The “Wikipedian in Residence” project has gone from strength to strength. Beginning last year at the British Museum (prior blogpost) there are now residency projects in cultural institutions in several countries and in very diverse cultural institutions.
Children’s Museum, Indianapolis
The longest-serving Wikipedian in Residence, Lori Phillips (HstryQT) has been working at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis since September and has recently published an extensive update. This museum has a broad collection, with exhibitions focused on family learning, so for them collaborating with the non-commercial, educational online encyclopedia is a logical way to reach their audience.
Some of Lori’s projects have included:
- Working with Wikipedians to increase the quality of articles for some of the museum’s objects, including the Broad Ripple Park Carousel, which was recently honoured with “featured article” status;
- Uploading images of their objects to Wikimedia Commons, their first foray into Creative Commons licensing;
- Embedding Wikipedia articles into their own website, such as with the historic locomotive Reuben Wells;
- Running “backstage pass tours” for local Wikipedians;
- Using Wikipedia to teach research and writing skills to 13-18 year old students in the “Museum Apprentice Program”, resulting in five new articles for the museum’s most iconic artifacts.
One Wikipedian who grew up in the area and visited as a child was so impressed with the museum’s collaboration with Wikipedia that he made a financial contribution to the museum:
It’s great to hear that the Children’s Museum has a Wikipedian in residence. I remember all sorts of class and family field trips to the museum… You’ve just inspired me to make a financial contribution to the museum, and if the museum higher-ups ever doubt the usefulness of a Wikipedian in residence, know this: Without that article and the memories it brought back, helping out wouldn’t have crossed my mind.
Château de Versailles
Meanwhile at the court of French kings, Benoît Evellin (Trizek) is now a couple of months into his residency project (prior blogpost). The Château de Versailles is a completely different kind of museum, focused on a specific place and all the people, politics, history and culture that has swirled around it. The Château is excited to be working with Wikipedia as it is an effective way to contextualise this diverse range of subjects – from Marie Antoinette’s farm to any one of the ten Versailles treaties – and to bring its heritage and its specialists’ publications to a wider audience.
The two main components of Benoît’s work are providing training to the hundreds of museum staff on the theory and practice of Wikipedia and making connections between these experts and interested Wikipedians all over the world. His other specific projects include:
- Arranging special tours for photographers, to take free-licensed photographs to illustrate Wikipedia articles. Others – such as Salle du Sacre – were created directly as a result of the photographs becoming available.
- Sharing digitised copies of the Château’s collection of original books with Wikisource, and original and maps of the castle with Wikimedia Commons.
Future activities will include an international article writing contest, a “featured article in 24 hours” challenge and translation drives.
Across the Channel in England, the newly elected chair of Wikimedia UK Roger Bamkin (Victuallers) has been working with Derby Museums. Compared to the other institutions the Derby museums are small, with a special focus on the 18th Century painter Joseph Wright of Derby and the first factory. However, this is an experiment to see what effect we can have on a smaller institution.
Recently the Derby museum hosted its own “backstage pass tour” at which two innovative projects were unveiled. The first, the Wright Challenge, is a multilingual project aimed at creating articles related to the museum and its subject in as many Wikipedia language editions as possible. The second is the use of Wikipedia QR Codes for the museum exhibits. QR codes have been used in museums before but these QRpedia codes – a tool created as a direct result of the Derby collaboration – are a cost effective way for the museum to cater to international visitors as they are able to detect the preferred language of the visitor and direct them to the appropriate Wikipedia edition.
Very soon three new cultural institutions will join the list of those with an in-house Wikipedian. The US National Archives (NARA) have announced Dominic McDevitt-Parks (Dominic) who will be working to link their unique collections of documents with the myriad Wikipedia articles about American history. Meanwhile, Sarah Stierch (Missvain) will be undertaking similar projects at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. Finally, the Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) has advertised a similar position, jointly funded by Wikimedia Germany, to work across several diverse institutions at once.
From small to large, old to new, archives to museums, every cultural institution can have a proactive relationship with Wikipedia because, after all, we’re working in the same field for the same reason, and for the same people. If you would like to follow updates on the residents and other culture-sector activities you can subscribe to the “This month in GLAM” newsletter on wiki or by RSS or visit glamwiki.org
Cultural Partnerships Fellow