Interview of the Wikipedian in Residence at the Swiss National Archives
Wikipedian in Residence at the Swiss National Archives from the 1st July 2013
Micha Rieser (user: Micha L. Rieser) is the Wikipedian in Residence in the Swiss Federal Archive since the beginning of June and now shares some insights with us. Micha, active as Wikipedian since 2005, is on one hand counseling the Federal Archive regarding selected publications and on the other hand he’s sharing his treasure trove of experience with archivist in order to reveal possibilities on how to contribute to Wikim/pedia Projects in the long run.
- What are your tasks as Wikipedian in Residence in the Swiss Federal Archive?
I have a certain mediating- and consulting role. I am intermediating between the Wikimedia-Universe and the universe of the Swiss Federal Archive. I am consulting the Federal Archive regarding the selection and the publication of archived documents on the Wikimedia-platforms. I am also giving some advice to the employees of the Federal Archive in order to enable them as authors for Wikipedia. In general, I am sensitizing the Federal Archive for Wikipedia-relevant subjects and the interests of the community. Moreover I am consulting the Archive regarding the establishment of some processes for the time after my mandate, so that they can observe and accompany the activities and the use of their archived documents in Wikipedia on their own. Above all, I am also presenting the Swiss Federal Archive within the Wikipedian community, enable certain insights into the world of archives and depict how one can do his/her research. The aim is to motivate the Wikipedia-Community to advance certain Wikimedia- or Wikipedia-projects thanks to the newly discovered research possibilities and the availability of archived documents. The completion of biographies of certain politicians or artists as well as an improvement of historical articles about Switzerland - based on more consolidated findings - could for example be two such projects in Wikipedia. There will also be a linking from Wikipedia to the documents of the Federal Archive. It is aspired that the reader of a Wikipedia article immediately notices if there are further documents from the Federal Archive about the considered topic.
- Do you have to reach specific goals until the end of your residency?
No, there are no such specific targets of my residency. The goals are a result of the ongoing talks and discussions we have here. It was clear from the beginning that we’re not going to have some concrete targets. However, as a first reference point, 5000 photographs from the First World War were referred to as potential first upload. If the upload is possible, and not blocked due to legal reasons, this target could be understood as predefined. However, it makes only sense to pursue this goal if these photographs can be used for encyclopedical purposes and fit to a project. I am going to clarify this issue with Wikipedians. Due to the mentioned reasons, it’s possible that only a subset of these 5000 photographs will be uploaded – or worst case there won’t be any upload at all.
- With whom are you mainly working together? How can we imagine a day of yours as "Wikipedian in Residence"?
I am a subordinate in the department of “information-access” and residing within the services “information-offers”. However, I would like to mention that I am cooperating with lots of different departments within the Federal Archives – as long as working together makes sense and is beneficial. My every day work is very diverse and based on current needs. Part of my job was so far: Media relation, organizational issues, journalistic research, legal clarifications/copy right issues as well as preparation of presentations.
- Is there something that is totally different from what you’ve expected?
No, not until now.
- What are people from the Federal Archive appreciating most about having you ?
That is actually a question I would like the employees of the Federal Archive to answer. Furthermore I would like to wait until the end of my residency to draw such conclusions, as most of the employees will know me by then.
- You're active as a Wikipedian since 2005. How come you are now engaged as Wikipedian in Residence in the Federal Archive?
A colleague of mine, who also works at the Zurich Statistical Office, made me aware of this madate. I applied due to the fact that I am very interested in the world of archives (and GLAMS in general) and recognized that this residency would allow me a new perspective on my hobby as Wikipedian. As I work 60% for the Zurich Statistical Office, it was very easy for me to take over this new commitment without having the need to change anything in career terms.
- Can you already share some lessons with us from your first weeks? What is your advice for other future Wikipedians in Residence?
A Wikipedian in Residence must be very familiar with internal processes on Wikipedia and be proficient with basic rules and also the different views of community members. A Wikipedian in such a mandate must understand the superior goals of Wikipedia and of the other Wikimedia-projects. Therefore I see the need for some years of experience and of active participation in projects. Somebody that is only editing or uploading photographs sporadically and has not a lot of knowledge in copyright issues or has not built strong relations into the community, is not able to live up to expectations. The GLAM institution is counting on the competences of a Wikipedian in Residence and fully relies on its consulting. Such an institution doesn’t need an editor who only executes certain tasks, like for example uploads some predefined pictures.
- Why is it important for you personally that GLAM Institution in Switzerland are going to make their information accessible through Wikipedia respectively that there exist cooperations with GLAM institutions?
Wikipedia has a natural interest in objects which are possessed by GLAM institutions – and can be made accessible by them. There are already a lot of articles about these objects (f.ex. properties of museums) or based on these objects (as source material). However, the access to such goods was rather complicated in the past. Partly this was due to the fact that a lot of GLAM institutions were not yet able to understand the online-world and were furthermore strongly restricted by their own rules and regulations. That’s why in a lot of museums you can still see a sign, which tells you that it is forbidden to take photographs. Therefore it’s often still a big challenge to acquire visual material under a Creative-Commons-License for Wikipedia. On the top of that, the majority of museums are quite passive in their approach: There is a request needed from a Wikipedian for the release of each single picture. Obviously, a proactive manner of GLAMS for making this visual data accessible would be the desired way for Wikipedia. On the other side we may not forget that some of the most active Wikipedians have a non-academic past and first need to learn how to approach libraries and archives. With such a cooperation, the audience of libraries and archives can be easily enlarged through the Wikip/media community. And there’s an clear and immediate benefit for GLAM institutes: The attention for the GLAM documents can be risen when Wikipedia articles are linked to them. All in all I therefore would like to emphasize that a cooperation of GLAM institutes with Wikimedia-Projects enables win-win situations.
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