Since January, I’ve trained 22 museum staff to edit Wikipedia, as well as 32 members of the public. I’ve spoken at three conferences, 7 other events, and started an awful lot of conversations about the benefits of open knowledge in a museum context. My name is Sara Thomas, and I’m Museums Galleries Scotland’s Wikimedian in Residence.
Wikipedia is one of the most-used websites in the world, and it’s often the public’s go-to resource for information on any given topic, from art to medical information. So if the information there could stand to be improved, what do you do?
Well… you call a Wikimedian.
For the last four months I’ve been on secondment to Glasgow Museums, working with them to find ways to increase the volume and quality of content available on Wikipedia and its associated partner projects concerning items held in the collection, as well as being an advocate for open knowledge. I’ve flown the flag, banged the drum and generally attracted a lot of attention to the fact that open knowledge can have huge benefits for museums. That the digitisation and open licencing of museum collection images helps us to find new audiences, increases reach and reputation, and can even open up new opportunities for income generation. And that an open collection is a natural extension of outreach.
Four months isn’t an awfully long time to get this done. But you can get a lot of things kickstarted, and one of the main achievements of the project was setting up the Wiki Working Group. This is a group of Wiki-trained museum staff who are invested in the idea of opening up the collection digitally, and who work on various fronts to make that happen. It’s particularly important because it means work can continue past the lifespan of the residency. The group will look to find gaps on Wikipedia, and how they can help to fill them; they will organise events to match up curatorial expertise with volunteer time in contributing to Wikipedia and its sister sites; and they will work towards a donation of images under an open license from the collection to Wiki Commons, the media file repository for Wikipedia and its sister projects.
For the next eight months I’ll be working nationally, using Museums Galleries Scotland’s network to help other museums open up their collections to the world. If you’re interested in how I might be able to help you do this, if you’d like to see how your museum could plug a gap on Wikipedia, or if you’d like me to come and deliver (free) training, then please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to read more about the project, and what’s been achieved so far, there’s more information on my project page over at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:GLAM/Museums_Galleries_Scotland