Wikipedians participated in the first National Meeting "Volunteers in Bulgarian Museums"
On 7-8 April 2016, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture organized the National meeting "Volunteers in Bulgarian Museums". Among the lecturers and the audience, almost completely composed of museum directors and employees, Bulgarian Wikipedia was represented by two of its most active editors, Plamen and me, Vassia.
The meeting, explicitly focused on volunteering in museums, was the first of its kind to be organized in Bulgaria. It was hosted by the National Polytechnic Museum in Sofia, which has already declared interest in starting a GLAM collaboration with us. Most of the speakers at the meeting presented their own experience with volunteers and students, including various forms of: physical assistance in renovations and cleaning of museum premises; linguistic services like translation and interpretation for foreign visitors; musical and artistic performances during celebrations organized by/in the museums; design of museum websites and online promotion. Despite this variety of practices, many of the museums shared similar patterns of cooperation with their pools of available volunteers, and quite common problems and challenges were outlined.
This is how the topic about the Wikipedia/GLAM partnerships, all the more presented by people like us, of completely different background, made great impression and resulted in a number post-conference discussions. In my 30-minute presentation, I gave an overview of eight popular and replicable practices of collaboration between Wikipedia and cultural institutions. Instead of simply being listed, I tried to visualize these models as points in a scatter plot diagram, featuring the levels of engagement of both the museum and the wiki community in the project. A palette of possibilities from which both smaller and bigger museums, with less and more resources and possibilities, could equally select.
Knowing that we'd never get a second chance to make a first impression, we did much more than just give that presentation. We went to the meeting prepared with something to give and something to take. Wikipedia is all about sharing and giving to others, and we wanted to demonstrate it in practice! We handed 50 CDs with a copy of the presentation and many other PDF documents, explaining the basics of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, free licensing, GLAM, as well as good practices from Wiki/GLAM collaborations implemented around the world (check the CD contents).
We also asked for something in return. We distributed 80 copies of a survey among the conference attendants, asking them for feedback about their attitudes towards Wikipedia and towards a possible GLAM partnerships with us. We received back 40 completed surveys, containing details about the museum staff's user experience with Wikipedia, readiness for collaboration, interest in implementing any of the eight presented models, as well as their preferred contact data (check the figures).
In general, what we managed to do was not only to meet individual museum representatives and negotiate future partnerships. We also made the name of Wikipedia loudly voiced at this forum, legitimizing it as a key player in the digital preservation of the cultural heritage of the world. We made the museums community aware that, albeit small, the Wikipedian community in Bulgaria is interested in museum partnerships and ready to offer innovative ideas and projects that would benefit not only the readers of Wikipedia, but also the museums and their audiences.