National Archives program trains Wikipedians in cultural heritage outreach

Editors’s note:  On June 14–16, the National Archives hosted its second GLAM Boot Camp. This program, funded by the National Archives Foundation, is an outreach-focused, skills-building workshop for Wikipedians partnering with cultural institutions. You can read more about our first GLAM Boot Camp in 2013 over on the Wikimedia D.C. blog. The following summary of the event comes from three of our participants: Kelly, Rob, and Kevin.

GLAM Boot Camp attendees with Archivist of the United States David Ferriero (CC-BY-SA, by Fourandsixty)
GLAM Boot Camp attendees with Archivist of the United States David Ferriero (CC-BY-SA, by Fourandsixty)

Last week, fifteen Wikipedia editors converged on the National Archives to attend the GLAM Boot Camp. “GLAM” stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums and “GLAM-Wiki” is an initiative to encourage the Wikipedia community and cultural institutions to create partnerships to the benefit of both.

The participants came from across the United States. Thirteen states were represented: California, Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Some were veteran Wikipedians of many years, others were relatively new. All were interested in bringing back what they learned to help engage in local efforts with cultural institutions like museums, libraries, universities, and historical societies. Previous attendees of GLAM Boot Camp have worked with institutions like the University of California, Berkeley and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). One graduate of the GLAM Boot Camp 2013, Alex Stinson, is now the GLAM-Wiki Strategist for the Wikimedia Foundation, and returned this time as a main trainer for GLAM Boot Camp 2016.

The boot camp was a three-day intensive training provided by staff from the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, American University, and the Wikimedia Foundation. Most of the training occurred in NARA’s Innovation Hub, but participants were also able to go behind the scenes at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Attendees learned how to work with different types of cultural institutions and how they could engage those institutions and their audiences with not only Wikipedia, but other Wikimedia projects, including Wikimedia Commons (a free image and file repository), Wikidata (a collaborative metadata knowledge base), and Wikisource (an online library of public domain texts). They also gave individual lightning talks about the work they were doing with their own local cultural institutions.

Participants also got a chance to implement what they’d learned by participating in an editathon at Innovation Hub that was open to the public. An editathon is a public event where Wikipedia editors, members of cultural institutions, and the general public help each other collaborate on editing Wikipedia about specific topic areas. As part of NARA’s Amending America initiative, National Archives staffers hosted an editathon about LGBT history.

Several GLAM Boot Camp participants will be taking what they learned back to their respective universities. Kelly Doyle, a Wikipedian in Residence for Gender Equity at West Virginia University Libraries, works to close the well-documented gender gap on Wikipedia by recruiting students and academics alike to add content about women to Wikipedia—and specifically women from the Appalachian region. Kelly plans to partner with archival libraries throughout West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania by adding information and freely licensed images to Wikipedia from these institutions holdings about this underrepresented group on Wikipedia. Kevin Payravi, an undergraduate at the Ohio State University, leads a student organization, called Wikipedia Connection, that encourages Wikipedia editing for students and faculty through weekly workshops, editathons, and other events. Kevin plans to take what he learned back to fellow Wikipedia Connection members, and then work as an organization to collaborate with the University’s libraries and archives to bring free content to Wikipedia.

Why is work like this important? Everyone reads Wikipedia. It is often said that Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that “anyone can edit,” but, unfortunately, relatively few people do. Even cultural and information professionals are often hesitant to edit, unfamiliar with the website’s rules, jargon, and tools. GLAM Boot Camp graduates can work with their local cultural institutions to help them engage with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia websites, tools they can use to enhance their collections, further their educational missions, and expand their audience beyond the walls of their institution. As the seventh-largest website in the world, Wikipedia has the potential to offer even the smallest cultural institution a global reach.

Kelly Doyle, Wikipedian in Residence for Gender Equity at West Virginia University

Robert Fernandez, Assistant Professor, Reference/Instructional Librarian, Saint Leo University

Kevin Payravi, President of Wikipedia Connection at the Ohio State University

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