Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/February 2011/Editorials

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Real-world collaborations – Ed

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Disclaimer: the author is an Online Ambassador for the Wikipedia Ambassador Program.
One of the GLAM collaborations has been with the British Museum; one of the results was a "Backstage Pass tour."

There has been a noticeable divide in the last few years between the academic/real worlds and Wikipedia. Academics have frequently described Wikipedia as unreliable or poor-quality, while most of the real world has read the content Wikipedia generates but never thinks to edit. However, recently there have been efforts to lessen or take down this divide.

Possibly the biggest effort in number of editors has been the Ambassador Program. They have targeted American university classes focusing on public policy in an effort to get professors and students involved with editing the site. So far, they have been fantastically successful – 31 classes have signed up to participate in the winter 2011 semester, and further expansion is planned for the fall 2012 semester. The Wikimedia Foundation, which has supported the project through its Public Policy Initiative, has also seen interest in spreading this program around the world, to places as varied as Germany, Israel, and Brazil.

Other efforts include the GLAM ("Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums") initiative, which has been soliciting institutions to collaborate with Wikipedia editors to improve the site's content on topics like the museum itself, or the items they hold. So far, seven institutions are taking part, including the British Museum, the Smithsonian, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the British Library, the Derby Museum, Château de Versailles, and the British National Maritime Museum. These collaborations have typically involved a "Wikipedian-in-residence" with varying responsibilities, working together with the institution toward common goals, such as featuring more of that institution's content online.

Other collaborations have added substantial amounts of encyclopedic media to Wikimedia Commons. Most recently, the State Library of Queensland donated 50,000 images related the the history of Australia. Especially relevant to the Military History Project was the donation of around 80,000 images from the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archiv), including many photos newly released under a free license. Many of these had to do with military history, including photos of people and equipment taken during the First and Second World Wars. Plenty of Wikipedia articles with few or no pictures gained illustrations through this initiative.

There are many opportunities to get involved. Currently there is a discussion on one of our project pages regarding a possible collaboration between Wikipedia and the United States' armed forces. Wikipedia-wide, you could become an online ambassador or join one of the GLAM projects: the project and newsletter on the outreach wiki, or WP:GLAM on-wiki. Both could benefit from more participation!

There is an open "Wikipedian-in-residence" offer from the National Archives and Record Administration for American college students in the summer of 2011 (see here for more details), but if you cannot take advantage of this, you are not out of options. Talk to the GLAM people to find an approach to GLAMs that will work, and start talking to local institutions! Many will have records, media, or information that can be very valuable to our project's writers.