Announcing the “Outstanding Professional Advancing Open Access to Cultural Heritage” Award, in Memory of Effie Kapsalis

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Today, members of the Wikimedia community are pleased to announce the “Outstanding Professional advancing Open Access to Cultural Heritage” Wikimania Scholarship, in memory of Effie Kapsalis. 

This award has the goal to recognize outstanding cultural heritage professionals and activists that are tightly working with the Wikimedia communities to make more cultural heritage available online as open access. The award, with the support of the Wikimedia Foundation, will cover a full scholarship to Wikimania 2024 for a cultural heritage professional working on open access. This year, following the momentum of GLAM Wiki Conference in Uruguay, the award will be given to a professional from Latin America. 

The award serves as a way to honor Wikimedia’s movement friend Effie Kapsalis. Effie’s legacy to the world includes spearheading the Smithsonian Open Access initiative (launched four years ago, in February 25, 2020), which released millions of images from the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex into the public domain. Effie put equity and care at the forefront of her concerns, being a champion for respecting the heritage of marginalized and oppressed communities.

Throughout her work, she often found support and allies in the Wikimedia community, and she was a fierce advocate for Wikimedia projects inside cultural heritage institutions. Without professional champions like Effie, Wikimedia’s mission of the “sum of all knowledge” would be impossible to accomplish. She was also passionate about bridging the gender divide on Wikimedia projects, and that inspired her involvement with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, which laid the groundwork for the new Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum

Effie Kapsalis, center, surrounded by other Wikimedia editors in a Wikimedia edit-a-thon.

Effie Kapsalis, center, with Wikimedia community members at an edit-a-thon.

Effie’s work was internationally recognized. Her groundbreaking paper  “The impact of Open Access on GLAM” and her unforgettable talk “Give it Away to Get Rich” inspired dozens of cultural heritage professionals to start brave and necessary conversations around the importance of open access to cultural heritage at their own institutions. 

This award is a way to both honor her legacy and recognize professionals that are doing similar work. A group of colleagues and friends from the Wikimedia community stepped forward to create this award, generously supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. 

Following this announcement, we will be receiving nominations of cultural heritage professionals from affiliates from Latin America for the award. A small committee including Sara Snyder (Smithsonian/Wikimedia DC), Evelin Heidel (Wikimedistas de Uruguay), Andrea Wallace (Exeter University), Ben Vershbow (Wikimedia Foundation), Simon Tanner (King’s College London) and other friends to be confirmed, will be in charge of selecting among the nominees and giving out the award. Initially, this award will be given for the Wikimania 2024, 2025 and 2026 editions. An evaluation process will follow after that to evaluate the award’s impact and the best ways to continue it. All the information about the Award and the process is available on Meta.

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