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Galleries • Libraries • Archives • Museums
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Sharing Institutional Knowledge through GLAM Partnerships
Wikipedia, and increasingly other Wikimedia projects like Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata and Wikisource, offer powerful platforms for sharing knowledge with the world: they regularly find their way to the top of Google searches. However, despite their ubiquity and flexibility for increasing access to knowledge, Wikimedia Projects have sizable gaps: from a systemic under-coverage of women, to poor representation of non-Western cultures and communities, to major gaps in specialized knowledge. Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs) frequently partner with Wikimedia communities to help fill those gaps, increasing representation of the knowledge they curate and collect.
Wikimedia projects, because of their dominance in search engines and reuse throughout the web, offer powerful platforms for sharing knowledge with the world. Not only can GLAMs work with Wikimedia communities to profile knowledge unique to their institutions, but they can also promote the knowledge collected by the expert communities they work with and represent.
Though early case studies in the library and museum professional literature describe using Wikimedia and Wikipedia to just "add links" to institutional websites in order to increase visibility of knowledge, nearly a decade of partnerships and practice with the international Wikimedia community has shown that deeper partnership creates more impactful outcomes. These partnerships benefit most from the skill each organization brings: Wikimedia communities can provide knowledge of effective crowdsourcing and powerful platforms for sharing knowledge; and GLAM institutions provide the expertise in finding sources, topics and materials that are most relevant to public interest and information seekers.
Partnership models typically fall into two broad types: working with digitized collections (click on this link to learn more), and sharing other kinds of knowledge curated by the institution. This page describes the latter set of tactics. Wikimedia communities can often bring the best skills to these knowledge partnerships around:
- activating online volunteer communities to contribute to topics
- teaching how to contribute to Wikimedia projects at in-person events
- working with institutional staff to increase skills and capacity for using Wikimedia projects.
- designing programs which engage existing volunteer communities or educational communities not yet involved in Wikimedia projects
Below are case studies from throughout the Wikimedia community that profile these kinds of activities. Wikimedia communities often have experience supporting different levels or degrees of knowledge sharing activities, but the international community has examples, tools and other resources, to get you started. To find out more about your local volunteer community, reach out to your local Wikimedia Affiliate or contact a GLAM-Wiki volunteer in your area.
Editathons, Workshops and Backstage Events
Typically described as "Editathons" or "Backstage Passes", cultural heritage institutions frequently host gatherings of Wikimedia volunteers, institutional volunteers and staff in order to contribute to Wikimedia projects. Though not always creating very large volumes of content, these Wikimedia contribution events are great opportunities for creating interest, energy and skills relevant to furthering institutional efforts on Wikimedia projects.
These contribution events work best when focused on a particular theme or topic, and when they provide participants some type of reward for participating (food, access to a part of the collection that isn't normally available, contact with a curator or archivist with deep knowledge of a collection, etc ). Typically different titles or descriptions are given to the events, depending on their focus:
- Editathons typically have their main focus on editing Wikimedia projects and making changes to them
- Backstage passes usually feature a "backstage" exploration of a specific part of the institutional collection
- Training or workshop – though most of these events will include a short introduction to contributing to the projects, some events are explicitly about training or developing skills or understanding of a certain part of Wikimedia projects.
Increasingly, contribution events are being used as an activity within distributed campaigns among institutions with similar knowledge expertise. These include the Afrocrowd Initiative and Black Lunch Table (focused on African diaspora communities), the Art+Feminism Campaign (focused on women in the arts), and others. Contribution events offer a powerful venue and tactic for engaging new contributors around under-represented parts of Wikimedia projects.
Tips, Guides, and Tools Where should you look for resources to get started with editing events? Try these resources:
- Wikipedia:How to run an edit-a-thon – on English Wikipedia
- Resources via outreach wiki: Edit-a-thon
- Various training tool-kits have been developed to support specific audiences:
- Art+Feminism toolkit: en:Wikipedia:Meetup/ArtAndFeminism/Resources
- Systemic Bias Workshop Kit created as part of a Women Scientist Editing Series
- A Science-Focused Organizing Guide for Science Editathons
- An Evaluation Report from 2013 on the impact of Grant-Funded Editathons, and a report from 2015
- Below are some examples of editathons in action; for more case studies see the pages in Category:Editathon case studies
Editathons are often very good ways to bring attention to content gaps on Wikipedia, and offer a really good opportunity for the GLAM institution to communicate how they are engaging in Wikimedia projects. The Museo Soumaya in Mexico City partnered with Wikimedia Mexico to break the Guinness World Record for longest Wikipedia editathon, by running a 72-hour editathon about the artist Rodin. The project allowed for targeted coverage of the artist, while also creating international and national awareness of their contribution to Wikipedia.
- Learn more about the 72-hour editathon on the Wikimedia Blog
Each year the Art+Feminism organizers support a global editathon campaign focused on women and feminism in the arts during Women's History Month in March. The campaign supports editathons across the world, as a targeted way to impact the Wikipedia gender gap. Editathons are usually hosted by local GLAMs, or commercial art galleries in partnership with Wikimedians or activists. These events are particularly effective at bringing attention to the Wikipedia gender-based content and participant gaps; the coordinators for the project are incrementally learning how to increase content contribution to the projects through the editathons, with 2017 more than doubling the impact of 2016.
- To learn more about Art+Feminism, see the outcomes report from 2015 on the WMF Blog, which includes links to other documentation on the project.
Surfacing hard-to-find materials
Most backstage pass and editathon events with GLAMs focus on particular parts of the collections that are not particularly well documented in the existing projects (typically topics with only reliable sources available in special collections or other spaces). For example, at the Archive of American Art, they hosted an event in 2011 focused on a particular exhibition which they held specific materials for, the 1913 Armory Show. This narrow topic focused the participants at the event on something that would typically get missed by Wikipedia contributors.
- To learn more about this editathon, see this case study on outreach.
GLAM professionals contributing to Wikimedia projects
One of the tactics that a number of institutions use to share institutional knowledge with Wikimedia projects is to prepare and engage institutional staff on the projects themselves. Though in the era of increased pressure on public funding for institutions it may not make sense for staff to be editing all of the time, providing targeted ways in which institutional staff can contribute can advance both organizational objectives and professional needs.
There have been a number of institutional tactics for formalizing this participation:
- running staff training and contribution workshops
- initiating formal contribution policies or guidelines (see for example the Guidelines from the National Archive and the State Library of New South Wales)
- integrating Wikidata, Wikisource or Wikimedia Commons into data or digital media initiatives
Additionally, there is a long history of organizations employing interns or volunteers who work with the organization, to contribute to Wikimedia projects.
Establishing clear expectations about how staff participate in Wikimedia projects improves the success of these kinds of efforts. For example, though early case studies in the professional literature focused on "just adding links" to Wikipedia or other Wikimedia projects (for example), this was not well received in some Wikimedia communities. Instead, the best practice is for paid staff to contribute knowledge beyond just that stored at the institution, including citations and links to all of the best research materials on a topic, even if it's not held by the institution.
More guidance about professionals adding links and citations to institutional resources on Wikimedia projects can be found at this page on English Wikipedia.
State Library of New South Wales
One of the premier models for staff contributing to Wikimedia projects has been the work of the State Library of New South Wales. Working with an institutional working group, members of the staff at State Library of New South Wales developed an internal policy for working on Wikimedia projects as part of existing projects and workflows. Using that policy, staff have contributed to a number of different projects, including a nearly comprehensive List of Australian diarists of World War I.
- To learn more about the project see the policy on English Wikipedia and the blog post about the work.
Catalonia's Network of Public Libraries
Catalonia's Network of Public Libraries has a program called "Bibliowiki", where libraries are recognized for hosting Wikimedia-focused programming at their institutions, including editathons, workshops focused on local authors and community heritage, and photo-scavangers hunts. When a library holds regularly activities, they get stickers recognizing that they are a "Bibliowiki" (roughly "Wikipedia Library"). Additionally, each year, they use the #1lib1ref campaign as a way to initiate interest among other librarians about contributing to Wikimedia projects. This strategy has allowed over 200 libraries to participate in the program, holding regular events and engagements for supporting Catalan Wikipedia and the representation of Catalan culture on Wikimedia projects.
- Learn more about the development of the project, in this case study.
Pritzker Library and Museum
The Pritzker Library and Museum in Chicago has focused their work as a GLAM-Wiki collaborator for a number of years, actively working to improve coverage of topics that they hold unique or special collections about. For example, the staff at the organization worked with student interns over the course of several years to add content to Wikipedia about American First World War songs. This targeted addition of content allowed for increased public visibility of the rare collections, and sharing information from relatively rare reference works.
- For more information about the Pritzker program see the feature in Computers in Libraries and the documentation for the work with students on English Wikipedia
Sometimes, it helps to bring experienced Wikimedia volunteers into the staff of cultural institutions to facilitate their impact and ability to share on Wikimedia projects. The culture and operational mechanics of Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata and Wikisource, all have very different expectations and strategies for collecting content than typical professional editorial practices. Additionally, embedding Wikimedia communities can expose institutions to cultural change around topics like copyright, volunteer collaboration and public engagement in research projects.
In existing collaborations, these Wikimedia roles typically fall three main types (with increasing institutional investment):
- Volunteer Collaborators/Coordinators – sometimes called Wikimedia Ambassadors, these volunteers come from a local Wikimedia community or affiliate and help coordinate activities, engagements or events with local institutions.
- Wikipedia Visiting Scholars – Wikimedians who have a special degree of access to an institution, such as consultations with staff, access to data sets, or access to registration-required research materials, in exchange for focusing on topics on Wikimedia projects of relevance to the institution (for documentation of the model, see the organizing page on English Wikipedia)
- Wikipedian in Residence – Embedded Wikimedians, typically compensated in some way (whether with a paid contract or educational credit), who collaborate with institutional staff to develop strategies or engagement tactics that integrate Wikimedia projects into institutional strategies (for documentation of the model, see Wikipedian in Residence).
Greater investment in the embedded Wikimedian role often provide the opportunity for more systematic and strategic collaboration between the institution and the projects and volunteer communities. However, some projects have scaled and created impact well beyond their investment, and some paid roles have not had as a large of an impact on institutions as others: the institutional context, the ability and interests of the embedded Wikimedians, and the interest of outside volunteer communities in these projects all change the scale of impact that these projects can create.
Documentation and resources Documentation for Wikipedian in Residence roles can be found at the following:
- Wikipedian in Residence – A list of know Wikipedian in Residence roles across the movement and descriptions of their work
- A 2014 review of Wikimedia UK's Wikipedian in Residence Program
York Museum Trust Wikipedian in Residence
In 2014, the York Museum Trust hired a Wikipedian in Residence, Pat Hadley, to work with the four institutions within the trust. This cross-institutional work allowed for the Wikimedian in Residence to support different types of collections and different types of interest across each of the institutions, and the different curatorial staff among the institutions.
West Virginia University Wikipedian in Residence
Inspired by the passing of Adrienne Wadewitz, who had been developing communities of support and interest in the gender content and creator gaps on Wikipedia, the library at West Virginia University decided to create a Wikipedian in Residence Role for Gender Equity. Funded through a grant by the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization hired Kelly Doyle as a Wikipedia in Residence, who then actively developed programming and skills among librarians, faculty and students to contribute to Wikimedia projects about women, especially women in Appalachia. Since that initial year, she has expanded the various models for outreach, including a targeted project to do outreach with sororities at WVU and other universities.
For more information about the residence, see the outcomes report for the first year
Wikidata Visiting Scholar at National Library of Wales
Wikidata, the youngest Wikimedia project, has lots of opportunities for expanding the impact of institutional knowledge. One of the first pilot projects to embed Wikimedians with a specific focus on Wikidata was at the National Library of Wales. Modeled off existing Wikipedia Visiting Scholar positions in the United States, the Wikidata Visiting Scholar had access and support for interpreting and using several sets of metadata from the National Library. With that data, coverage of paintings and photographs of Wales were enriched on Wikidata, and visualizations and other tools were applied to the content to learn more about what it contained.
- To learn more about the role, see the blog post on the Wikimedia blog
State Library of Virginia Volunteer
Shalor Toncray had been a Wikipedia editor and volunteer with the Library of Virginia, and decided to bring those two roles together. Working with the librarians and digital staff at the Library of Virginia, Shalor has helped make sure that topics covered in the Library's own digital collections were effectively integrated into English Wikipedia and other projects.
Online editing campaigns
Cultural heritage institutions are in a strong situation where they can both identify the gaps on Wikimedia projects and can often provide access to the research materials, either through their physical collections or through online resources, needed to support those topics. However, mobilizing just local Wikimedia volunteers or institutional volunteers may not provide enough energy for covering all of the topics of interest.
Similarly, there are a number of collections within heritage organizations which are part of the colonial record or part of a more international history beyond the local place, so exciting a global group of volunteer about engaging the material from a GLAM can lead to unexpected and diverse impacts across the Wikimedia projects.
Archives Challenge: Bulgarian State Archives
Working with the Federal Archives of Bulgaria, volunteers in the Bulgarian Wikimedia community have worked with archivists to identify important media files that illustrate the cultural history of Bulgaria over the course of many years. Using these uploaded media files as a foundation, the Archives has organized a number of digital campaigns and competitions to write more content inspired by the images. The main one is the Annual "Archives Challenge", where they invite Wikimedia community members to illustrate Wikimedia projects with the images, and to create content that helps the images become more visible. Each year, dozens of Wikipedia articles are written, the images are added to other articles, and descriptions are improved throughout the files on Commons.
- For more information, see the Bulgarian Archives Case study
European Art History Challenge
Wikidata unlocks a number of different opportunities beyond contributing to one language Wikipedia. Objects or concepts related to institutions can be described first in Wikidata, and then act as a source of material for Wikipedias. Building on a larger Europeana initiative to represent 10 heritage objects from each of the 28 member states in the European Union, called Europeana 280, Wikipedian in Residence Liam Wyatt organized the European Art History Challenge to crowd-source descriptions and articles about those art history piece across European languages. The project generated 816 Wikipedia articles in 28 languages as well as over 1346 labels in those languages, allowing Europeana to use the Wikidata content in their own digital tools and applications.
- For a reflection on the campaign see the blog post on the Europeana Blog, for the outcomes of the project see the organizing page on Wikidata.
#1lib1ref: Distributed librarians contributing references
Contributions from institutions can be big and small, and of various degrees of complexity. Each year the Wikipedia Library team and affiliates from around the world run the #1lib1ref campaign which asks librarians to engage by "adding one more reference to Wikipedia". The campaign has been particularly successful in communities that already have strong library relationships, like the Amical's partnership with the Public Library Network, or in Norway and Sweden where they have already pioneered significant library outreach. Particularly with libraries, but with GLAMs in general, there is a lot of opportunity for small skills or knowledge to be shared from the institutions: so #1lib1ref acts as a gateway for skill sharing and understanding how that is possible.
Wikidata and Institutional Metadata
Beyond the objects which cultural institutions curate and might make available through digitization and digital catalogues, most institutions collect and enrich metadata and other structured information about their collections. This data can be used for a number of internal and external purposes. For example, the Getty Art Research Institute publishes large databases that are widely used to describe and enrich art collections.
Wikidata, the newest project in the Wikimedia ecosystem, provides a valuable environment for connecting and enriching this data. Unlike traditional database projects, Wikidata's light-weight crowdsourcing strategies and broad scope allows for learning about unexpected connections within the data, and has a number of powerful tools that allow for visualizing and analyzing the data. Additionally, Wikidata provides a lot of features for recording, synchronizing and crosswalking between different authority controls and controlled vocabularies used by other data authorities. These features allow institutions to use Wikidata both in their own websites and to enrich existing collection data.
Flemish Art Collections
Wikidata offers a robust way to connect different kinds of heritage data between and among institutions. One early example of this kind of project was in Belgium. Wikimedia Belgium, local volunteers and a consortia of Flemish art museums ran a series of workshops and data uploads from several institutions. These uploads provided a number of different opportunities for connection and analysis among the collections.
- Learn more about the case study at this White Paper on Wikidata
Yle Radio Archive
Instead of uploading content to Wikidata, the Yle Archive focused on matching its standard controlled vocabulary for describing its archive of public radio segments. The archive, which includes tagging of many different subjects with descriptive metadata, transitioned from using Freebase to using Wikidata to describe their collections. This connection allows for more topics covered by Wikidata to be used to describe their collection, and provides functional opportunities for using labels and descriptions from other languages.
Learn more about the project on the Wikimedia Finland blog
Embedding Wikimedia Content
Wikimedia content is available to the world under a free license (CC-BY-SA or freer). Because the content is constantly being enriched in a public space, and the API's and technical access points for the content can be widely reused by outside websites, Embedding Wikimedia content either in the digital presence of a GLAM or in the physical exhibition spaces of the organization. For example, Wikipedia-based descriptions can be used on Websites for topics not deeply researched by the institution, or QR codes could be placed on exhibition placards next to physical objects.
Including Wikimedia content alongside authoritative content can include interpretative challenges: its important that labeling and attribution communicate that Wikipedia is not created by the institution's staff and may change. However, there are a myriad of benefits from embedding Wikimedia content: access to multilingual content; continued enrichment of content through crowdsourcing and Wikimedia community processes; and high quality contextual knowledge for low cost for the institution.
QRPedia in Indianapolis Children's Museum
QRPedia is a free service supported by Wikimedia UK, that allows the creation of language-independent QR codes for Wikimedia pages. When readers scan the QR codes, instead of resolving to a specific Wikipedia article. For institutions with physical collections, QRpedia codes can provide extended content for viewers of the collection. The Indianapolis Children's Museum curated content on several of its important collection pieces on Wikipedia, by engaging interns to write content there. Once these pages were increased in Quality, they placed QR pedia codes on the
See the Indianapolis Children's Museum Case study for more information.
For more information about QRPedia, see the portal on Outreach Wiki.
Illustrating the Welsh Bird Dictionary
A text-based bird scientific dictionary for Welsh speakers, called the Llen Natur Species Dictionary, had previously had not illustrations for the various parts of their reference material. By using Wikidata, to connect Wikimedia Commons media files to authoritative materials in the institutional collection: the institution gained some of the value of Wikimedia projects crowdsourcing effort, while focusing on what they do best: curating authoritative knowledge from experts.
Learn more about the case study in the This Month in GLAM Report
For some recommendations on how to embed Wikimedia content in your context, see the Embedded Discovery Page on English Wikipedia
- JSTOR embeds relevant Wikipedia and Wikimedia content in "topic pages" using structured data: such as in the "Story Telling page"
- Quora uses Wikidata to generate additional context for question topics on Wikidata. Read more on the blog
- The Social Networks and Archival Context working group at the University of Virginia includes Wikidata-identified images in its Archival record listings: See it in Action on their Prototype Site
GLAM + Education 
The Wikipedia Education program emerged during a similar window of time as GLAM-Wiki (c. 2008–2010) to complete outreach to another important audience and contributor to Wikimedia projects: educators and students. The program has developed a number of strategies for effectively engaging students and learners of all types in contributing to Wikimedia projects.
Increasingly GLAM organizations collaborate with the educators, to help facilitate and focus Education projects. The most common support, comes from university librarians who help teach and design the research assignments. However, other GLAMs have worked with both classes of students at other institutions, or groups of interns or other learners affiliated with the GLAM. These projects, allow for dynamic learning and sharing activities for both the institutions and the students involved.
Best practices for developing education projects can be found at the Education Portal on Outreach.
Czech Seniors Citizens
Education programs focus on a number of different learner audiences: commonly, many of the programs focus on students at universities. However, one innovative education program from the Czech Republic provides a specific training program focused on the training of senior citizens. Working with the continuing education staff at a public library, Wikimedia Czech Republic ran a series of training sessions focused on bridging senior technology skills with Wikipedia contributions. The program had high retention rate of editors, and encouraged senior citizens to continue using library collections and resources as part of contributing to Wikimedia projects.
Learn more about the project on the Wikimedia Foundation Blog.
Eastern Washington University Editathon
Staff at Eastern Washington University's special collections ran an editathon at their university as a means of outreach and engagement with the student body. Focused on one topic well represented in their collection, a head of the sports program at the University, they encouraged student engagement in the special collections and research resources at the University, while also increasing visibility of both the topic and the research materials at the special collection about the topic. The project, unlike more generalized editing events, was specifically focused on engaging students and learners at the University in the Archives as a research process.
Learn more about the case study in the Journal of Western Archives