This Thursday I will particpate in a panel discussion here in Stockholm, about Wikipedia turning 10 years old and about the future of the organization. My perspective is ofcourse the one of the museum.
Having quite recently participated in GLAM-Wiki UK, I am convinced there is a future for further collaboration between GLAM:s and Wikipedia. The challenge is to shape this collaboration in the best possible way.
There are several concerns from both GLAM:s and Wikipedians about collaboration. Some concerns were expressed on the blog Social Media and Cultural Communication, after the 2009 GLAM-Wiki conference in Australia: http://nlablog.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/feeling-glum-after-glam-wiki/
In June 2010, I organized a full day event, in Stockholm, focusing on Creative Commons and Photographic Collections within the cultural heritage sector. This was my first real encounter with Swedish Wikipedia, who kindly co-sponsored the day by giving presentations and inviting Liam Wyatt, at the time a digital volunteer at the British Museum. The day was a success and in many ways a small but profitable starting point for collaboration between Swedish GLAM:s and Wikipedia.
I believe collaboration with Wikipedia can give GLAM:s great advantages, among others:
- Reaching a larger audience
- Reaching target groups where they are
- Building relationships with new audiences
- Training the staff in communicating the cultural heritage in new ways
- Challenging the institution to develop in a positive direction
Since contributions to Wikipedia are made under conditions other than those common in museums (texts aren’t attributed, they can be changed etc.), museums have to rethink and challenge a lot of conventional methods and ways to mediate cultural heritage, and even their role in society. Not all social relations should be monetized, instead there are questions to ask: By participating in Wikipedia, can we make a contribution towards a greater digital inclusion? And contribute to a more open and creative internet? And with this I don’t say we shouldn’t look at ROI, just have an open mind when thinking about collaboration.
At the same time GLAM:s need to understand how the world ”out there” (online as well as offline) works, and assess if they are willing to adapt to these new game rules or not. I believe it’s vital to a museum to include social media participation in the operational plan, and to understand the consequences of participating as well as not participating. Collaborating with Wikipedia is a way to, in real time and step by step, leave the theories and strategies behind and implement the action plan.
To Wikipedia there is the challenge of not only collaborating with individuals, but with organizations and institutions. Also, I believe Wikipedia has to develop in the same direction as successful social media services as Facebook and Twitter, as far as user experience is concerned. The issues with contributing to Wikipedia (technical difficulties) can eventually put individuals and organizations off.
So there are challenges on both sides, but the possible benefits should definately be taken into account. This is one of my job assignments for 2011 as a Digital navigator at Nordiska museet, Stockholm. More about this in an upcoming blogpost.
For those interested in collaboration between GLAM:s and Wikipedia there is more to read:
- Recommendations from the GLAM-Wiki Australia conference
- Wikipedia-British Museum Collaboration
- The Wittylama Blog, by Liam Wyatt
- History Museums in a wiki world