GLAM/Case studies/Wikimedia Argentina Digitization Project
WIR: Mauricio V. Genta
Communication officer: Giselle Bordoy (WMAR)
This case study concerns the relationship between Argentinean institutions participating on the Digitization Project, Wikimedia Argentina and its Wikipedian in Residence.
We will explain the methodology to operate with Argentinean institutions, regarding agreements, chosen institutions, technical work and documentary procedures.
The community of libraries and archives, usually belonging to larger institutions such as museums, has difficulties regarding technological resources, infrastructure and politics that require specific solutions in each case. This community is only now, after several years of partnerships showing a better attitude toward digitization, internet and free culture.
Our goal is to provide libraries and archives with the opportunity to spread their cultural heritage — a chance they wouldn’t have any other way — and also to contribute to free culture and the Wiki project. Hence, we focus on:
- Recovering historical memory through the preservation of local heritage
- Training and changing the paradigm in cultural institutions regarding free culture, creative commons licenses and the Wiki philosophy, engaging not only professionals of the cultural world but also citizens who are involved with the institutions.
- Spreading the digitized material on a global scale.
- Strengthening bonds between Wikimedia Argentina and the institutions.
- Enhancing the relevance and context of Wikisource and Wikidata.
The Digitization Project is a core part of the cultural outreach program launched by Wikimedia Argentina. Digitizing is not just liberating information but serves multiple purposes: it helps us create greater relationships with our partners and provides a simple way to talk about how open knowledge fits into the development of memory and identity in Argentina.
Even though the project has been active for several years, it had always been led by volunteers. Hence, by having different leaders, the project has had different approaches. However, the goal of the project has remained unchanged: trying to recover historical memory through the preservation of local heritage and make it available in larger digital venues.
In Argentina, many of the institutions that have material to be digitized keep it in very poor conditions and have neither the knowledge nor the technical resources for the appropriate preservation of the digital documents they own. Thus, WMAR makes up for the deficiencies of cultural institutions, focus on providing skills and technical tools for digitization.
We decided to create the role of a central Wikipedian in Residence at WMAR so we are able to work with several institutions at the same time and also for the following reasons:
- Cultural institutions have their own staff and it’s very difficult to create an exclusive workplace where an outsider can come to help. Training the staff at the institution in digitization, provides a clear path for their participation in the project, and helps ensure that the digitization can continue sustainably once WMAR finishes the first round of digitization.
- It's a more efficient use of community resources to have an itinerant WiR leading work in several places and helping the first stages of the project. It’s about breaking the “privatist” paradigm of information and trying not to hasten the process in one institution alone -- if the person was focused on only one institution, they might get slowed by the institutional politics and decision making.
- Working with multiple institutions help us not only to reach an institution, but a community of librarians, archivists and others cultural workers. Wikimedia’s platform, mission and community approach are a examples of distributed projects, so our objective is to make the staff of the instituution join the community in a way, but also make them to work together (within the project) to be more efficiently and deliver better results.
The work methodology we have chosen is one of specialization. This means that the treatment of bibliographic material (scanning and post-processing, for example, adding metadata or doing OCR) is carried out by specialized staff from the institution, while the Wiki work (Wikimedia Commons, WikiSource and Wikidata) is carried out by the WiR.
The main steps for these projects are as follows:
- Elaboration of the agreement with the institutions: in this stage we define the quantity and type of documents that will be liberated.
- Deployment of the DIY scanner: Building a DIY scanner, finding a place to work with it within the instituion (minimun external light interferences, near workstations, etc), and finally training staff to use it.
- Introducing knowledge of free culture for the staff in charge of the digitization: what are free licenses? What are the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation? and How can cultural institutions participate in Wikimedia projects?
- The training includes specific Wikimedia Commons contextual work, focused on: What type of licenses are used on the platform? What kind of material can be digitized and uploaded to the platform?
- Training the institution staff on how to use the scanner and software, specifically:
- The institution staff digitizes and processes the material
- The digitized material, together with the index information, is delivered to the WiR to be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons through a Campaign (e .g. AAL Campaign, and appended to other projects (Wikidata and Wikisources). In this stage, the WiR makes sure that the material gets the most efficient documentary treatment and complies with the regulations established by the community.
After digitized the material we still work with the institution and use that material with volunteers, for example, we hold edith-a-tons around the material (the case of the National Museum of Fine Arts) and in other cases we use the material and made editing challenge for our community. During July 2016, we made our first Wikisource contest with material that the Academia Argentina de Letras gave to us.
We believe this step-by-step program must be followed so that the institution can break from the paradigm with which they have worked for decades. It is very important that the institutions incorporate the notions of free culture, and in order to do so they must become acquainted with all the stages of the project, from the ideas it’s based on to the technical work.
After several years working on this project, we have come to the conclusion that, if we provide the human resources for the technical process of digitization, once we leave, the work stops completely and the project does not survive. That is why it is so important for us to teach to our partners the importance of open knowledge, we are trying to install a new paradigm, a free culture paradigm alongside the skills to follow through on it.
Given that each country has particular characteristics, we believe that we have found the work methodology that suits best to our reality and that offers better results. We believe that the division between the digitization task and the WiR is the most effective for this project. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of that model:
- Diversification of work according to specialization (library and Wikipedian), so that both parts can perform in the best possible way.
- We can outreach a larger number of institutions using fewer resources; and the human resources in charge of the project belong to each institution, thus avoiding the trouble of finding a person with knowledge on both parts.
- Efforts must be made to maintain a stable and close bond with each institution. This takes time and the more institutions we work with, the less time we have to invest in each particular one.
- The training process is very long and we may lose some institutions along the way.
This section provides profiles of several of the institutions we have worked with as part of the digitization program:
- Institutions with an DIY scanner
- Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts): During the 2015 the MNBA gave to Wikimedia Argentina more than 800 digitized files. One of the volunteer of Wikimedia Argentina uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and completed all the templates of the artworks. After that we gave the museum a DIY scanner and we made an internal edith-a-ton with the staff of the Museum, they improved articles of unrepresented artists. For this partnership, digitization was a complement to other GLAM-Wiki collaboration. See the files at: MNBA campaign.
- Biblioteca de la Legislatura de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (Library of the Legislature of the Province of Buenos Aires): During the 2015 we made a workshop with librarians students in the library. This audience was so interested in Wikipedia so we decided to made and an edith-a-ton with this community. After that, we gave an scanner to the institution but as of mid 2016 they haven’t start the scanning process because we’re waiting to sign the agreement with the director of the library.
- Archivo histórico de la provincia de Buenos Aires (Historical archive of the province of Buenos Aires): They have an scanner since 2014, in 2015 they digitized more than 6000 pictures and 98 magazines of Mundo Peronista . Now days the team who was in charge of the scanning process change so we are retraining them. See the files at: Files from the Archivo Histórico de la Provincia de Buenos Aires.
- Academia Argentina de Letras (Argentine Academy of Letters): The AAL has a DIY scanner and during 2016 already digitized 110 books (210 since they started). See the files at: AAL campaign.
- Institutions who donated part of their historical heritage
- Archivo General de la Nación (General Archive of the Nation): They gave to Wikimedia Argentina part of their photo collection of Buenos Aires. WMAR uploaded and completed all the templates of the pictures. See the files at: Archico General de la Nación Argentina.
- Museo del Bicentenario (Bicentennial Museum): During the 2013 the museum gave to Wikimedia Argentina all the pictures of artworks. See the files at: Files provided by the Museo del Bicentenario.
Other Wikimedia Communties have tried similar projects, for example:
- The Wikimedian in Residence at the National Archive in the United States has supported uploads to content on Wikimedia as part of NARA"s broader Citizen Scanning initiative
- CIS-A2K supported digization of an Encyclopedia in 2014