GLAM-Wiki 2015: Thoughts, Excitement and Opportunities!

Since attending Kansas State for grad school and focused on developing my Digital Humanities skills, it has been a long time since I attended one of the movement-wide Wikimedia conferences; in 2011 I went to Wikimania Haifa,and in 2012 I attended Wikimania DC. At each, I found myself amazed by the breadth and impact of the various European Wikimedia outreach opportunities: the density of each chapter’s members, in part created, by the national boundaries of the various European languages, gives an environment that favours the development of  formal organizations that support professional relationships with large volunteer communities and outside partners. Similarly, as a movement event GLAM-Wiki 2015 felt like a very Euro-centric conference: only a small contingent of Americans, Australians and Canadians, two Southeast Asian contributors (representing Bangladesh and the Philippines), a handful of other Asian contributors, few African contributors, and a very limited representation of Latin American communities.

GLAM-Wiki has been an overwhelming catalyst in the European context for good historical reasons: the 19th century’s emphasis on colonial acquisition and reinvestment in public cultural education has created a densely packed and well-loved cultural sector. The overlap between dense and professional chapters and this amazing cultural sector has led to an amazing Wikimedia capacity for partnerships around cultural heritage. GLAM-Wiki 2015 highlighted a phenomenal breadth of projects with partners from Europeana to small British museums, from ethnographic museums in Poland to major national libraries that created a broad survey of the important work happening across the continent. In particular, Wikidata and projects like WikiProject the sum of all paintings caused quite a buzz, with everyone beginning to talk about the potential of such projects in shaping not only Wikimedia collaborations but the larger cultural heritage sector.

That being said, when community members shared experiences from other parts of the globe I found them to be even more spectacular and impactful projects that I was surprised to have not learned about on the global stage:

  • The team from Wikimedia Mexico talked about their weekly radio program focused on Wikipedia and a 50-hour editathon that they hosted at Museo Soumaya
  • The WikiAfrica team, represented by Nkansah Rexford Nyarko, talked about a Cape Town collaboration that activated a whole coalition of museums in the region, helping them distribute previously unavailable digital media
  • Marco Correa from Wikimedia Chile talked about how they preserved official speeches of Salvador Allende on Spanish WikiSource
  • Zach Pagkalinawan from Wikimedia Philippines highlighted their “Cultural Heritage Mapping Project” which captures photographs and historical data about

Such ambitious projects! More importantly, though, these projects are very exciting because they not only offer some of the best examples of innovation in the GLAM-Wiki community helping preserve and disseminate cultural heritage, but they were implemented in areas where the Wikimedia communities don’t have the level of professional infrastructure and density of cultural institutions as Europe. The growing opportunities are phenomenal: I would invite everyone to browse the schedule at https://nl.wikimedia.org/wiki/GLAM-WIKI_2015/Programme with an eye for the non-European GLAM-Wiki activities.

Opportunities for the Wikipedia Library

I have been transitioning out of my role as a Digital Humanities specialist at Kansas State University, and increasing my role as Project Manager for The Wikipedia Library where I am helping expand Wikimedia volunteer access to research materials and growing the impact of Wikipedia in library-focused research and discovery. In part, my attendance at GLAM-Wiki was to scope out various opportunities for The Wikipedia Library to find new volunteer leaders for branches and capture best practices in library outreach which we can disseminate through our Wikipedia Library branches. Several projects look like excellent opportunities:

  • At the National Library of Israel, they operate the main Reference Desk for Hebrew Wikipedia, supporting editors and readers in finding research materials and answering reference questions
  • The State Library of New South Wales has an organizational policy that allows for, and at times strongly encourages, Wikipedia editing that improves public knowledge about topics of importance to their holdings. Check it out at on their Glam-Wiki documentation
  • The Catalan Wikimedia community is working with hundreds of public libraries to leverage Wikipedia as an information literacy tool and to disseminate best practices for editing in their local communities.

Each of these programs deserve systematic documentation as part of The Wikipedia Library: they help fulfill our mission of getting resources to our editors and readers, they provide refreshing new approaches to GLAM-Wiki that most communities haven’t considered, and they scale without a huge amount of volunteer or professional staff investment.

At The Wikipedia Library, we are increasingly talking about how our team can partner with the GLAM-Wiki community to find these innovative approaches and distribute them to more language communities! Do you know of any under-documented projects in the Wikimedia community that could use greater investigation from The Wikipedia Library? Comment below!

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The Common Trajectory of GLAM-Wiki Projects

Last week, I answered the questions “What exactly is GLAM-Wiki? This week I thought I would outline more of what GLAM-Wiki collaborations look like and some of the practical concerns that go into running the early stages of collaborations. I started this  discussion two days ago when I explained some of the concerns I focus on when giving outreach talks about Wikipedia. Today, I am going to outline what seems to be the common trajectory of GLAM-Wiki projects since Liam Wyatt’s inaugural residency at the British Museum. Having been involved in a number of collaborations as a volunteer, in my experience, these projects seem to take the following steps:

  1. A GLAM, or individual enthusiast within a GLAM, recognizes it wants to engage Wikimedia projects or Wikipedia because of their importance within the public’s perception of the internet (Wikipedia is the go to source for quick information, tops Google searches and is integrated into Facebook and other websites). In the case of my current internship, Mark Crosby, one of the faculty at Kansas State, was very supportive of my other Wikipedia and Digital Humanities activities, is an editor of the William Blake Archive and jumped at the opportunity to have me do an internship helping the Archive.
  2. A Wikimedian begins presenting ideas to the GLAM’s employees and other volunteers in order to rally support. As I reported in my last blog post, the presentation I gave at Kansas State’s Beach Museum is a good example of these outreach events. Because the Blake Archive is a digital project, I am doing mostly outreach at my current location, Kansas State University, instead of within the GLAM.
  3. The Wikimedia community alongside GLAM professionals begins to facilitate a cooperation by identifying what resources would best help support Wikimedia’s mission to provide free and open-licensed educational materials. For my current internship, we knew that almost everything on the website fits into Wikimedia’s needs: the William Blake Archive has mostly public domain media content because Blake died nearly 200 years ago, and the archive is clearly an authority on Blake, so can be used to reference related content on Wikipedia.
  4. Wikimedians, usually the Wikipedian in Residence, do an initial assessment of what content is already on Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other Wikimedia projects and begins rallying support for the project at the GLAM and on Wikimedia sites ( I am in the process of gathering this information and support. I hope to talk about the statistics in an upcoming blogpost).
  5. The GLAM donates resources to the Wikimedia community (usually either physical space for volunteer activities, staff time, or digital materials such as scans or images). For right now, the Blake Archive supports both myself, as an unpaid intern, and Mark, as an editor of the project, working on Wikimedia activities under their name. Also, the Beach Museum provided me the space for the presentation two weeks ago and for an upcoming Blake Archive event, allowing my GLAM-Wiki outreach to become inter-institutional outreach as well.
  6. Wikimedia volunteers and GLAM volunteers leverage the resources to improve Wikimedia space by writing Wikipedia articles, illustrating articles with GLAM images or building other free educational content like textbooks, public domain ebooks, etc.
  7. Wikimedia content provides the public with better education and direction towards authoritative institutions. Furthermore, GLAMs can show donors, grantmakers, and other decision makers metrics that support their claims to they impacting public knowledge through one of the most used families of websites in the world.
  8. GLAM-Wiki volunteers and the GLAM employees assess the impact of the project and refine their approach so as to ensure better public impact of the GLAM and volunteer time.
Right now I am about to finish step 4 and ramping up steps 5 and 6 with the Blake Archive. In the next couple blog posts, I plan to outline a little bit more of what exactly I am doing for the Blake Archive to assess it’s impact on the Wikimedia movement, corral volunteer labor to improve William Blake content and generally improve public knowledge about Blake.