute to new revelations about the Iranian world, and to the extent that there is interest in these areas more work will be done by others independently and presented in the context of modern social, literary, cultural, economic, and spiritual interests.  As with anything in this world researchers direct their work to what is consumed or considered to be relevant 

While the revelation of unknown or obscure facts about the Iranian world are consuming the efforts of those involved with the project, the competing resources on the internet have reduced the relevance of encyclopedic entries in their orginal form.  The online format, that is now freely available to all, complements the more scholarly works with a more limited audience. 

Clearly the original work's trajectory needs adjustment both in terms of content as well as format.   While those that are involved are on an originally conceived track of creating a traditional Encyclopedia, the changes of the past 10 years alone are a testament of what cannot be anticipated in the next 10 years.  To recruit additional sponsors for this project, there is a need for a more cogent appeal that speaks to these issues.  People need to know who and which groups are going to be the users of Iranica and how the format supports the usage of its content.

Iranica used to enjoy the patronage of the Iranian government, prior to the revolution.  This ofcourse all changed and we as Iranians need to acknowledge the dissonance that now exists.  If an entire Iranian nation neither is aware of this work nor has any interest in it, there is a high likelihood that Iranica becomes a pure academic exercise. This would indeed be a tragedy.

If and when Iran emerges from its current yolk, one must hope that the the Iranian people will recognize this labor of love as an unwavering belief of a small band of people who dedicated their lives to the preservation and celebration of the Iranian heritage.  Dr. Yarshater and his team appear to have this belief and so march on without waver nor doubt.


more from alborz