GLAM/Case studies/Indianapolis Museum of Art

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This case study describes a project undertaken by the Indianapolis Museum of Art to revamp the institution's article on the English Wikipedia. This project occurred from February to April 2011.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art



From February to April 2011 the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) requested that a Wikipedian take the lead in revamping the museum's Wikipedia article. The goal of this project was to avoid issues with conflict of interest while still providing the museum with a thorough, accurate, and up to date article.

Any cultural institution would want their representation in Wikipedia to be accurate, interesting, and in line with the institution’s mission, especially when Wikipedia is often at the top of search results. Typically Wikimedians would strongly recommend that museums not edit their own Wikipedia articles in order to prevent the article from becoming self-promotional and non-neutral. By sharing case studies such as this, the GLAM-Wiki community would like to show how a cultural institution can go about updating their Wikipedia article through a transparent partnership with a Wikimedian.

What made the IMA's project different was its scale. The IMA is known for being a leader in museum technology, and Wikipedia could no doubt be their next frontier. The goal was to create a shining example of what a museum Wikipedia article can be while remaining neutral and in line with all of Wikipedia's policies. We maintained neutrality by utilizing all third party sources and minimizing our dependence on IMA-produced publications. The process also involved staging the article in draft form (in a sandbox) until the completed article could be reviewed by both the museum and the Wikipedia community. The project was much more than cleaning up the current article, or even making some updates; it was a complete revamp and comprehensive description of nearly every facet of the institution.



Organizing information


Early in the process the project manager (the Wikipedian) worked with the museum director to clarify the headings and main components of the article, working largely off of the museum's detailed strategic plan. Certain aspects of the content (specifically the Collections & Exhibits sections) were decided upon with the help of curators and other related departments. This process was important because it helped the project manager to understand what key points to include, while still using all third party sources to provide the information and remain neutral in tone. In the end, some headings were moved or combined at the discretion of the project manager, and a handful of topics were removed because they had yet to be covered by third-party press. (Note: The WikiProject:Museums Guidelines for museum articles was consulted and portions were implemented in the article, but overall it was decided that it made the most sense to base the headings around the museum's own strategic plan, as each museum will be vastly different.)

Gathering sources


The project manager worked closely with the IMA's public relations and technology departments to gather the over 130 third-party sources used for the article. The IMA's librarians and the heads of both the curatorial and conservation departments were also consulted to clarify content and find additional sources on particular topics. Other printed materials were gathered, including the museum's historical publication Every Way Possible, which provided an extensive amount of information for the project manager to review.

The project manager then organized all of the sources in a bibliography on Wikipedia in a sandbox. Each reference was typed in by hand to allow for easy copying and pasting by the rest of the team writing the article. The sources were organized by headings to make them easier to locate. Additional external links were added as they were found; this ensured that future users would be able to access as much information in the references as possible. (For example, some references were provided first in print form, but were later updated when a public link or a library database entry was found.)

Writing content


Once the sources were organized, a team of five Wikipedians fleshed out the content. The team was made up of museum studies graduate students and peers of the project manager, all of whom were local to Indianapolis and had significantly contributed to Wikipedia in a prior graduate course. This allowed the team to meet in person and easily share hard copy resources. The team, including the project manager, divided the headings among themselves and made use of all of the resources applicable to their topics. All editing was completed in a single sandbox, not on the pre-existing Wikipedia article.

In addition to writing the remaining sections of the article, the project manager reviewed all of the content submitted by the team to keep the level of detail consistent and ensure that all of the main points were covered and sufficiently sourced. One member of the team was designated as copy editor; this person reviewed the article after all of the editing was complete, working alongside the project manager to make suggestions and edit for clarity.



Once all of the content was written and copyedited, the article was reviewed by a number of IMA staff including the director, public relations, and technology departments, among others. Minor factual edits were made and additional third-party sources were found, if necessary. Following institutional review, the draft was passed on to the GLAM-Wiki community via the Cultural Partners mailing list and through a note on the WikiProject:Museums talk page. This allowed the Wikipedia community to review the article for neutrality and clarity before it became live in Wikipedia mainspace. Within the first day, a significant amount of Wikipedians had reviewed the article and deemed it suitable to go live.

Move to Wikipedia mainspace


Soon after a number of Wikipedians had reviewed the draft, a single Wikipedian moved the draft by hand and replaced the content already existing on the current, live museum article. (Note: The draft could not be "moved," per usual practice, because the article was already in existence.)

The project manager and team of writers were able to complete all meetings, organization, research, writing, and review within the relatively tight two month timeline. This was made possible by a series of strict deadlines for completing the research and written components of the project, allowing the busy IMA staff and Wikipedians ample time to review the content and make proper adjustments (including finding additional sources, when necessary). Advocacy from the museum director and project manager helped move the project forward in the midst of a busy season for the museum.

Further edits


After the article went live a number of Wikipedians began editing for clarity. Certain aspects of the article needed to be negotiated by the project manager, who understood the context of why the content was included, but understood the need for clarity within the article. Some facts, for instance the museum director's sponsored title, were given more concise citations and even notations in order to explain the rationale for including them in the article. Later, curators contributed further comments regarding the language of the collections section, which was very heavy in content. The project manager made the appropriate changes, being sure to use sources that already included the specific information.


  • Wikipedia article: The new article more accurately represents the museum and its initiatives, uses a more neutral tone, and includes a significantly expanded set of references. (Compare the current article with its previous version.)
  • Collaboration & staff understanding: The collaboration between the Wikipedian and the museum staff proved valuable because it opened the door to discussing what it means to contribute to Wikipedia, what sources and information are appropriate, and how this can benefit both the museum and a broader public. While the Wikipedian was able to provide insight about Wikipedia, museum staff provided insight about their areas of expertise, including what information was significant and what resources should be used for the encyclopedia.
  • Wikipedia-community endorsement: It was important to everyone that the Wikimedia community be involved in the review of the article before it was made live. The community stepped forward quickly and efficiently and made the process as seamless as possible. The Wikipedia community is now more aware of the IMA and its efforts to accurately utilize Wikipedia as a vehicle for sharing content.
  • Good article status: As of July 2011, the article was reviewed and deemed a Good Article by the community.