Credit: Rufus Kelly III
Created: May 10, 2022

“A well written article should encourage you to want to know more.”

Nottoway tribal citizen Rufus Kelly III talks about what encyclopedias have meant to him over his lifetime. Kelly is one of four Nottoway tribal citizens who were contributors to the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia entry on Encyclopedia Virginia. This entry is part of Encyclopedia Virginia's long-term approach to content development that prioritizes collaboration with Virginia Indian tribes. Entries providing overviews of recognized tribes and recent tribal history will be written by tribal members or by scholars with a record of positive collaboration with tribal communities. This interview was recorded by Miranda Bennett.

My mother, probably before I was born, but at some point in her life she sold World Book Encyclopedias door-to-door. And so we had a full set of World Book Encyclopedias on the shelf. And there was a companion set of encyclopedias for children called Childcraft. Those entries that were written—these are years ago, these people are long dead. And the people that it was written about were long dead. But I can tell you things about various inventors or people from history or events. It was like water to a thirsty man. I just, I couldn’t get enough of it. And so I’ve always had a great appreciation for kind of that particular space that encyclopedias occupy. They’re not intended to give you a complete, full, unedited, unabridged picture of what you’re talking about, of a subject. They’re designed to give to you in a concise way the things that the writer of the article thought was important about that subject. And it should–a good article, a well written article–should also encourage you to want to know more, explore more about it. It may be that that’s all you need. You know you’re researching something for a project or a school assignment and you want to know what the basic facts are. Great you’ve got it and you’re gone. But then there are other people like “man, that’s neat. I want to know more about that.” The article, I think, should have the ability to entice you, to say “oh, I need to know more.” I think that’s kind of a goal in terms of our writing style.