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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