Archive for July, 2012

Digging into ArtBytes

Charles Street entrance to the Walters Art Museum, green grounds in front.

Charles Street entrance to the Walters Art Museum.

Down Charles Street in Baltimore, Maryland sits a museum basking in the hot summer sun like a contented cat, right across from the gloriously green, statue-populated, and many-fountained grounds of Johns Hopkins University. Within the museum’s cool, white marble halls and rooms rest thousands of art treasures, from ancient American statues to canvasses from the mid-1900s. This is the Walters Art Museum, completely free to the public, and the site of ArtBytes, a hackathon that debuted the weekend of July 27, 2012.

Hackers from as far away as New York came together with museum staff to figure out how to better the museum experience in a competitive, yet collaborative atmosphere. The teams worked through the weekend and most of them arrived at the ending presentations with nearly completed, if still rough, products. There was team Time Machine’s mobile app that could recognize a work of art and then show that work’s original color or an xray of that work depending on the images and information the museum has in storage. Team Pez-Head created a way to do 3D modeling of sculptures and then print them out in rather excellent detail to make art more accessible by making it “touchable”. Both Team Schrodd0n and WalTours made different kinds of maps for mobile devices for the Walters Art Museum to help visitors navigate exhibits. Dave Raynes, a team of one, worked on making the data shored up in the Walters databases more easily available to software, which was a great help to many other groups. Badgify the Walters was all about putting up QR codes around the museum for kids to find and scan to collect points by doing quizzes on the art works which would eventually culminate in collecting badges on a profile online.

Although all groups ‘won’ the competition and each received $500, the judges managed to pick out two favorites to shower $1000 on. The first was

painting of a woman in a kimono brushing her hair

Goyo Kamisuki, picture in the “Beautiful Women” gallery where the Tanzuka hang

Put Art in its Frame,” a mobile application where you can choose what time period the exhibit is in and then see all the significant world events that happened during that time period. The second was “Tanzaku,” a mobile application taking from the Japanese idea of writing notes on strips of paper (tanzaku) and hanging them up for all to see, which is an idea already in effect in the Hashiguchi GoyoBeautiful Women” exhibit, where visitors write their own tanzaku and put them up on wires. The mobile app is a way to leave comments on art pieces and exhibits, as well as on the museum itself, with the potential to be connected to various social networking sites. All of this provides a way to potentially go on a tour with absent friends and explore how various pieces of art have touched different people.

So many amazing projects came out of this hackathon, sprung from the creative minds and intense will of their creators. Tapping into this pool of talented people, the Walters Art Museum ultimately benefited, providing an example other Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums may follow. The museum is not only enterprising in terms of calling forth capable people to use their talents and grow new abilities, but it also furthers its own goals by tapping into existing projects such as Wiki Loves Monuments, an event coming up in September where people all over the globe will sally forth to take pictures of public objects of historic and/or artistic value and upload those pictures onto Wikimedia Commons, both to increase the stock of public domain photos and to enter their photos in a contest. The Walters’ Wiki Loves Monuments is accepting pictures now of public artworks all over Baltimore as an extension of their Public Property exhibit (although note that only pictures submitted to Commons during the month of September are eligible for the worldwide contest).

Lisa Marrs, Outreach & Program Coordination, Wikimedia DC

From Sideshow to Main Attraction: Transatlantic Perspectives on Digital Rights and Online Privacy

During Wikimania 2012, Jimmy Wales said that he hopes Wikipedia never has to black out again in protest, but that it can if the need arises.

According to Daniel Weitzner, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the government has kept its hands off of the Internet, allowing innovation to course and the Internet to grow from a small sideshow to the main event, from a small community of researchers to being an indispensable part of global infrastructure. If the Internet were to be an economic sector, he told the audience at the New America Foundation‘s panel discussion on Transatlantic Perspectives on Digital Rights and Online Privacy, it would make up 3.5% of GDP in all OECD countries. Despite this, there is still no Department of the Internet, which is a good thing, Weitzner explained, because of the very horizontal nature of the World Wide Web.

At the same time, we are becoming increasingly aware of the need to create legislation or norms to protect the privacy of the average Internet user. Although it is highly unlikely that an all encompassing, grand public policy treaty on the use and protection of personal information on the Internet will ever be signed, laws should still be made to protect consumer privacy and to let businesses know where boundaries lie. It’s not enough to let companies and people regulate themselves. In order to really make an effort to enforce consumer privacy and protection, the “bully pulpit authority” of government regulation must be used. This does not equate to infringing on the freedom of expression online, which would slow the growth of online businesses and innovation.

Anti-ACTA demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks.

Anti-ACTA demonstrators in Tallinn
photo courtesy of Otto de Voogd (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Three of the four panelists, Konstantin von Notz, Markus Beckedahl, and Jeanette Hofmann, all shared the German perspective on digital rights and online privacy. Beckedahl, the founder of, told the amused audience how in Europe, the potential for ACTA (the infamous treaty already signed by the US to strengthen copyright legislation) to be signed by their own governments created a stir. Starting with Poles literally jumping in the cold in protest of the treaty (the story of which was told during Wikimania 2012), demonstrations spread to Germany where tens of thousands showed up to protest any abridgement of online creativity, and then to different parts of Europe. Jeanette Hofmann, Co-Founder and Director of Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, announced her own plans to create a study challenging the pervasive economic assumption that copyright is essential to prevent market failure.

The fourth panelist was one of America’s own, Gigi B. Sohn, the director and co-founder of Public Knowledge, who managed to pull something positive out of the SOPA/PIPA fiasco. Americans, she said, are now more concerned about where their politicians stand on issues touching the internet. Even though SOPA and PIPA went to the backburner in the face of public outrage, Sohn warned that lobbyists are still pushing hard to increase IP protection through the creation of jobs in the IP department and through IP protection personnel in departments where ones haven’t been seen before.

Wikipedia’s blackout design for SOPA

There is a fundamental difference, Sohn emphasized, between legislating the content on the Internet and how that content gets there. The barriers to potential growth and innovation on the internet are not really created by controlling the on-ramps but by controlling the width and scope of the road itself, she said. Wikipedia itself helps to bring awareness to this issue. When Wikipedia blacked out in protest of SOPA and PIPA, Europeans began paying attention to the issue of government control of copyright on the Internet, said Beckedahl.

What we say on the Internet has global reach. The information we spread can touch the lives of people all over the world. Still, five billion people do not have access to the Internet, so there is still tremendous room for growth. In the spirit of providing free access to the sum of human knowledge, the Wikimedia movement should continue to raise awareness about potential legislature that may abridge that access and engage more people in the spread of information and the inevitable creativity and innovation that comes with it.

Lisa Marrs, Outreach & Program Coordination, Wikimedia DC

Wikimania 2012 and Onward


Wikimania 2012 has come to an end. A week of pure exhilaration, excitement, energy, and elation drew to a close on the afternoon of July 15, as the remaining attendees turned off their laptops and exited the George Washington University Marvin Center one last time. For some, this had been a chance to see old friends. For all, it was an opportunity to meet new ones.

Being at Wikimania, and particularly being here in Washington, DC, provided a great opportunity for open culture and free knowledge enthusiasts to share their passion with the world. For Wikimedia District of Columbia, Wikimania had been about exploring new and exciting possibilities, engaging in active discussions and dialogue, and taking what was learned here back so that we can continue the work to empower people around the world through free access to global knowledge. That is why we chose “Explore. Engage. Empower.” as the theme for Wikimania 2012. And over the course of the past week, the more than 1,400 people from 87 countries who had participated in Wikimania 2012 and its associated events did just that.

Roberta Shaffer, Associate Librarian of Congress for Library Services, welcomes guests to the Google Opening Reception (Alejandro Linares Garcia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

With support from our sponsors and partners, over 700 people attended our opening reception at the Library of Congress, where the newest Wikipedian in Residence position was announced; more than 1200 participated in the opening ceremony, which featured keynote speeches from the Ada Initiative co-founder Mary Gardiner and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales; and our community heard over 275 speakers, many of whom are already active contributors to Wikimedia projects, including the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Sue Gardner, and the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. In addition, we met and talked with the more than 200 participants at Tech@State: Wiki.Gov, and Richard Boly of the State Department’s Office of eDiplomacy shared a letter from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulating attendees on the opening of Wikimania  2012 and Tech @ State. Over the course of 5 days, our 1,400 attendees consumed 3,791 lunches, enjoyed 5,424 cups of coffee, and visited nearly every museum and monument in the Washington metropolitan area (although a citation might be needed).  On these explorations, our local Washington, DC, highlights were photographed and many are newly included in Wikimedia Commons, a database of freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

Mary Gardiner speaking at the Wikimania 2012 Opening Ceremony (Helpameout, CC BY-SA 3.0)

One person in our community, to the surprise of some of our guests, is David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States.  In his remarks at the closing ceremony on Saturday, Ferriero discussed the important role that Wikipedia and Wikimedia Projects have for preserving history and documenting cultural heritage. After reminding the audience that the National Archives has contributed more than 120,000 digital files and pictures to Wikimedia Commons, he told the crowd, “…if Wikipedia is good enough for the Archivist of the United States, then it’s good enough for you.”

Lori Byrd Phillips, US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation, reflected on the event, stating that “David Ferriero’s closing plenary illustrated just how inspiring the Wikipedia community can be for institutions and governments looking to become more open and transparent. Though, what was the most inspirational for me was the respect and appreciation shown by the Wikipedia community during the standing ovation for Mr. Ferriero. I’ve known that the Archivist of the United States loves Wikipedia, but last week I was reminded that the Wikipedia community returns that love to those who advocate for the movement.”

David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, speaks at the Wikimania 2012 Closing Ceremony (Sebastian Wallroth, CC BY-SA 3.0)

We at Wikimedia DC would like to also return the love and thank our wonderful partners, collaborators, sponsors, and, especially, volunteers. Wikimania is an event that is put on largely by a group of dedicated international volunteers who donate their time and skills to ensure that all attendees have a wonderful and enriching experience. Wikimania would not have happened without the remarkable work of this amazing group of people. Kat Walsh, the newly elected Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, recognized the contributions that the conference organizers and volunteers made to the overall experience, stating that “The organizing team did an amazing job putting on the largest Wikimania ever, bringing together people from all of the various parts of our movement around the globe and presenting a full program of talks, tours, and workshops. My congratulations and thanks for the great work they’ve done.”

We’re grateful to Kat for her leadership, and we also appreciate our participants’ leadership going forward to make the great ideas shared a reality.  We, as diverse individuals and as a community, had the chance over this past week to explore many ideas and engage in lots of discussions during our conference.  We have aspirational goals, and we know that will see many positive outcomes from Wikimania 2012 in the months and years ahead.

Wikimania 2012 attendees at a Teahouse Meetup (Doctree, CC0 1.0)

Wikimedia DC strives to put on events in support of free global knowledge, and our journey has only begun with Wikimania. If you live in the District, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, or Delaware, we invite you to become a member and join our Meetup group. Even if you’re outside our area, you can still donate to help support Wikimedia DC’s various programs, such as the Embassy Outreach Initiative, the upcoming Wiki Loves Monuments US, or our other various events and programs, such as edit-a-thons, LibraryLab, or the Wikipedia Campus Ambassador program.

In closing, we’d like to thank our amazing volunteers one more time. We really could not have done this without the help, advise, and support of many people. Although not everyone on our great team is listed below, you can identify and applaud volunteers on Wikipedia through the Wikimania Barnstar. We encourage you to award one to those people who did something special, whether or not they formally volunteered!

Thanks for visiting us in Washington, DC.  We hope to see you next year in Hong Kong for Wikimania 2013!

With sincere gratitude,

James Hare and Nicholas Michael Bashour


The Wikimania 2012 Organizing Committee

James Hare – Wikimania Coordinator
Nicholas Michael Bashour – Wikimania Deputy Coordinator
Katie Filbert – Technical Coordinator
Tiffany Smith – Program Chair
Orsolya Virág – Deputy Program Chair
Deror Lin – Deputy Program Chair
Sage Ross and Jessie Wild – Scholarships Coordinators
Chad Horohoe – Registration Coordinator
Danny B. – Volunteers Coordinator
Lisa Marrs – Information Desk Maven

Copyright notice: images are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license or the  Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, as noted.

Reinforcing the Wikimania 2012 Friendly Space Policy

On Friday, July 13, at a Wikiculture and Community presentation, the presenter included two sexual images in his talk in violation of our Friendly Space Policy.

When we became aware of the incident, we asked for feedback in a session in the Grand Ballroom at 5:00 PM following the presentation. Many Wikimania attendees participated and expressed reactions ranging from deep personal shock at encountering this content without their consent to concern about censorship.  During this discussion, the presenter apologized for showing the images that violated the Friendly Space Policy and expressed sincere regret for the harm he caused.

The Wikimania 2012 Organizing Committee also apologizes for the harm this caused some of our attendees.  Wikimania 2012 will not post the video of the talk because it violates our Friendly Space Policy.  The presenter fully agrees with this decision.

The theme of Wikimania 2012 is “Explore, Engage, Empower.”  Wikimania aspires to bring together and empower everyone in our community to build the best possible Wikimedia projects.  Providing an inclusive, diverse, and friendly environment in which all attendees feel safe and welcomed is one of our central goals for Wikimania 2012.  We have been thrilled with the friendly atmosphere and engaging discussion of the conference so far, which would not be possible without you, our presenters and attendees.

If you have any concerns or feedback for the conference organizers, please email one or more of us at our email addresses below. Your emails will remain confidential.

Thank you,

Wikimania 2012 Organizing Committee

James Hare, Coordinator, <>
Nicholas Michael Bashour, Deputy Coordinator <>
Tiffany Smith, Program Chair <>

From Mozart to Michael Jackson

Inside of the Grand Reception room in the Austrian Embassy

Photo courtesy of Gryffindor under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Austrian Embassy’s giant reception room was packed. Row upon row of quiet guests in formal evening attire sat beneath a wide, glassy sunroof allowing the last rays of the sun to soak quietly into the dim room. Even the people in blue and red in the paintings lining the walls seemed to be waiting. The stage was set and lit and an older woman with short, blonde hair took the microphone, “This is my last cultural event,” Andrea Schrammel, the Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum Washington, informed the waiting audience. Even though she had spoken these words several times before, it was much more real this time, as the Austrian government was calling her back to Vienna after four years in the United States.

After her brief introduction of the event, a musical duet by famed Jazz piano composer Michael Kahr and violin prodigy Barbara Helfgott, Wikimedia DC‘s own Nicholas Bashour, in a turquoise button shirt that matched the blues in some of the art around the room, took the stage as a sponsor of the event and told the expectant audience that this event is only the tip of the iceberg, that Wikimedia DC is active and looking for more opportunities to reach out to the international crowd.

Austrian Violinist Barbara Helfgott, photo by Nicholas Michael Bashour, CC BY-SA 3.0

Applauding, the people fell silent when Kahr, tall with a fitted black suit and mahogany hair feathering his neck, stepped out of the backroom alone and took the ready stage. Without preamble he sat down at the waiting piano and began. Soft and classical notes met strains of improvisation in a dizzying way as the last of the sunlight faded from the room and the only light came from the beams concentrated on the man and his piano.

After two songs, he finally arose, bowed to the applause, and addressed the audience saying how wonderful it was to be there that night and to introduce Barbara Helfgott as “the future of Austrian music”. She came striding out of the backroom in six inch sparkly white heels, sleeveless black dress that went to the top of the knees, and a brilliant smile, holding out her violin and bow as she crossed to center stage.

Nodding to the sound technician to her left and clenching the violin between her chin and shoulder, she smiled at Kahr and winked at the audience as the bada-tss of percussiondrums and other instruments began to throb from the speakers and wash out over the audience like the beginning ripples of a rising tide. Then Kahr joined in with the piano, moving back and forth on the seat, shoulders keeping the beat along with his fingers as they ran across the keys. Nodding and tapping her toes, Helfgott moved in, the first few notes screaming out from the violin like lost souls. The audience began to look restless, phones were brought out, someone left the room with fingers in her ears. Yet Helfgott smiled and turned to Kahr, nodding almost imperceptibly, and the real music began.

Austrian pianist Michael Kahr and Austrian violinist Barbara Helfgott, photo by Nicholas Michael Bashour, CC BY-SA 3.0

For forty or so minutes straight, Helfgott and Kahr coaxed wild and beautiful melodies from the piano and violin, intertwining and separating them from the background music thumping from the speakers. After finishing the first set, they returned for not one, but two encore performances. During the first encore, Helfgott introduced the next song, “I’m So Excited,” by taking the microphone and giving a short speech about how excited she was to be at the embassy, how excited the embassy people were to have her and Kahr, and she knew the audience was super excited, too. Then, Helfgott turned to the audience and said, “well, this concert is called From Mozart to Michael Jackson. There hasn’t been any Mozart, but, we have Michael Jackson,” after which she and Kahr played the finalist song: “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.

After the romping musical escapade during which Kahr shook his shoulders to the music and Helfgott danced as she played her violin, Helfgott and Kahr returned for a final encore, this time, a request from the audience. “Mozart, Mozart!” the audience chimed in, but, unfortunately, according to Helfgott, “Mozart did not really write a lot of pieces for piano and solo violin.” As a compromise, she played, on her own, a rendition of one of Mozart’s most famous and challenging arias, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” from the opera “Die Zauberflöte” (The Magic Flute).

After the concert, everyone broke for food and wine, and during the reception we had the opportunity to briefly interview these two great musicians.

Barbara Helfgott, with her amazing showmanship, got her start on the violin at the tender age of 5, and by 10/11, she was already winning contests and attending university classes for the musically gifted. After being turned away from philharmonics because “women can’t play the same as men,” she resolved to create her own philharmonic ensemble. And she did: the Rondo Vienna, a group of up to 25 women musicians that travels Europe and, in 2007, won the Austrian Show Award.

Although she doesn’t have a favorite location where she would love to play, she does want to play wherever there are “people who love music. There is a symbiosis between musician and audience: the musician expresses themselves through their music and the audience takes and gives back, in turn expressing themselves through listening.”

Joe Zawinul

Joe Zawinul
Photo courtesy of Wikimedian, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Michael Kahr first became attached to jazz when he heard the music of Joe Zawinul, an Austrian-American jazz keyboardist and composer. With jazz, he says that “the music itself draws you in. It is a musical language, there are no definitive differences you can point to between Austrian, African, Australian, and American jazz even if there are some researchers now trying to find those differences.” And he has been all of those places in search of musical inspiration, studying jazz wherever he goes.

“When I was young, I knew I wanted to travel,” he added. He has visited America (the birthplace of jazz), Africa, the Middle East, and Australia in order to find traditional instruments, gather inspiration, and experience the music scene in those countries as well.

As the guests slowly trickled out from the embassy into the humid blanket of night with the orange glow of incandescent bulbs behind them, and those who live at the embassy climbed the stairs to their living quarters, no one had a cross word to say, or a regret for coming. Bridging cultures and languages, bringing people together to connect ideas, Wikimedia’s Embassy Outreach Initiative’s second event left everyone moon walking away with thrumming hearts and dancing minds.

Lisa Marrs, Outreach & Program Coordination, Wikimedia DC

Leave a Comment, Get a Free Ride!

Wikimania’s coming to DC next week! With so much to do and see in this political, cultural, and economic center many of our guests might be overwhelmed. So leave a comment describing a spot in DC, be it a restaurant, museum, park, monument, street or library that either is your favorite, or, if you’ve never been in DC before, you are looking forward to visiting the most, and explain why that is. Let’s churn up some ideas so folks from outside the area can prioritize their to-visit list!

In the spirit of fun, we’re going to make this a contest based on the quality of reasoning behind why a place is your favorite.

1st place: 4 one-day Capital Bikeshare passes, covering all of Wikimania + Unconference, July 12-15
2nd place: 3 one-day Capital Bikeshare passes, covering all of Wikimania, July 12-14
3rd place: 2 one-day Capital Bikeshare passes, covering all of Tech@State, July 12-13
4th place: 1 one-day Capital Bikeshare pass
Deadline is July 11 at 5pm! Make sure to enter a valid email address that you will check so we can notify the winners!
Copyright info: Capital Bikeshare logo, used with fair use under United States copyright law.


Upcoming Free Wikimania Events

Wikimania 2012, the international Wikimedia conference, kicks off next week. If you’re not registered, there are still free events that you can participate in and enjoy!

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we have our Hackathon, which includes a special session for new Wikipedia editors, so whether you’re a seasoned Wikipedia contributor, or a free knowledge enthusiast who has yet to fix an error or add a new fact on the world’s largest encyclopedia, then come down to George Washington University on July 10/11 and join the fun! Our partner for the Hackathon is OpenHatch, a non-profit dedicated to matching prospective free software contributors with communities, tools, and education.

If you are a librarian or just love libraries, you’ll be glad to know that we also love libraries, so join Wikipedia Loves Libraries on Wednesday, July 11, which features a special workshop for librarians, along with talks and panels.

On July 12 from 6:30 to 9:30, Consumer Reports and GLAM-Wiki US are hosting GLAM Night Out: Party & Media Panel at the Newseum, featuring a panel on “The Sponsored Point of View: Financial Conflicts of Interest in Health Care and Science.” The event is free, but guests must RSVP here.

If you’re interested in social media instead of GLAM, another event happening on July 12 is the official Zoomph Wikimania happy hour, happening at Tonic on 2036 G Street NW. The happy hour will include DJ, free drinks, prizes, and MetroStarSystems will be launching Zoomph, a new social media engagements and analytics tool, so make sure to RSVP here.

On Friday, July 13th, we’re lucky to have a lot of great events happening, and you can go to one, two, or all! Wikia is hosting a Wikia Celebrates Wikimania party at  Famous Luigi’s Pizza on 1132 19th Street NW from 6-9PM. They’re offering pizza, drinks, and also, for the first 100 attendees, a free Wikia t-shirt, so make sure to RSVP here. The Saylor Foundation and the Wikipedia Education Program are hosting a Wikipedia Education Program meetup at the Saylor Foundation offices, 1000 Wisconsin Ave NW from 5:30-7:30pm. If you’re interested, make sure to sign up here.

Wikimedia DC and Capital Fringe invite you to the Wikimania Happy Hour at the Capital Fringe Festival Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar. The bar opens at 5 PM and Wikimania Happy Hour specials last until 7 PM. There will be some awesome shows all night, and the tent doesn’t close until 2 am! Mingle with other Wikimania attendees, DC residents, and artists from all over the US under the tent, and enjoy free music starting at 10pm.

On Sunday, July 15, we have our Unconference, which features various presentations and workshops submitted on the day by attendees and participants. Everyone is welcomed to attend and participate.

Also on Sunday July 15 is the Wiki Expedition, a photography expedition/contest taking place around Washington, DC and the nearby areas. Details and the sign up form are available here.

If you love maps and cartography, then you’ll love the OpenStreetMap mapping party, held in two parts, Part I at Congressional Cemetery (from 10-noon), and Part II at the Wikimania Lounge at George Washington University (from 1-3), on Sunday July 15.

 You can participate in some or all events. They’re all free, and we hope to see you all throughout the week!

Nicholas Michael Bashour, President, Wikimedia DC

The world’s largest outdoor encyclopedia is in DC

Tomb of Lantos in the Congressional Cemetery with a QR code on a garden stake next to it.

Grave of Representative Tom Lantos at the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, DC. Note the QR code.
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license under Peter Ekman.

All the world’s a stage, and every prop, scene, and player conceals a story. On the way to work we pass by some statue or fountain that once tickled the imagination and now sits comfortable and unnoticed in its familiarity, and wonder what story lies behind it. Passing an eccentric neighbor’s cubicle and glancing at the sprinkling of medieval portraits adorning its walls, we briefly wonder just who Nostradamus actually was. With leaps in information technology, finding the answer can be as easy as pointing your smart phone at a little card.

Just in the past year QR codes have cropped up on walls and banners, on brochures and menus, linking customers with the appropriate smart phone application to websites about the advertised business or to nutritional facts on a menu’s dishes. Increasingly, institutions such as museums, galleries, and city governments realize the educational potential behind these codes. Wikipedia, with its crowd-sourced articles on millions of topics in hundreds of languages, is the most comprehensive source for articles about pieces of art or the history of a central park. The love child between these institutions and Wikipedia is QRpedia.

Just recently, the 205-year-old Congressional Cemetery became the world’s largest outdoor encyclopedia of American history. Sixty QR codes link visitors to the Wikipedia pages of such diverse people as Congressman Henry Clay, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and Leonard Matlovich, America’s first openly gay serviceman. The Wikimedian behind this effort, Peter Ekman, explained why he chose a cemetery, not exactly the typical GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) outreach fare.

“It chose me,” he said. “Everything I wanted to do, the cemetery people were happy to oblige. Most of the article compilation work was already done by anonymous Wikipedians  so most of the work was just printing out the codes and putting them up. It is cheap, inexpensive, anybody can do this.”

It took $400 to print out the QR codes, laminate them, and obtain the garden stakes to anchor them into the soil.

“Local groups can do this themselves,” Ekman added. “Once it’s been established that it can be done, historical societies and other locally-oriented groups can see that this gets done.”

While QRpedia is relatively new in the US, many places in Europe have already embraced it. A prominent factor in its success in Europe thus far is that, not only does the code take the smart phone user to the Wikipedia article associated with what they are looking at, it also directs them straight to the article in the phone’s set language. Even if a museum or plaque does not provide information in a visitor’s native tongue a QRpedia code can directly circumvent the informational gap.

The most comprehensive QRpedia project is actually an entire city, the city of Monmouth, Wales, and the project is known as Monmouthpedia. Aiming to cover every single notable place, person, artifact, plant, animal and other item of note in Monmouth in as many languages as possible, but with a special focus on Welsh, this project carpets the city with QR codes. Ekman said that he was inspired by the monumental, ongoing achievement of Monmouthpedia, adding that “if they can do it, so can I, and so can anybody else.”

Visit to play around and see how extraordinarily easy it is to create QRpedia codes. The most difficult part for volunteers can be obtaining permission to post the codes, but everything else is a breeze.

Lisa Marrs, Outreach & Program Coordination, Wikimedia DC

Wikimania time! What to Bring


Have you made your packing list and checked it twice before hitting the road?

Wikimania 2012 is arriving in just two weeks! What with the tech talks, hackathon, and collaboration sessions everyone knows to bring their computers and smartphones but what about the not so glamorous items, the clothes and toiletries?

Well, honored attendees and speakers should be glad to know that, no matter where they will be staying, toilet paper will be provided in their rooms. While hostels may not provide them, hotels will also definitely include fresh towels, hand soap, and shampoo as well as clean sheets for the bed. Hostels will have lockers available, so make sure to bring a lock!

Everything else is up to the guest. Since this is Washington, DC in the middle of the summer, temperatures will most likely not dip below 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) with stifling humidity, so dress lightly! Clothing made from rayon, linen, cotton, and silk are generally the best for hot, muggy weather. When walking around Washington DC, seeing the sights, meeting up with people, or just exploring the city, shorts, t-shirts, and sandals are perfectly acceptable as well as sunglasses and hats to soften the bright sun bouncing off of glass buildings and white sidewalks. At the conference there isn’t a dress code, but at the opening reception, nice-yet-comfortable clothes are encouraged, be they western style or national dress.

If there are plans to be out and about for hours in the sun, sunscreen and a water bottle are a must. There is a CVS grocery store/drug store right on Dupont Circle where the hotels are where guests can purchase sunscreen, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, razors, and shaving cream if they want to, so if you don’t have room in your luggage for these items, you can still buy them in DC.

Besides the necessary toiletries, guests should also not forget to bring plug adapters for their electronic devices if they come from outside the United States. Check out this Wikipedia article on power outlets in the US and make sure to purchase an adaptor that works for you! Books or something to do on the plane over are also recommended but are really based on personal preference and can be used as conversation starters if nothing else. “You’re reading a book on King Ludwig the Second? Wasn’t he a crazy monarch?” “Oh no, actually he was just misunderstood genius, he sponsored Wagner…” “You crochet baby socks?” “Actually they are smurf hats…” etc.

That’s about it on what to bring to Wikimania, besides bounding enthusiasm of course! Paper, pen, pencil, business cards and smiles don’t hurt to bring either.

We look forward to seeing you here!

Lisa Marrs, Outreach & Program Coordination, Wikimedia DC

Copyright info: FIAT Topolino Super (1948) mit Sonnenmarkise und Gepäckablage by Sigismund von Dobschütz, imported from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Blazing the DC Trail: 10 Things to See in DC

You’re coming to DC and you want to know what to visit but you want to stay away from the obvious sites and take the road less traveled by, away from the tourists on their Segways and hawkers at memorabilia stuffed stands. Luckily for you there are dozens of sites like this all over the DC area, here is our arbitrary list of the top 10 in random order.

1) Congressional Cemetery: Located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the Congressional Cemetery is the final material resting place for hundreds of notable names from US history including Congressman Henry Clay, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, David Herold, who was convicted and hung for his part in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and Leonard Matlovich, America’s first openly gay serviceman. All of the tombs just mentioned and more now also sport QR codes to their Wikipedia pages so you can conduct your very own tours. Free Admission.

Miniture trees up close, looks like a small, private forest.

Missvain, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

2) The United States National Arboretum: Located in northeast DC about 10 minutes from the Capitol Building. The visitor center is open every day from 8am-4:30pm except December 25, from March 1 to October 31 the Visitor Center is open from 8am-5pm. The Arboretum features everything from lush East Asian gardens to spectacular columns, simulated environments from the Prairie to verdant forest. There are self guided tours and private and public tours available. Free Admission.







Trees in Fall colors reflected in a still pool of lilypad waters.

Agnostic PreachersKid, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

3) Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens: Located in northeast DC, just south of Route 50, Blatimore-Washington Parkway, Kenilworth Avenue intersection the park is open daily from 7am-4pm except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. Preserving some of the original 4,000 + yera old wetland from before the time when European immigrants came and began destroying it, Kenilworth Park boasts both man-made and natural ponds and marsh. Popular in the summer are the flowers that bloom in the artificial ponds although the flourishing summer vegetation springing up from the marsh and tidal wetlands along the Anacostia River is also worth the time to walk, bike, or canoe by. Free Admission.







MamaGeek, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

4) The Monastery of Mount St. Sepulchre: Located in University Heights, a 14 minute walk from the Brookland-Cua Metro station, this monastery boasts not only of grand halls, but also of breath taking architecture and sumptuous gardens with gorgeous statuary. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm, Sunday from 8am-5pm and Saturday from 9am-6pm. Free Admission.






5) Civil War to Civil Rights: Downtown Heritage Trail: Located in Washington’s Downtown, just east of the White House. Composed of 21 poster-sized, illustrated signs that combine storytelling with historic images, the trail follows the footsteps  of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Walt Whitman, and other Americans whose stories twined with the history of the US and its capital city. Those taking the trail are encouraged to follow it at their own pace, checking out the local characters, businesses, and restaurants along the way. Free Admission.

National Geographic Museum building

AgnosticPreachersKid, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

6) National Geographic Museum: Located at 17th and M Streets NW in downtown DC and open from 10am-6pm daily, the National Geographic Museum exhibits change every so often to reflect the richness and diversity of our world. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for members/military/seniors/students/groups of 25+, $4 for children 5-12 years old.








African American Civil War Monument

Epicadam, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

7) African American Civil War Monument: Located on U Street NW and Vermont Ave NW, the African American Civil War Memorial is a tribute to the United States Colored Troops (USCT) who fought for freedom during the Civil War. There is a sculpture of uniformed soldiers and a sailor with a family behind them situated in the center of a plaza encircled on three sides by the Wall of Honor. This Wall lists the names of the 209,145 USCT drawn from the official records of the Bureau of the USCT National Archives. Free Admission.








Front of Tudor Place House

Wknight94, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

8) Tudor Place Historic House and Garden: Located off Wisconsin and 31st Street NW, this Georgetown mansion and National Historic Landmark was once the home of the granddaughter of Martha Washington. Docent-led house tours and self-guided garden tours are available Tuesday through Sunday. The house itself is surrounded by five acres of extensive, verdant gardens. Adults $8, Seniors/Military $6, Students ages 7-18 $3, Garden only with self-guided map/audio tour $3, children 6 and under free.

Nave of the National Cathedral in DC.

Tim Evanson, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

9) Washington National Cathedral: Located off of Wisconsin Ave NW and Massachusetts Ave NW, the Cathedral is replete with beautiful  architecture and manicured grounds. Visit to learn more about the history of the Cathedral, tours are provided. $10 per person.








Garden with statuory pillar in center.

10) Hillwood Museums and Gardens: Located off Tilden Street NW and Lenora Ave NW, the Hillwood Museums and Gardens houses one of the most complete collections of Russian imperial art outside of Russia as well as a distinguished 18th-century French decorative art collection and 25 acres of serene gardensand natural woodlands for anyone to enjoy. It is open for roaming Tuesday to Saturday from 10am-5pm, tours are complimentary. Free Admission although adults are encouraged to donate at least $15.