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Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums with Wikipedia (GLAM-Wiki): Insights Interview with Lori Phillips

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The following is a guest post by Jefferson Bailey, Fellow at the Library of Congress’s Office of Strategic Initiatives.

The Insights Interview series is an occasional feature sharing interviews and conversations between National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group members and individuals involved in projects related to preservation, access, and stewardship of digital information.

In this interview, I am excited to talk to Lori Phillips, Web Content Specialist and Wikipedian in Residence at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Lori is also the US Cultural Partnership Coordinator at the Wikimedia Foundation. I caught up with Lori at the recent GLAMcamp DC where an enthusiastic group of Wikimedians and cultural heritage professionals were working to build tools and resources for the GLAM-Wiki (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums with Wikipedia) initiative.

Lori Phillips, by HstryQT from Wikimedia Commons

JB: First off, congratulations on recently being named US Cultural Partnership Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation! Tell us how that position came about and how you envision your role going forward.


LP: Thank you! It is a rather fancy title isn’t it? All of those words essentially mean that I facilitate collaboration between cultural institutions and Wikipedians throughout the US.  Over this year I will be working with the Wikipedia community to make it easier for cultural professionals to connect with Wikipedians and begin collaborative projects.  We need a more stable infrastructure for GLAMs to find Wikipedians who can help them and we hope to address this by organizing documentation, resources, and lists of volunteers in such a way that GLAMs can come in and get started more quickly.


JB: How did the GLAM-Wiki initiative get started, what were some of the GLAMcamp DC outcomes, and what are the next steps for the GLAM-Wiki initiative overall?


LP: I have really loved watching the GLAM-Wiki community evolve over the past two years and I left GLAMcamp DC with the sense that we were beginning another exciting chapter. GLAM-Wiki began to take off in the summer of 2010 following the first Wikipedian in Residence project at the British Museum.  Liam Wyatt, then Vice President of Wikimedia Australia, came up with the Wikipedian in Residence concept, popularized the term “GLAM” and convened the first GLAM-Wiki conference in Canberra, Australia.  Soon after, a global community of Wikipedians united around the idea that cultural institutions should be sharing their resources with Wikipedia and began to establish models for doing this. You can read more about the history of Wikipedians in Residence and GLAM-Wiki in my recent guest post for the Open Knowledge Foundation.

GLAMcamp DC was truly the kick-off for a fresh focus on US GLAM coordination, which first received support through the establishment of my role as US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator. Outcomes of GLAMcamp DC included new documentation for institutional image uploads to Commons, a Wikipedia citation tool for MARC records, additional documentation and information handouts, and a fresh GLAM:US Portal for coordination.

From here, there is still much organizing to be done within the US GLAM-Wiki community as we prepare for a number of upcoming outreach events at professional conferences this year. In the meantime, new projects are starting all the time, both in the US and around the world. Just recently for instance, an extensive Wikimedia/digitization project officially began at the Bulgarian ArchivesOCLC announced that they’re hiring a summer Wikipedian in Residence, and Sarah Stierch was named the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ Wikipedian in Residence!

Wikimedians and representatives from GLAMs gather for opening remarks at GLAMcamp DC. By Antaya from Wikimedia Commons.

JB: People are familiar with Wikipedia as an online encyclopedia, but there are actually many more Wikimedia resources and projects that will be of great benefit to GLAMs. As an example, the NDSA has initiated the collaborative WikiProject Digital Preservation to improve digital preservation information on Wikipedia. Tell us about some of the less-known tools and uses of Wikimedia that will be of value to the GLAM community.


LP: I’m always encouraged to see new groups being bold and organizing in such ways. I was involved in starting WikiProject Public Art, which aims to organize lists and create Wikipedia articles in order to, in essence, digitally preserve the artworks.  GLAM-Wiki also uses the WikiProject model when organizing projects around specific institutions.  If you’d like to get a feel for how the Wikipedia community works before diving into a larger institutional project, I suggest joining a WikiProject associated with a topic you’re passionate about.

There are many other sister projects outside of Wikipedia that are valuable to the cultural sphere.  While Wikimedia Commons, the image repository, is more well-known, others such as Wikisource and Wikiquote are not. The National Archives has been doing amazing work incorporating Wikisource into the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, which encourages users to help transcribe documents that they’ve uploaded to Wikisource. Wikiquote is another project that cultural organizations could certainly contribute.

Wiki Loves Monuments is a highly successful photography contest that will be taking place across the globe this September. Just as an institution can consider how their resources connect with a project like Historypin, Wiki Loves Monuments can also be valuable project with which to be associated.  Also, many smaller Wikipedia meet ups and edit-a-thons occur throughout the year. Reaching out as a host for these events is a great way to connect with the Wikipedia community and show that your institution is a resource.

JB: There are a number of trends, such as open-access scholarly communication, linked-open data (LOD-LAM), and the “commons” approach to sharing digital assets, in which Wikipedia can and does play a central role. How have you seen — or how do you foresee — GLAMs making use of Wikipedia to engage with the public, improve their collections, and contribute their unique knowledge and materials to a wider audience.

LP: It has been interesting to follow along as trends in open-access have become increasingly relevant in cultural institutions, over the past few years especially.  It’s finally starting to be more of an expectation rather than the exception. For years Wikipedia has been the quintessential example of open, freely available knowledge sharing, but only recently have cultural institutions started to seriously consider Wikipedia as a platform for sharing content.

Wikipedia is absolutely an ideal tool for all that you suggest: it allows for cost-efficient distribution of a collection’s images and metadata on a global scale, addressing the mission-driven need for broad access to cultural heritage;  it provides a means for cultural professionals to contribute their expertise by vetting articles and sharing resources that have been buried in filing cabinets;  and, when cultural organizations engage behind the scenes with the vibrant Wikipedia community, it can serve as a platform for the facilitation of dialogue between various points of view.  On top of this, Wikipedia’s multilingual infrastructure has huge potential for broadening accessibility to our audiences. There is so much potential for cultural organizations to utilize Wikipedia to address many facets of their mission, often it just takes pointing it out.

JB: One of the exciting aspects of the GLAM-Wiki project is its reciprocal benefits — Wikipedians can support and augment the core activities of cultural institutions and at the same time cultural professionals can also work to improve Wikipedia/Wikimedia itself. Working together furthers the mission of both communities – this is the essence of collaboration. What are some of the ways this is currently happening and how do you see it happening in the future?


LP: One project that has taken the GLAM-Wiki community by storm is QRpedia, a QR code tool that links to the mobile-friendly Wikipedia article in the language of your phone. Museums and libraries have incorporated QRpedia codes into their exhibits, allowing visitors to connect to the Wikipedia article for deeper levels of information and information in their own language. While people can either love or hate QR codes, it’s hard to argue against the implications of QRpedia for increasing multilingual accessibility in exhibits. For more details, see this blog post I wrote for the New Media Consortium.

Screenshot of the GLAM-Wiki US Portal

In the future, I’m looking forward to cultural institutions becoming more serious about long-term collaborations with Wikipedia, rather than just one-off projects or a single image donation. I was recently inspired by the Indiana Historical Society, which is the first institution to shift a high-ranking staff position (their director of education) into a “Wikipedia and Research Editor” position.  Future GLAM-Wiki collaborations will do more to incorporate Wikipedia into the core of staff development and the everyday workflow of curators, archivists, librarians, and beyond.



JB: Lastly, for GLAM institutions interested in pursuing a collaboration with the GLAM-Wiki project, how would you advise them to proceed?


LP: Thanks to the work of GLAMcamp DC participants, cultural institutions who are interested in starting a Wikipedia collaboration can now find help on the GLAM:Connect page or the GLAM:Bookshelf, both of which are part of the GLAM:US Portal. You can also find more information and case studies from projects around the world on the main GLAM-Wiki website.

This July, US cultural professionals will have an incredible opportunity to attend Wikimania in Washington DC. With it taking place in Washington this year, we hope to see GLAM-Wikimedia networking on a grand scale.

You can also follow us on various social media sites, including the GLAM-Wiki US Facebook page or the global @glamwiki Twitter.  If you’re looking to be inspired and stay on top of the latest GLAM-Wiki news, you can follow our community-written monthly newsletter, This Month in GLAM. Never hesitate to connect, ask a question, or share an idea – that’s what GLAM-Wiki is all about!

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