Wikipedia Goes to the Library… of Congress

Reference books at the Africa Reading Room in the Library of Congress

Reference books in the Library of Congress

We are very pleased to announce our upcoming edit-a-thon at the Library of Congress on Friday, April 11, the first event we have had with the Library since the Google Opening Reception of Wikimania 2012 nearly two years ago. We think it is only fitting that the world’s largest encyclopedia would partner up with the world’s largest library.

Our event will focus on the Africa Reading Room, which includes books on African and Middle Eastern history. We have selected this—out of all of our options—because we are in a position to address a long-standing issue on Wikipedia. There has been much press coverage of Wikipedia’s gender gap, resulting in an encyclopedia that reflects the prerogatives of its overwhelmingly male authorship. This means there are more articles about men than women, to such an extent that some incredibly accomplished women go years without having articles on Wikipedia.

That is only part of the systemic bias equation. Wikipedia also has a Western bias with regards to what is written about. Statistics collected by WikiProjects, which are informal groups of Wikipedia editors, provide evidence of this problem. WikiProject Africa reports that there are 57,753 articles regarding Africa on Wikipedia, while WikiProject United States reports that there are 227,878 articles on topics relating to the United States. To give some perspective on this, the United States is just one country, hosting 4% of the world’s population, while Africa is a large, diverse continent with 54 countries and over one billion people.

This is obviously lopsided, so we need your help. To help, meet us at 9 AM on Friday, April 11 in the lobby of the Madison Building. Use the entrance on C Street, by the Capitol South Metro station. You will need to check your coat in the cloakroom; personal items you wish to bring with you must be transported in a clear plastic bag. If you do not already have a Library of Congress researcher card you will need to get one before proceeding to the Africa Reading Room. We will be editing from 10 AM to 1 PM. If you are new to Wikipedia we will be more than happy to help you get started—everyone’s a newcomer at first! After 1 PM, you will be able to get lunch at the Library’s cafeteria and stay for as long as you would like.

In the long term, we would like to see Wikipedia editors continue to use the Library of Congress as a resource for improving Wikipedia, whether independently or during future Wikimedia DC events. We would also like to build a brain trust of people who are interested in Africa and are eager to do their part to improve Wikipedia. To sign up for this upcoming event, check out our event page on Wikipedia. If you cannot come Friday the 11th but wish to still help, send an email to kristin.anderson [at] wikimediadc [dot] org.

We hope to see you at the Library!

What If Wikipedia Could Update Itself?

This post was originally featured on the Sunlight Foundation’s blog.

Wikipedia is known throughout the world as a valuable source of information on almost any subject imaginable. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has amassed over 30 million articles in 287 languages—over 4.4 million in English alone. This is made possible by the countless hours and efforts of volunteers, each contributing bits and pieces of his or her expertise. Unfortunately, despite the continued advance of technology, the act of writing paragraphs of prose has yet to be automated and still requires the efforts of humans.

But that does not mean that every part of Wikipedia is curated by hand. As we speak, automated software processes called “bots” are responsible for all manner of routine maintenance. These include removing vandalism from articles, sorting pages in and out of categories and checking for instances of copyright infringement on newly created articles. One of the earliest bots, Rambot, was created in 2002 to create articles on places throughout the United States, creating almost 37,000 Wikipedia articles in the process. This was made possible with data gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau and other agencies—more details are available here.

The idea behind the open data movement is that the massive amounts of data collected and generated by our government should be available for the people to use—not just published in reports, but in computer-readable formats so that they can be used in research and analysis. There are many uses of open data—journalists rely on open data to break news and businesses use open data as a component of their business plans.

Since open data is a valuable source of public knowledge, why not use it to improve Wikipedia and keep it up to date? Granted, Wikipedia is not intended to be an indiscriminate dumping ground of data and it would be inconsistent with its editorial policies to use data to come to novel conclusions not already published somewhere else. However, there are still applications of data that would suit Wikipedia’s mission. Many articles have boxes alongside the introductory section, containing quick facts about the subject of the article. In wiki-parlance these are called “infoboxes,” and the new project Wikidata allows people to upload infobox data to one place and then use it on every language edition of Wikipedia.

Wikimedia DC, as an affiliate of the organization that runs Wikipedia, is pleased to partner with the Sunlight Foundation to host the Open Government WikiHack, a hackathon dedicated to finding ways to use structured government data to improve Wikipedia. The event will be held all-day April 5–6 at the Sunlight Foundation’s offices in Washington, DC and will feature a mix of coders and non-coders, Wikipedians and non-Wikipedians. We want you to bring your ideas on how government data can improve Wikipedia, whether it involves the Sunlight APIs or another public source of information and we will give you the opportunity to make it happen.

What: OpenGovernment WikiHack

Where: Sunlight Foundation 1818 N St. NW Suite 300

When: April 5-6, 2014

Register: HERE.

There will be a happy hour At Sunlight Foundation on Friday April 4 and the hack will begin the next day. 

Feel free to share with your networks with #wikihacks on Twitter and if you have any questions, please email us at: info@wikimediadc.org.

Local history—now on Wikipedia

Attendees at the Laurel History Edit-a-thon

Attendees at the Laurel History Edit-a-thon

 

 

Did you know what the Laurel Sanitarium was?

The Laurel Sanitarium was a prominent mental health facility and women’s nursing home, built in 1905 to treat mental illness and addiction. The sanitarium treated as many as 50,000 patients from its opening until 1963, when its founder Jesse C. Coggins died. The building was subsequently demolished in 1964 to make way for the Laurel Shopping Center. Part of the building grounds were sold to the county government of Prince George’s County, Maryland, which eventually led to the construction of Laurel High School.

I learned about this demolished sanitarium from the humble, two-paragraph Wikipedia article on the subject, linked above. This piece of Maryland local history was not documented on Wikipedia until November 16, 2013, when it was one of the new articles contributed as part of the Laurel History Edit-a-thon. The Laurel Historical Society hosted this gathering, with the assistance of Wikimedia DC, to help improve Wikipedia’s coverage on notable pieces of local history.

To support this effort, we had access to a treasure trove that you can’t find on the Internet: archival copies of the Laurel Leader newspaper, dating back decades. If you look at the references section of the Laurel Sanitarium article, you will see three citations made to an article published in the Laurel Leader, in addition to two online sources. The article in question, “Laurel Landmark Passes As New Community Is Planned On Site,” was published in the Leader on August 27, 1964, and now serves as the source for most of the article.

Wikipedia requires that its millions of articles be based on information already published in reliable sources. To an eager Wikipedian at his or her computer, the easiest reliable source to find is an online source. Yet by partnering with a local historical society—very much in the business of collecting historical sources—we have enabled access to a harder-to-find source of information. We can use this information to help bring Wikipedia closer to completion.

Wikipedia’s mission is to make the world’s information available to all for free, and the help of the Laurel Historical Society and other local historical societies helps make this possible. I would like to thank Lindsey Baker and Abram Fox for organizing the edit-a-thon this past November. Wikimedia DC is very much interested in more of these kinds of events, so if you have any ideas, do let us know at info@wikimediadc.org!

The Annual Meeting is upon us!

Annual Meeting 2013 logoHello, everyone!

Each year, as the bylaws require, Wikimedia DC hosts its annual membership meeting. The members of Wikimedia DC have the power to propose and vote on binding resolutions at these meetings, and indeed, will get the opportunity to approve our annual budget.

Mundane stuff aside, we are hard at work putting together the best annual meeting Wikimedia DC can provide. I can’t give away too many details yet, since the program is not yet finalized, but here is what we know for sure:

  • The annual meeting is on Saturday, November 9 from 12 – 4 PM. Lunch will be served!
  • This year it will take place at the U.S. National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. We’re excited about this particular venue for a number of reasons. For one, we’ve held a number of events with the National Archives over the years, and with their new full-time Wikipedian we anticipate an even stronger relationship.
  • We are hosting a discussion panel featuring GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) professionals, providing their perspectives on Wikipedia and the cultural sector. More details will come as the panelists are finalized.
  • We will also be announcing our annual plan for 2013–14, including plans for a collaboration space in DC where we will be holding events!

Can you think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon in November than hanging out with fellow Wikipedia enthusiasts over lunch provided by Wikimedia DC?

Be sure to RSVP here!

Congratulations, Dominic! (Plus: Wiki Loves Monuments update)

Dominic McDevitt-Parks. Photo by Benoit Rochon

Dominic McDevitt-Parks. Photo by Benoit Rochon

As announced today on the blog of the Archivist of the United States, our cultural partnerships coordinator Dominic McDevitt-Parks will be re-joining the National Archives and Records Administration as a full-time employee in their Office of Innovation. He originally served as their part-time Wikipedian in Residence back in 2011, and as the first-ever permanent Wikipedia liaison for a cultural institution, he will be continuing the work he started for them.

Wikimedia DC and the National Archives go back years. We hosted Wikipedia’s tenth birthday celebration at the Archives back in 2011, and our community has worked closely with them to make their content available to the Wikimedia projects. Dominic’s efforts at the Archives led to  over 100,000 digital scans from the Archives to be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, as well as multiple scan-a-thon events, and Wikimedia DC looks forward to continue working with them.

Congratulations, Dominic, on your new job!

Wiki Loves Monuments Update

So far, over 5,300 images have been uploaded as part of Wiki Loves Monuments! If you have a picture of a site on the National Register of Historic Places to upload, follow the instructions here to upload. You can also use our handy map tool to find a place that still needs a picture. Check it out—there may be a site just steps from where you live or work! Remember, you have until September 30 to upload your picture in order to qualify for our contest.

Don’t forget that this Saturday we have twin photo walks in Baltimore and Richmond. We hope to see you then!

Wikipedia Takes Baltimore and Richmond in September (but not D.C.)

 

Richmond Light Infantry Blues-Armory, (6th and Marshall Sts.,) Richmond, Virginia; postmarked 1915.

Richmond Light Infantry Blues-Armory in Richmond, Virginia; postmarked 1915. Courtesy VCU Libraries

 

September is coming in a few days, which means it’s time once again for Wiki Loves Monuments! Wiki Loves Monuments is the largest photography contest in the world, with the goal of documenting the world’s cultural heritage sites. This year it will take place on all seven continents. That’s right: all seven continents!

Save the date!

Wikipedia Takes Baltimore:

Saturday, September 21 at 1 PM

Wikipedia Takes Richmond:

Saturday, September 21 at 12 PM

The United States first participated in the contest last year, and photographers from throughout the country contributed over 22,000 photographs of national historic sites. We want to keep the momentum going this year, so as part of the national Wikipedia Takes America campaign, we have organized two photography expeditions with the help of local volunteers: Wikipedia Takes Baltimore and Wikipedia Takes Richmond. Both expeditions are taking place on Saturday, September 21. As the date of each expedition approaches, we will post a list of entries on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) that need pictures. Anyone with a camera is welcome to participate!

Each picture of a notable, historic site in the United States uploaded to Wikimedia Commons during the month of September is entered into the Wiki Loves Monuments USA contest, with the top three winning cash prizes! The contributor of the best photograph wins $500, while second and third prizes are $300 and $150. The best ten photographs are submitted to the international contest for consideration, where the top prize is a free trip to Wikimania 2014 in London!

Why is there no scheduled expedition for Washington, D.C. this year?

While we do have scheduled events for Baltimore and Richmond, we have declined to organize a local event in D.C. this year. This is because every single NRHP site in the District has a photograph on Wikipedia—see for yourself. Seeing the mission of Wiki Loves Monuments has been accomplished in D.C., we encourage those who live in the D.C. area to take some time to go to those places that still need photographic coverage, including Baltimore, Richmond, and nearby Berkeley County, West Virginia (just take the MARC to Martinsburg). If you’re interested but you need a ride, let us know and we’ll try to arrange a carpool.

Meanwhile, if you do take pictures of NRHP sites in Washington and upload them during September, they still qualify as submissions to the Wiki Loves Monuments contest.

Have fun! We’ll keep you posted with contest updates throughout September and October.

Smithsonian Field Notes and Wikipedia

Former President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) and other members of his expedition party from the Smithsonian Roosevelt African Expedition stand next to an American flag. Roosevelt is standing to the left of the flag with his head to the side. Other men in the image include Kermit Roosevelt, Edgar Alexander Mearns, and John Alden Loring. On this trip, Roosevelt collected natural history specimens for the United States National Museum (now National Museum of Natural History) and live animals for the National Zoological Park

Former President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) and other members of his expedition party from the Smithsonian Roosevelt African Expedition stand next to an American flag. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Wikimedia DC has hosted several edit-a-thons with the Smithsonian Institution over the past several months, including the Civil War and American Art Edit-a-Thon and Women in the Arts 2013. Our latest event with the Institution focused on the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ collection of field notes. Effie Kapsalis, who organized the workshop, wrote an excellent summary on the Archives’ blog:

This past Friday, we held our 3rd Wikipedia edit-a-thon on the scientific field books in the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ collections (field books are primary source documents that describe the events leading up to and including the collection of specimens or observations during field research). All told, we had 18 volunteers who donated their entire Friday to work on articles related to explorers and expeditions held in our collections. Amongst the 18 were a husband/wife team, and a father-daughter team. 

Participants gathered over coffee in the morning to hear more about the Archives and the Field Book project, a partnership between the Archives and the National Museum of Natural History which seeks to create a single online location for scientific field books. The talk was followed by a tour of the Russell E. Train Africana Collection, a special collection housed in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries which contains several thousand manuscripts, photographs, original artwork and prints, posters, maps, ephemera, and man-made and natural artifacts relating to exploration, big game hunting, wildlife, and travel in Africa dating from 1663 to the late 1990s. The tour provided rich context for one of the articles on our to-do list, the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition.

After lunch, we got down to business and worked on our to-do list for the remainder of the afternoon. I am happy to report that as a group, we worked on all but one of the items on the to-do list. Even better, each explorer/scientist or expedition received attention from more than one, if not several, Wiki editors which makes for a stronger article in the end. Here is a list of the people that now have Wikipedia articles as a result of this gathering:

  1. Theodore Roosevelt on African Expedition, by Unknown, 1909, Smithsonian Archives – History Div, SIA2009-1371 and SA-943.

    Argentinian botanist, Cleofé Elsa Calderón who rediscovered Anomochloa, a genus of grass, which led to a detailed morphological and anatomical study that confirmed it as a grass. Calderón also has a genus of grass names for her, Calderonella.

  2. Mammologist and field naturalist, John Alden Loring, who served on several expeditions collecting specimen in North America, Europe, and Africa.
  3. Ornithologist, James Eike, President and long-standing executive committee member of the Virginia Society of Ornithology and creator of over 111 field books.
  4. The Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition, an expedition organized by then U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, which amassed over 23,151 natural history specimens. 

If you’d like to contribute, we could use your help expanding the articles on the Explorers & Expeditions to-do list. If you’d prefer to start fresh on a new Wikipedia article, we have on our main to-do list from past edit-a-thons which needs some attention and care from volunteers like you. In any case, next time you cite a Wikipedia page for information, remember the many hands that went into creating and editing that page.

Much thanks to Effie and her colleagues for organizing the workshop, as well as to the National Museum of Natural History for hosting! Be sure to check out the Smithsonian’s to-do list for Wikipedia articles and dive right in. If you would like an experienced Wikipedia editor to guide you along, check out one of our upcoming events and feel free to ask. We’re happy to help!

New faces for GLAM-Wiki: Our experience hosting GLAM Boot Camp

Participants at GLAM Boot Camp in Washington, D.C.

Participants at GLAM Boot Camp in Washington, D.C.

Recently, Wikimedia DC held GLAM Boot Camp, a new type of event which we hope will be repeated by others in the Wikimedia movement. The most basic aim of GLAM Boot Camp was to attempt to build the skills and capacity for the Wikimedia movement. It took place from April 26–28 in a conference room at the U.S. National Archives with 12 main attendees made up of experienced Wikimedia editors. The intensive, three-day workshop, hosted by myself and Lori Byrd Phillips, featured a mix of expert presentations, group discussions, breakout sessions, and hands-on tutorials. We were lucky enough that one of the Wikimedians in attendance wrote about the event in The Signpost, English Wikipedia’s newsletter, which gives a good recap of GLAM Boot Camp from a participant’s point of view.

The idea for a “boot camp”-type event was first proposed and developed at GLAMcamp London by members of the global Wikimedia community in September 2012. You can see our original notes from GLAMcamp here. We identified that, particularly in the United States, our main efforts had always been directed at reaching out to and winning over cultural institutions, but now we face a lack of online and real-world volunteers ready to meet the growing demand of institutions interested in contributing in some way to Wikimedia. Many potential projects have stalled not because of lack of cooperation, but because of lack of involvement by the Wikimedia community. Institutions do not yet have the expertise in Wikipedia to become Wikimedians on their own. Our largest bottleneck in GLAM-Wiki, therefore, is capacity. The stated, ambitious goal of the first GLAM Boot Camp was to broaden the participation of the general Wikimedia community in the GLAM-Wiki movement by inviting and training key Wikimedians. I think that we were successful in taking a big step towards that goal. Another goal was to establish a model for future similar events, and I hope that as we work on our documentation, others will be able to use our experiences to guide them in making another GLAM Boot Camp elsewhere.

All of us who have been to events like GLAMcamp or Wikimania know that oftentimes the most important part is not the structured sessions, but just being with a group people for a couple of days and sharing perspectives—even over coffee or back at the hostel. The main takeaways for me at these events were about the attendees. The fact that we fully funded all attendees from across the U.S. and Canada was integral to ensuring we were able to recruit new participants. Second, we specifically invited the people we thought would be key, rather than hoping people would sign up. This ended up making even more sense in retrospect, because we were so happy with who came, but if the idea was to reach people who were not normally part of GLAM-Wiki projects, we were trying to reach people who wouldn’t already be following our normal channels of communication and who would not inclined to sign up, even if they heard about it or were familiar with the goals of GLAM-Wiki. The geographic diversity of the participants we invited allowed us to hold an event with a variety of online experiences, and to provide Wikimedians who may not have been able to attend a meetup before to get to meet other Wikimedians face-to-face.

As co-organizer, I want to tease out a few more important points:

GLAM Boot Camp attendees enjoying dinner together after a day of hard work.

GLAM Boot Camp attendees enjoying dinner together after a day of hard work.

Attendees

We posted a list of attendees to the page; the names in green were those who we invited as full participants for the entire event. Of these, only about three had actually signed up or registered interest before we started sending out invitations. For the others, I spent hours looking for people; asking for opinions of others; and looking through user contributions of people who had participated in any GLAM WikiProjects online, in meetups, or in any of various other Wikimedia activities or subcommunities (such as administrators and featured content writers). Participants came from all over the United States (New York; Maryland; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia; Kansas; Michigan; and Chicago) and Canada (Halifax, Vancouver, and Winnipeg). No two people were from the same metropolitan area, and most came from areas without regular Wikipedia-related events. For many, this was their first time at a Wikipedia event of any kind. The size of the group, 12 invited attendees with no more than five organizers and guests, was the perfect amount to allow for productive discussions.

Program

We designed a program that was very unlike GLAMcamp and a lot more structured than most unconferences, but with more practical sessions than a traditional conference. It was something between a Wikipedia Academy, where newcomers are taught how to edit Wikipedia,  and a campus ambassador training. You can see our program here. We generally moved from presentation-heavy to discussion-heavy sessions. The first day was our high-level overview of, and introduction to, cultural institutions and the history and present circumstances of GLAM-Wiki. Michael Edson’s inspiring opening talk was to give participants an insider perspective of cultural institutions, and we talked a lot about institutional missions and how to connect the work of Wikimedia with that of cultural institutions. The second day we moved into more practical matters, going through the whole “lifecycle” of a Wikimedia project, and talking about specific events and projects. By the third day, we spent more time in discussion, getting the boot campers to articulate their own visions of GLAM-Wiki and how they personally could contribute to it. We ended up having unplanned breakout sessions a couple of times because attendees were excited with ideas as we showed them things like our one-page guide that needed improvement. If you would like to dig into the Etherpad notes from each day, they are listed at the top of the program, linked above.

Logistics

The event was possible for us in the U.S. because logistics and funding were largely handled by James Hare and Wikimedia DC, which budgeted $8,000 for the conference from its program budget. Most of the money went towards funding the travel and accommodations of the attendees. All attendees were fully funded, and this was crucial. Most of the travelers had their flights booked by Wikimedia DC and stayed in a hostel (same as the one used for Wikimania 2012 and GLAMcamp DC). Wikimedia DC also hosted two dinners and provided refreshments throughout the day.

Speakers

David Ferriero talking to attendees at GLAM Boot Camp.

David Ferriero talking to attendees at GLAM Boot Camp.

The ambitious nature of the workshop, with three full days of programming, meant Lori and I spoke a lot. We broke things up a little by inviting special speakers in certain topic areas, often where they had as much or more expertise as either of us did. Some of these speakers were locals from the DC area that agreed to come in, and some were attendees we invited to present to the group on something they are skilled at. Examples include the Wikisource and Commons workshops, a session on event planning, and a session on grants and chapters. We also led off with special guests: Archivist of the United States David Ferriero gave a welcome address, and Michael Edson, who had just returned from keynoting GLAM-Wiki London, gave an epic talk for most of the first morning. At least half of the sessions were led by Lori or I, though, and future GLAM Boot Camps probably would want to find ways not to give so much work to two individuals, for their own sanity. ;-)

Venue

The venue was provided by the U.S. National Archives, though there were pros and cons for this. The main pro was that there was no cost associated with securing a venue! We might have been able to find a room elsewhere without a cost, but 3 days, all day for no cost is a big ask. The other main benefit was that we were in a good location and were able to take advantage of having David Ferriero make appearances. We did face typical problems with working with a bureaucratic venue, like catering and security all taking more time than we wanted.

Outcomes

For me, the most important outcome was seeing attendees who were all not the same old faces come in, eager to get involved. Gradually, they took more ownership and responsibility for GLAM-Wiki, as they began to feel more empowered and a part of the effort. There were practical outcomes, like specific documentation or project pages to improve. More than that, though, most attendees came away intent on contacting local institutions or organizing their local Wikipedia community. I am as excited by the overall community-building I think we did around GLAM-Wiki, which will help it be more successful as it is more accepted and integrated with the Wikipedia community, as I am by any specific skills attendees may have learned or GLAM projects they may go off and start.

The need to reach out more to the Wikimedia community, as much as to cultural institutions, is something I feel very strongly about, so I am so glad we were able to hold this event, and grateful to everyone who made it possible and attended.

Wiki Loves Monuments

Lasting the whole month of September, Wiki Loves Monuments—USA is part of an international Wiki Loves Monuments

competition that anybody with a camera and internet connection can join in on. Focused on improving the number and quality of photos related to historic monuments and places, the Wikipedia community started a photo contest in 2010 in the Netherlands. The result was 12,500 freely licensed images of monuments that anybody can use for any purpose. In 2011, 18 countries participated in the contest resulting in 5,000 participants submitting more than 165,000 images.

This year, 2012, the contest has come to the US and will focus on sites on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) which volunteers have organized on Wikipedia by state and county, including other sites chosen by local Wiki Loves Monuments coordinators.

Every participating country will put together a national contest with partners, rules, events, and winners. Then every national contest will nominate some of their winning pictures for the international contest. An international jury will award extra prizes to the best images from all participating countries. The grand prize this year will be a trip to Hong Kong!

Any participation is welcome: from uploading a single image to spreading the word about the contest, to even becoming

A winner of Wiki Loves Monuments 2011:
The cemetery with Douaumont ossuary (Verdun), France (Meuse, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.).

sponsor.

In the Washington, D.C. area we are lucky to have a cornucopia of historic buildings, statues, and towering monuments that are all ripe for the photographing. Take an afternoon, or even just a few seconds walking home from work, to take a picture of an old building or a statue and upload it in September to enter it into the contest. Take a tour with friends or family, or go on a solo hike around town. Participating is super easy. Just check out the already compiled list of historic places on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_RHPs#Current_listings_by_state_and_territory and choose where you want to go.

On September 8th a group of energetic Wikipedians went forth on a photo scavenger hunt called Wikipedia Takes DC and took a plethora of great photos for Wiki Loves Monuments despite inclement weather in the afternoon!

Throughout September we will be having several uploading/meetup gatherings at the Starbucks on Dupont Circle so feel free to swing by and join the party!

 

Lisa Marrs, Outreach & Program Coordination, Wikimedia DC

Getting to Know You, GLAM

Dominic McDevitt-Parks during Campus Ambassador training

GLAM, the Wikimedian acronym for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums, equates to more than just the institutions categorized by the letters. It also encompasses the merging of communities. On August 13, 2012, Dominic McDevitt-Parks, the wikipedian-in-residence at the National Archives and Records Administration since May 2011, gave a talk labeled “Cultural Institutions and Wikipedia: a Mutually Beneficial Relationship” on what a symbiotic relationship between Wikipedia and a cultural institution can look like.

Introducing Dominic was Wikimedia DC’s own Kristin Anderson, who described the Wikipedian community to the Library of Congress audience as “the only people who like information as much as library catalogers are Wikipedians…Wikipedia and the Library of Congress share Thomas Jefferson’s dream of…information for everyone.”

In his talk, Dominic broke down how cultural institutions and Wikipedia can work together to form mutually beneficial partnerships. If the goal of an institution is to encourage the use of its materials, Wikipedia is a natural fit, being the 5th largest internet site. Dominic gave numbers and a visual to put it all into perspective. The National Archives website gets 17 million views a day. In contrast, a very conservative estimate of the number of views that the Wikipedia articles that use National Archives material receive every day is well over a hundred million. This isn’t pointing at a problem, but at a fact, and one that can lead to a solution for many institutions; Wikipedia provides a ready-made platform to spread not only information through articles, but also to put up source documents on sister projects Wikisource and Wikimedia Commons.

The National Archives takes full advantage of this online volunteer community by encouraging local Wikipedians to come to scan-a-thons and the online Wikipedian community to tag the uploaded scans and transcribe the text documents on WikiSource. Due to the tireless efforts of many Wikipedians, well over a hundred thousand documents have been scanned in and transcribed.

Even if the question of whether or not Wikipedia is a reliable source is raised, if a person sees a mistake on Wikipedia, it is up to him or her to make the change. Unlike other encyclopedias or collections, if people find a mistake on Wikipedia or one of its sister projects, they can correct it. There is a large community of editors watching to make sure the information is as accurate as possible. Recognizing that its own information is not infallible, the Archives has created a feedback page on its own website for people to post mistakes and corrections on.

Dominic summarized the role of a Wikipedian-in-residence nicely: the Wikipedian-in-residence provides access to the institution to the Wikipedia community and vice versa, which brings about not only community engagement, but also culture change within the institution itself, making it more open and accessible to the layperson. This is change which the National Archivist David Ferriero heartily embraces and encourages, in the words of one blogger during the National Archives ExtravaSCANza in 2011, “If it’s good enough for the National Archivist, it’s good enough for you.”

Lisa Marrs, Outreach & Program Coordination, Wikimedia DC