The GLAM-Wiki U.S. Consortium lives!

GLAM-Wiki U.S. Consortium Advisory Board. Photo CC0, U.S. National Archives staff.

In March 2015, members of the Advisory Board charged with making the GLAM-Wiki U.S. Consortium a reality met for two days in Washington, DC. We had met and collaborated in various capacities before; but this time, we were able to craft a strong plan for moving forward. We updated our Vision Statement, to help our members and stakeholders understand what we are all about:

Vision: To foster knowledge-sharing among US cultural organizations and Wikimedia projects, cultivating expertise and an ethic of sharing in open collaborations that engage the public with its cultural heritage.

We also composed a Mission Statement, and strategic goals on both one- and five-year horizons. Specific, immediate goals include:

  • Hiring a part-time coordinator, who will help keep the momentum going as we get more firmly established (grant proposal now underway);
  • Planning a GLAM Boot Camp event in DC this fall (likely September), to train and build relationships with Wikipedians interested in guiding GLAM institutions’ Wikipedia engagement; and
  • A second 2015 meeting of our Advisory Group, also in fall 2015.

For more details, please see our meeting report on the Outreach Wiki.

The meeting was sponsored by the U.S. National Archives, with support from Wikimedia DC.


Posted in Consortium, Events | Tagged ,

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum announces first Wikipedian in Residence

Graduate student and Wikipedian Michael Barera became the first Wikipedian in Residence at a U.S. presidential library last week. Barera, who attends the University of Michigan’s School of Information, is serving as resident at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum, which is located on the University’s Ann Arbor campus.


This fresh partnership is a wonderful example of how outreach and education about Wikimedia projects can be key components at fostering opportunities such as this. Barera, who has been editing Wikipedia articles and uploading photographs to Wikimedia Commons for over five years, joined the Michigan Wikipedians, a student club on campus, and the first of its kind in the United States. Through the club, Berera attended a seminar held by the Wikipedia Education Program in the Fall of 2012. The seminar educated attendees about the opportunities for using Wikipedia in the classroom as a learning tool, and showcased partnerships being held around the country.

Little did Berera realize that the woman who would spearhead the development of his future residency was also in the audience: Bettina Couisneau, Exhibit Specialist at the Ford Library & Museum.

Berera and Couisneau connected at the seminar, and Barera started volunteering at the Ford, using his skill set to categorize images that the Ford had uploaded to Commons, which totals over 11,000 images to date. Berera also created WikiProject Gerald Ford, a project that brings together Wikipedians from around the world to edit content about the 38th president of the United States. The opportunity for a more formal partnership was clear – Berera would be the natural choice for a Wikipedian in Residence at the Ford.

“This position is perfect for me,” says Barera, “It combines my academic passion for history, archives, open source advocacy, and technology. I see my role as a facilitator, helping to bridge the gap between those who have the content and those who have the technical skills to make that information accessible to the whole world.” Barera will do just that – serve as a liaison between the international e-volunteer community of Wikimedia and the collections and staff at the Ford. By working with both parties, Wikipedians will gain more access to collections to improve Wikipedia and its sister proejcts, and staff will gain further awareness and knowledge about how Wikipedia works, and how to better work with it and it’s community.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

With a collection that comprises almost exclusively of openly licensed content – federally created public domain materials – the Fords’ collection and resources are a perfect match for Wikimedia projects, which require freely licensed contributions. “With these core similarities, I believe that this collaboration can be rewarding for both parties, as well as the Fords’ visitors, Wikipedia’s readers, and the general public,” says Barera.

By improving coverage about President Ford on Wikipedia and related projects, and by educating staff about open sharing, the Ford will be able to expand on it’s mission to provide the public increased access to their collections and resources. “Our goal is to have our content accessible to everyone, everywhere,” says Couisneau, “Wikipedia is a new outreach venue for us. Not everyone can visit our museum and library in person, but everyone can visit us online.” And with the skill set of Barera, and the advocacy of Couisneau, the Ford will be able to provide online access to their collection via the world’s 5th most popular website, Wikipedia.

Elaine Didier, Director of the Ford, hopes that Couisneau – who went from Wikipedia reader to Wikipedian during the course of developing the residency project –  will inspire others to get involved:  “I hope that this partnership also inspires more people like her to join with us, become Wikipedians, and help broaden our perspectives and our horizons to inch us ever closer to our goal of collecting ‘the sum of all human knowledge’.”

Posted in Wikipedian in Residence

Launching US OpenGLAM


Sarah Stierch, US OpenGLAM Coordinator (Photo: Matthew Roth, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

This blog post originally appeared on the OpenGLAM blog.

The new year brings a new role to OpenGLAM and the Open Knowledge Foundation: the launch of US OpenGLAM.

I am pleased to take on the role as US OpenGLAM Coordinator. This position brings me into the Open Knowledge Foundation family, where I’ll be working within the OpenGLAM umbrella.

As a museumist, Wikimedian, and open culture advocate, I have taken deep interest in developing programs and procedures for opening up cultural institutions in the United States.

As Wikipedian in Residence at the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the Archives of American Art, I was able to provide more open access to cultural materials and deeper partnerships with the open culture movement through GLAM-Wiki, an international movement to develop partnerships between cultural institutions and Wikimedia projects, like Wikipedia.

After attending OKFestival 2012 in Helsinki, and attending and participating in a series of OpenGLAM meetings at the conference, we came to a realization: the United States needed an organizational structure and dedicated guidance to provide education, policy development, and encouragement for galleries, libraries, archives and museums who express, or have yet to express, interest in opening up their materials, data, and environments in the spirit of open culture and licensing.

So far, that guidance has been provided by leaders such as Lori Byrd Phillips, who served as the Wikimedia Foundation‘s US GLAM Coordinator for 2012. Phillips provided general structure and leadership focusing around the organization of GLAM-Wiki projects in the US. Her leadership was integral in bringing further awareness to OpenGLAM opportunities. This opportunity will allow the Open Knowledge Foundation’s OpenGLAM initiative build upon that awareness by supporting and educating GLAM professionals and volunteers about the opportunities awaiting them regarding open culture data.

As US OpenGLAM Coordinator, I will be working with GLAMs in the US to educate and inspire them to open their cultural holdings in a broader, open-license manner through in-person engagement, online education, social media, case studies, and policy development.

I look forward to working with the OpenGLAM team at OKFN and sharing my passion for open culture with all of you.


Posted in Open GLAM | Tagged , ,

Historians in Wikipedia

Recently Dominic McDevitt-Parks and I had the exciting opportunity to co-author an article for the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine, Perspectives on History, as part of the special 50th anniversary edition on the future of the discipline.  The piece builds on AHA President William Cronon’s February 2012 article, “Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World,” which did much to increase the positive perception of Wikipedia among historians.  We aim to set forth a vision for the profession in which scholars actively engage with the volunteer Wikipedia community. While many academics may still be wary of Wikipedia, we believe that the encyclopedia and its community are not a threat to scholarly authority, but rather an asset.

 The article is reproduced in full, with permission, below:

An illustration of Open Authority, or “The Temple and the Bazaar.” cc by-sa 3.0 Emily Litsey

Historians in Wikipedia: Building an Open, Collaborative History

What will the historian’s craft look like in the age of social media, crowdsourcing, and Wikipedia? It is a question often addressed in the pages of this magazine, and here we want to expand on one answer offered last year by AHA President William Cronon, who encouraged historians to “contribute to the greatest encyclopedia the world has ever known.” As Wikipedians in residence, we facilitate the contribution of subject matter expertise from cultural institutions—such as the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian—to Wikipedia. The future will see more of this type of engagement, which brings the insights of authorities to the world’s most widely accessed online encyclopedia.

Many see Wikipedia’s open, collaborative editing model to be contradictory to established processes within the academic world. In fact, the work of academics is not in competition with Wikipedia, but is the key to its quality and development. Ultimately, if the field of history is to become a part of an online collaborative culture, historians will need to be full, participating members of the Wikipedia community. We see this happening through partnerships with cultural institutions and through an embrace, by Wikipedians and historians alike, of an emerging model of collaboration called “open authority.”

In urging historians to join in the improvement of Wikipedia, Roy Rosenzweig, founder of the Center for History and New Media, called Wikipedia an example of “the massive democratization of access to knowledge.”1 As the world’s fifth most-visited website, Wikipedia and its sister projects receive around 490 million unique visitors a month, and its openly licensed content frequently appears on other websites.2 The popularity of Wikipedia, and especially of its history articles, makes it, for better or worse, the most prominent public history project in the world. Compare, for example, the 20 million page views in 2011 of Wikipedia’s “United States” article to the 17 million views of all the National Archives webpages on in the same year. Trends like these prompted the National Archives to make a concerted effort to collaborate with Wikipedians. In the words of Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, “You need to be where the people are.”3 Historians will continue to publish their scholarship in academic journals, but that scholarship is best communicated to the general public through Wikipedia.

Wikipedia needs the contributions of expert historians. Although Wikipedia generally succeeds at providing an amazing breadth of knowledge, it needs historians and other experts on specific topics who can provide depth. However, because any person is entitled to contribute to Wikipedia regardless of credentials, experts often struggle with their role as authorities within Wikipedia. They often fear worthy contributions are not given proper recognition in a community of amateurs. But, in fact, collaboration with Wikipedia does not undermine scholarly authority. Rather, it enhances it by putting it to work and adding value to a high-profile public representation of the topics experts are passionate about.

The combination of expertise and transparent collaboration is an emerging model known as open authority.4 Public historians, academics, and many others have expressed concern over the shifting role of expert authority in an increasingly connected digital world where everyone is a curator. Open authority is the coming together of expert authority with user-generated content on free and open platforms. This typically takes the form of dialogue between experts and the public on a virtual forum, leading to a more inclusive representation of a topic. Wikipedia, as an open forum for discussion and collaboration, is one of the best examples of open authority. The open-source software movement from which Wikipedia evolved has demonstrated that open, collaborative communities can create large, complex projects that meet even the highest standards of the profession. Experts in diverse fields are learning to embrace the potential of collaborative online communities, and are entering dialogue within transparent, open forums that reflect the connected environment in which we live.

It is important to understand that Wikipedia contributors are not amateur historians but encyclopedists. Wikipedia, as a tertiary source, does not seek to crowdsource the interpretation of the past, but to document the state of the field on a given topic. Scholars sensitive to this mission will understand Wikipedia’s policy of “no original research,” which ensures that all interpretive claims are referenced to a published and accepted source. This insistence on verifiability is necessary to maintain the reliability of contributions, and avoids the slippery slope of (sometimes eccentric) self-proclaimed experts promoting unpublished interpretations. That said, Wikipedia does not reject the use of primary sources altogether. Wikipedia editors will, however, question contributions based on primary sources alone when they offer an interpretation that cannot be found in the secondary literature.

Just as historians are moving towards a better understanding of the Wikipedia community, the Wikipedia community itself is becoming more welcoming and accessible to new contributors, professional historians included. To this end, the Wikipedia community is developing an improved editing interface and supporting new editors through various projects.  In recent years, a community-driven project known as GLAM-Wiki (“GLAM” stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) has united hundreds of Wikipedians around the world with the goal of supporting cultural institutions as they share subject matter expertise with Wikipedia.5 Initiatives like these will lower the barriers to entry for new expert contributors—but there is still much more work to do. And, as with any open community, the best way to make it reflective of one’s values and experience is simply to join in.

In the meantime, Wikipedians in residence are bridging the gap between the Wikipedia community and cultural professionals by providing insight, outreach, and in-person assistance for institutions committed to establishing partnerships with Wikipedia. Wikipedians in residence work for an institution—often a museum, library, or archive—to serve as a liaison between experts and the Wikipedia community. Wikipedians in residence have been supported in esteemed institutions around the world, from the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution to the United States’ National Archives and the Israel Museum—and interest continues to grow. This enthusiasm illustrates the cultural sector’s growing acceptance of Wikipedia, not only as a platform for sharing content, but as a valuable community worthy of long-term partnership. This coupling of expert authority with the collaborative community of Wikipedia is open authority in action.

Issuing a challenge to scholars, Rosenzweig wrote, “historians probably have a professional obligation to make [Wikipedia] as good as possible.”6 While Wikipedia continues to provide free knowledge to millions each day, the discipline of history risks becoming isolated if scholars do not become more engaged with the online communities of this new information commons. Contributing to Wikipedia makes a scholar’s work more accessible than ever before. As a wiki that is open to everyone, Wikipedia only works if everyone feels empowered to be involved. To this end, we urge historians to make the first step in contributing. Follow Wikipedia’s unofficial mantra and “Be Bold!” Do not be afraid to click that edit button.

1. Roy Rosenzweig, “Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,” Journal of American History93:1 (June 2006), 117–146.
2. All figures include information from all Wikimedia projects, including all Wikipedia languages and projects such as Wikiquote, Wikinews, etc. Monthly stats can be found in the Wikimedia Foundation’s Monthly Report.
3. David Ferriero, “Remarks of Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero” (Speech presented at the Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit, Simmons College, Boston, MA, July 9, 2011).
4. Lori Byrd Phillips, “Defining Open Authority in Museums,” MIDEA Blog (New Media Consortium, January 13, 2012).
5. “GLAM-Wiki US,” Wikipedia. (2012).


This essay first appeared in the December 2012 issue of Perspectives on History, the Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, and the digital text is reproduced from the online version of the article found on the AHA website.

Posted in Publications

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, leads at becoming “of the Wikipedia”

When Seb Chan left the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, to become the Director of Digital and Emerging Media at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in New York, the US GLAM-Wiki crew started to get antsy in anticipation. We were familiar with the work that he had been involved in at the Powerhouse – opening up the Powerhouse API, sharing content under open licenses, and other projects to expand the sharing of Australian heritage. Suffice to say, we’ve had high hopes.

Within a month of Seb’s new gig, the Cooper-Hewitt started a new blog, Cooper-Hewitt Labs, where the Digital & Emerging Media department shares projects. Within two months, the museum released its metadata under Creative Commons Zero; the first Smithsonian museum to do so, and possibly the first in the United States. A few months later, less than a year after Seb became Director, the Cooper-Hewitt’s alpha-version collection database now links out to Wikipedia and pulls Look ma, Wikipedia!Wikipedia content into the collection entry.

For example, you can check out all of the people (artists, designers, etc.) that are in the Cooper-Hewitt’s collection who have a Wikipedia article about them here.  When that Wikipedia content is improved, it’s updated on the Cooper-Hewitt’s collection page as soon as the team at Cooper-Hewitt Labs runs a bot (which they intend to run on a weekly basis.)

That’s right. In less than one year the Cooper-Hewitt has improved transparency, released a jackpot of metadata for the world to use with no-strings-attached, and has shown that they trust Wikipedia so much that they are willing to link out and pull in content from the world’s largest free encyclopedia.

We hope you find inspiration in this as well, just as the team at the Cooper-Hewitt found inspiration in the work and life of director Bill Moggridge and came to a realization that delightfully encompasses the way open data sharing should be moving:

We need to not just be ‘on the web’ but we need to be ‘of the web,’

…a very zen-like way to also embrace being “of the Wikipedia,” as well. And to those of you at the Lab—thank you for trusting us.

Posted in Metadata | Tagged ,

What is a Wikipedian in Residence? Link Round-Up

One of the questions I’m most often asked is “What is a Wikipedian in Residence?” followed quickly by, “How do I get one?” and “How do I pay for one?” This post will include a quick summary of the Wikipedian in Residence model and a round-up of links with everything you need to know.

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Posted in Wikipedian in Residence


The GLAM-Wiki US Consortium brings together cultural organizations, Wikipedians, Wikimedia chapters, and individuals in an independent community of practice devoted to supporting the GLAM-Wikimedia initiative in the United States. Sign up as an interested individual or as an affiliate organization.

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Posted in Consortium, Main


Connect with the GLAM-Wiki US community by joining the GLAM-US mailing list and the GLAM-Wiki US Consortium. You can also connect with a Wikipedian through the GLAM:US Connect page. For direct questions, email glam(@)wikimedia(.)org.

Image: cc by-sa 3.0 Sarah Stierch

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GLAM-Wiki (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) helps cultural institutions share their resources with the world through collaboration with Wikipedia editors. GLAM-Wiki cooperations aim to distribute cultural resources openly and on a global scale while building understanding of Wikipedia within the cultural sector.

Image: cc by-sa 3.0 Benoit Rochon

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