On Thursday May 23rd, 60 cultural heritage professionals gathered in Toronto to discuss ways that Wikimedia platforms and services can benefit Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAMs).
You can find a copy of our collaborative notes from the day here.
With a talk from Benoit Rochon from Wikimedia Canada, and a keynote from Effie Kapsalis from the Smithsonian Institution, the morning was spent thinking about the sheer number of projects and programming that can be done by GLAM institutions with Wikimedia platforms.
Effie Kapsalis’s keynote started by highlighting some of the problems with the Wikimedia project as a whole – and suggesting a number of ways to combat its lack of diversity, its biases, and the many uncovered subjects. The Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative is a way to use the SI’s assets and expertise to spearhead the inclusion of many notable women. The team is employing edit-a-thons, metadata exports to Wikidata, and even machine learning to efficiently even the scales. Effie also shared some of the SI’s own struggles – not enough staff time, not enough flexibility to capitalize on single successful events and turn them into long-term priorities and relationships. Something many GLAM organizations can relate to!
“With a shoestring number of staff, people are already doing 2 or 3 jobs. Adding ‘learn to work with Wikipedia’ to an existing job description is a hard sell.”
“…each time we do an edit-a-thon, it feels like the start of a possible long-term relationship that we turn out NOT to have resources to maintain.”
Some more information about the strategy:
“For the American Women’s History Initiative, it’s important that we take not only a “digital-first” approach but an “audience-first” approach. For American women, this is OUR history. We have deeply personal connections and feelings about it. Before the Smithsonian embarks on big digital things, we need to pause to better understand who we are serving and the ways in which they want to connect.”
Benoit Rochon highlighted Wikiquotes (for text, audio, or video) and Wikisource (a great place to share primary source documents, rare books, and other texts) as potential ways to share digitized historical materials. We also discussed Wikidata for factual metadata, and Wikispecies for botanical and other specimens.
Benoit walked us through some event and project ideas:
- Wikipedia edit-a-thons, for adding information to articles
- Photo contribution campaigns, for improving Wikimedia Commons – such as Monuments, local architecture, or museum artifacts
- Wikipedians-in-Residence, who work on collections- or institution-relevant materials
- #1lib1ref, a way to cite and source claims in articles
- Using Wikisource to share books and periodicals, transcribe, and convert them to eBooks
- Scan-a-thons to digitize archival collections around an underrepresented topic
- Campaigns to get digital-savvy artists to clean up digital images
- Setting up your own GLAM page as part of your outreach and communications
- QRpedia projects to add supplemental information to exhibits, neighbourhoods, and cemeteries
- Indigenous language revitalization and preservation using dedicated Wikipedia platforms (for example, Naskapi and Inuktitut!)
Benoit exhorted us all to start our institutional GLAM pages right away – they’re a great call to action and a way to get volunteers and enthusiasts organized.
Our afternoon started with a panel of several engaged Wikimedians who do a variety of work.
First, John Dupuis and Dawn Bazely shared the ways they do Wiki work at York University – edit-a-thons and drop-in sessions during the day for their many commuter students. This included an Ada Lovelace Day edit-a-thon, focusing on improving the representation of women who work in STEM fields. Dr. Bazely summarized some of the most common barriers to adding this information, including differing interpretations of notability requirements. Her experiences creating Nobel winner Donna Strickland’s page, and its questionable rejection, are documented in an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post. Here’s Dr. Bazely’s undergraduate Wikipedia editing assignment, and her instructions for holding an edit-a-thon on Ada Lovelace Day.
Amy Furness from the Art Gallery of Ontario has been doing Wikipedia work with Art+Feminism, a project that focuses on non-male artist coverage. The AGO’s events were the first in Toronto, after the project started in NYC. The AGO now runs yearly editing events, and regularly get 30-40 attendees. There is an Art+Feminism slack channel where organizers around the world share tips and ask for help.
Alex Jung, the University of Toronto Library’s current Wikipedian-in-Residence, works 5-10 hours a week while pursuing a PhD. Residence positions are exempted from the usual conflict-of-interest requirements, as are cultural heritage institutions – their purpose is to help expose collections and enrich Wikipedia with cultural materials, so Alex gets to spend a lot of time promoting what U of T has. This includes materials related to the history of insulin held in the library’s collections.
Alex also runs events and tries to build capacity in other students, faculty, and staff for doing this work. One thing to note is that events like edit-a-thons can be inaccessible to people who need things like childcare. It’s tough to tackle the gender gap of contributors and subjects if primary-care providers can’t come.
We broke out into small discussion groups for the rest of the afternoon.We discussed Wikidata, supporting Indigenous communities, Wikimedia Commons, and how to promote heritage collections.
We saw a lot of interest from attendees, and on social media, about having more hands-on workshops around technical skills and processes. This could be anything from the basics of Wikipedia article editing, to how to upload (and batch-upload) digital media to Wikimedia Commons, batch-adding metadata to Wikidata, or how to share digitized primary sources on WikiSource.
We asked attendees in a post-event survey:
- if they would attend a similar event in the future. 95% said yes – and some comments mentioned finding more collaborators, getting more hands-on experience, and getting the opportunity to participate in work in progress right now.
- what areas they want to learn more about going forward:
- Digital images and Wikimedia Commons was highest, followed by
- Campaigns (such as Women In Red),
- and ways of promoting/supporting their collections.
- for criticism, and we heard:
- There wasn’t enough time to intake all the information.
- The day was too long to stay focused!
- The small discussions weren’t long enough.
- Some asked for a beginner-friendly introduction to Wikipedia editing.
- Live demonstrations of the editing or uploading process would be nice in the future, or some step-by-step tutorial materials.
- Some expert guidance on legal issues like copyright would be helpful.
We’d love to hear from you, too, about what you’d like to attend in the future. Please get in touch!
If you are located in the greater Toronto area, please consider joining the Toronto WikiClub. This group meets monthly and we are in the early stages of determining how we can collaborate on our work. For example, are there ways to increase the impact of events like “Doors open” or other civic events through Wikimedia projects. You are most welcome to post upcoming events. If you have any challenges with joining the group or any questions please send Stacy (Wiki username: Smallison) a message. And again, join the mailing list: https://ca.wikimedia.org/wiki/Toronto_WikiClub
If you are interested in setting up a GLAM Wiki page for your organization please contact Benoit Rochon at email@example.com.
We were happy to have such an engaged and enthusiastic group. Hopefully the meeting has inspired you to see opportunities within the Wikimedia projects for you and your organization. We would also like to extend a sincere thank you to the Wikimedia Foundation, Ryerson University, York University, and all our wonderful speakers and event helpers.
Do not hesitate to contact any of the organizers with questions, comments, or concerns!