Pieter Teyler's own pewter ink stand has been used traditionally by society members to keep accounts and write down the society meeting decisions.
In 1778, the Teylers Museum was founded as a society whose goal was to create a local centre for contemporary art and science in Haarlem. They collected knowledge in the form of books, minerals, fossils, instruments, paintings and other art, and much more to inform students and the general public on these matters, but also to interact with them during society meetings. In 2001, Wikipedia was founded and started to collect information in the form of articles and files to form an on-line encyclopaedia, also with the intent to inform the public and to present this information to everyone. Both organizations share the same values, and complement each others goals. In 2012 both organizations started a collaboration to work to inform the public more (and perhaps better) on various topics.
The Teylers Museum was nominated by the Dutch Cabinet on 12 December 2011 for UNESCO world heritage listing, based on its long history as a public knowledge institute and its continued efforts to preserve public access to its collections. With its 10th anniversary, Wikipedia Germany set up a petition to get the German Wikipedia recognized as the first digital World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Now, the Teylers writing challenge seeks to unify tangible heritage with intangible world heritage.
After the presentation and tour in the museum, the writing contest started. Whilst the Teylers Museum is situated on the Spaarne river in the Netherlands, anyone on any Wikipedia in any language can participate in this international contest. At this moment, 25 users have signed up to participate in this contest and have already written, or translated, articles in 9 languages. The curators have received several requests for more information and Teylers has uploaded many pictures regarding subjects in their museum. Articles have been written about the historical parts of the museum, which are themselves registered as heritage sites like the Teylers Oval Room and the Teylers astronomical observatory; about masterpieces like The Birds of America and the Encyclopédie; and about people with relationships to the Museum like the artist Cornelis Springer or the scientist Jacobus Barnaart. So far, most of the new articles are biographies, though as the Teylers has a lot of rare first edition books, 18th and 19th century fossils and other natural artefacts (that cost a fortune in their day), many original prints and drawings from the renaissance, as well as artist notebooks, there is much more to do. Almost everything in the collection was purchased for educational purposes, and the museum is a valuable source for teaching materials through the centuries.
This challenge is not the first international "Teylers writing challenge." The Teylers first and second societies have continuously had writing contests running and still do today! These are the questions open today for which you can win a real prize medal and scholarship funding:
Since 2011, an open question by the First Society: An investigation is requested into the formation and/or the change in the Dutch perception of Islam during the years 1990 to 2010. Submissions before May 1, 2014.
Since 2010, an open question by the Second Society: - A critical study is requested of the importance of epigenetics in understanding genetic variation, ecology and evolution. Submit before 1 January 2013.
The Wikipedia contest runs until May 2012 and there are prizes to be won, courtesy of the Teyler's Museum. Until the contest closes, people can still join and participate in any language they like. The curators are happy to answer questions, provide information and images. So ask Teylers! What would you like to know for your articles and what images are missing and you would like to add to the articles? Let us know!
The ideals of Pieter Teyler in the 18th century match the ideals of Wikipedia today. Let's take up the challenge and enrich Wikipedia on the fields of art and science, and share this information with the world.