Wikipedia:GLAM/National Archives and Records Administration/Guidelines

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These are the internal guidelines that the National Archives has developed for all staff members who may edit Wikipedia in the course of their duties. They were originally developed because some of the following may be counterintuitive to NARA staff, since Wikipedia is a unique project unlike Facebook, Twitter, and other tools for citizen engagement. We recognize that the Wikipedia community is rightfully wary of conflicts of interest and paid editing. These are being published here in the interest of transparency, and to show that NARA is participating in Wikipedia in good faith and only after having given due consideration to the ethical issues surrounding its participation. This is not an official policy yet, though this is the current draft for a Wikipedia policy that is being developed by NARA, to go along with its other social media policies.

Note that these are intended to be concise (fit on one printed page). They are a guide, and not definitive or all-encompassing.


Wikipedia is a website that maintains a user-contributed encyclopedia. However, several aspects of the project are different from most other social media projects and may be surprising. Namely:

  • Wikipedia is a fairly traditional encyclopedia, meaning it is a tertiary source that does not publish original information that cannot be cited with an independent secondary source.
  • Wikipedia contributors do not own their contributions; they may be contested or changed, even yours.
  • National Archives staff participate in Wikipedia on an equal footing with all other editors using individual, rather than departmental, accounts.


Work with Wikipedia is in line with the National Archives’ initiative to increase its web and social media presence to reach users where they currently are. In October 2011 alone, the total page views of all Wikipedia articles with images of National Archives documents was over 70 million (roughly 6 times the annual traffic to Improving the quality or coverage of Wikipedia articles related to our holdings will likely result in more viewers for that content than publishing it to or other social media. Likewise, uploading new digital content to Wikipedia’s media repository, Wikimedia Commons, makes it more visible on the web and more likely to be used in a Wikipedia article.


Our first instinct may be to write about the work of our organization. However, we recommend against editing the “National Archives and Records Administration” article, or articles about presidential libraries and other departments and facilities.

On Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, and other sites, the National Archives maintains a presence in the form of an official account whose feed users may browse and subscribe to in order to access our digital content and information. By contrast, the National Archives does not maintain a portal to its content on Wikipedia, and the articles about it are community-written. Users access information about our holdings, and view our digital content, by reading the Wikipedia articles about those topics or directly searching the site’s images—and those are where we reach them the best. The articles about our agency are less interesting, less trafficked, and less essential to our work, however tempting they may be for us to rewrite.

Best practices[edit]

  • Disclose your affiliation with the National Archives on your user page before editing, using this template.
  • If you edit articles about the National Archives as an institution, other users may perceive a conflict of interest. Simple factual changes (e.g.: personnel updates or outdated statistics) may likely be made without raising eyebrows, but more substantive changes should be proposed first using discussion pages or other fora.
  • Additions to articles must be verifiable. This means that independent media or academic secondary sources should be cited whenever possible. Where NARA-published literature or web pages represent original scholarship, they may be cited, but not when writing about NARA.
  • When editing articles, always maintain the impartial voice. You are writing an encyclopedia, not speaking for NARA.
  • Remember, as with other social media channels, Interim Guidance 831-2, Rules of Behavior for Using Web 2.0 and Social Media Web Sites and Responsibilities for Content Management applies to all NARA staff interactions with Wikipedia.