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

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

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.

Transcending Boundaries: International Relations and Wiki Projects

The field of International Relations (IR) has always been about transcending boundaries, whether physical or metaphorical. Unfortunately, as aptly stated by Oxford IR Professor Andrew Hurrell in his introduction of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s inaugural Distinguished Fulbright Lecture, there exists in IR academia a “Berlin Wall-like division between fields.” This division, in fact, exists in several disciplines, not just in IR. While there are several individuals across disciplines who work to break down these barriers, large-scale cross-disciplinary collaborations hardly ever exist. In today’s highly-connected world, enhancing global knowledge depends in part on fostering collaborations across fields and disciplines.

In a paper by Deana D. Pennington titled “Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration and Learning,” she argues not only that collaboration is important, but also that cross-disciplinary collaboration depends on having a “knowledge ecosystem” composed of individuals who use effective tools along with bodies of knowledge to foster successful collaboration.  The very collaborative nature of Wikis makes Wikipedia and its sister project one of the effective tools to build this “knowledge ecosystem.” The only thing necessary is a large number of people who bring their expert body of knowledge with them and use Wikis as a tool for effective collaboration.

While not a be-all end-all solution to the problem of sharp divisions between fields in International Relations and other disciplines, Wiki Projects have the potential for bringing together actors from across IR fields to collaborate and build a large body of knowledge that is available to millions of people across the world, particularly those who wouldn’t normally have any reason or incentive to interact with each other. This is not a foreign idea to IR scholars. In a recent survey of US scholars of International Relations and related fields by the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William and Mary, scholars were asked a number of questions about topics related to the scholarship and pedagogy of IR. One of the questions asked was whether they have used Wikis, such as Wikipedia, as a scholarship or teaching tool. Results showed that 52.36% of responders used Wikis as a teaching tool in the classroom, and 13.46% of responders used Wikis for scholarly purposes. Unfortunately, only 6.96% of responders said that they have edited a Wikipedia article in their area of expertise. Increasing the number of professionals who contribute in their field to Wikipedia articles and other Wiki Projects is an important goal for everyone in the Wiki movement and an essential step for turning Wiki Projects into the effective collaboration tool of the “knowledge ecosystem.” We at Wikimedia DC place particular emphasis on reaching out to professionals in our area for that purpose.

Many of the scholars surveyed are from Washington DC. In fact, four of the top ten schools of IR are based in DC: The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and the School of International Service at American University. One of our goals at Wikimedia DC is to reach out to students and scholars at these schools and encourage them to add expert and professional contributions to various Wikipedia articles in their field. By engaging the professional IR community in the region, we are moving one step further toward ensuring that the expert knowledge of world’s top scholars in International Relations becomes available to people around the globe.

If you are a scholar or a student of International Relations based in the Washington DC area, we will be reaching out to you soon. But we invite you to also reach out to us. In the works, we have multiple projects dedicated to bringing together professionals from many disciplines, such as LibraryLab, Edit-a-thons, and our forthcoming Embassy Outreach Initiative and Wikis and Open Government Project. By working together, we can ensure that the vast intellectual capacity of the Washington DC region is shared with individuals across the world. In that way, Wiki Projects and Wikimedia DC, like the field of International Relations, transcend both physical and metaphorical boundaries to bring the international community together.

Image: Madonna des Kanonikus Georg van der Paele