GLAM/Case studies/The Children's Museum of Indianapolis/Success story

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Success Story: Wikipedian-in-Residence at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

This success story was written by Angie McNew, Director of Websites and Emerging Media at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Angie spearheaded the museum's collaboration with Wikimedia.

When I first learned about the GLAM initiative, I saw a natural correlation between our museum’s mission of family learning and Wikipedia as one of the most widely used and freely available resources for information in the world.
It made perfect sense that our content should be there. Here’s a ready-made global audience of adults and children around the world who could see and learn from our content. What family household in America doesn’t consult Wikipedia for answers on school projects, or any topic for that matter.
"I hope to continue the outreach effort to make connections with wiki projects or individual Wikipedians who may have a mutual interest in our subjects or artifacts. I think the ongoing cultivation of these external relationships and the continued interest and engagement of our staff is key to making this project truly successful for the long term."
--Angie McNew, Director of Websites and Emerging Media, Children's Museum of Indianapolis
After meeting Liam and learning more about Wikipedia, other potential collaborative uses came to mind. We spend years researching exhibits and working with notable subject-matter-experts. We’re researching materials that could be used in an article, and amassing a huge amount of information - only a fraction of which will go into the exhibit. I wondered how we could use Wikipedia as a medium to document and share the rest of that information with the world.
We are a collecting museum, but we also had not done much in recent years to establish an online presence for our collection like many other museums have done. Rather than simply starting an effort to put our digitized collection online, I started to look at the possibilities of using Wikipedia as the platform to present selections from our collection with associated context.
After the Wikipedia project started to take shape, I had two goals in mind. I wanted everyone at the museum to be as informed and excited about the project as I was; and I wanted to make it a long term commitment and an effort that could be sustained. I was pleased that staff who had no involvement in the project took such an interest in learning about it. I was also happy that all of our executive leadership found the project interesting and worthwhile.
Staff at all levels of the museum had the same questions about risks, especially regarding potential abuses of images. After much discussion and education, it became clear that the benefits of serving our family learning mission and increasing the reach and exposure of the museum far outweighed any risks. In the beginning, I was concerned about the potential conflict-of-interest surrounding the publishing of our own research or editing articles in a self-interested way. It was a murky area and one I was hesitant to venture into given my little knowledge of the Wikipedia community and culture. We started out trying to be as transparent as possible with the best intentions to stay true to the mission of Wikipedia.
"It made perfect sense that our content should be there. Here’s a ready-made global audience of adults and children around the world who could see and learn from our content. What family household in America doesn’t consult Wikipedia for answers on school projects, or any topic for that matter. I think the ongoing cultivation of these external relationships and the continued interest and engagement of our staff is key to making this project truly successful for the long term."
--Angie McNew, Director of Web and Emerging Media, Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Apart from creating something that could be sustainable, there were no clearly defined deliverables for the project until we brought our Wikipedian-in-Residence on board. The museum was very fortunate to have access to a local Wikipedian who was already connected to the GLAM effort and was familiar with the museum. Once the residency was underway, we recruited a smaller core team of staff representative of several departments to carry the project forward. The Wikipedian-in-Residence also did a lot of outreach to wiki projects to cultivate interest in the information and images that we had to offer.
There was a lot of planning and evangelizing early on, but the real deliverables started to emerge about six months into the project. We established a great relationship with a Wikipedian who wrote a featured article about one of our objects; we conducted a program for teens that resulted in new articles; we made our first image contribution; we added links to Wikipedia on our website; and we added QR codes to our galleries... all within a few months.
I hope to continue the outreach effort to make connections with wiki projects or individual Wikipedians who may have a mutual interest in our subjects or artifacts. We need e-volunteers willing to work with our Wikipedian-in-Residence and curators to improve articles related to the museum’s objects and collaborate on researching and contributing to existing articles. I think the ongoing cultivation of these external relationships and the continued interest and engagement of our staff is key to making this project truly successful for the long term.
We’re now considering ways to cultivate the potential of E-Volunteers in the future, as well as methods to produce sustainable, internal processes to make it easier to contribute content to Wikipedia. We’ve achieved so much more than I anticipated in the first year of this project, it’s time now to step back and really look at the potential of where this collaboration can go and what more we can achieve.