Wikimedians meet with museum leaders
On Tuesday, 13 April 2010 over 50 leaders from the global museum sector were invited to meet with 11 Wikimedians for a day-long workshop in Denver, Colorado to discuss collaboration between the two communities. Building on the momentum of the GLAM-WIKI conference in Australia in August 2009, this workshop was thought important enough by Museums and the Web conference organizers Jennifer Trant and David Bearman to be given an entire day at the prestigious international conference and had the goal of "exploring and developing policies that will enable museums to better contribute to and use Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons, and for the Wikimedia community to benefit from the expertise in museums." As Liam Wyatt, who helped initiate the event, said, "this is where we need to be, if we want to demonstrate we are serious about collaborating."
The attending Wikimedians were Erik Möller and Guillaume Paumier from the Wikimedia Foundation; Samuel Klein and Kat Walsh from the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees; Phoebe Ayers, Mark Pellegrini, Adrianne Wadewitz, and Multichill from Wikipedia and Commons; and Pharos, Liam Wyatt, and Mathias Schindler from the chapters. Some of the institutions represented included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museu Picasso, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress as well as the directors of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The day began with two keynote speeches. The first was by Wikimedia board member Samuel Klein, who outlined what Wikimedia and its sister projects are about and described Wikipedia as a city full of different communities that are "born of curiosity" and which want to "share beauty". The second was by the CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Maxwell Anderson, who outlined what museum culture is and what the stakes are for museums in opening up their content, in particular what about museum culture both "hinders and fosters candid information transfer". After the two opening speeches, the attendees introduced themselves and articulated an issue that they would like to see addressed at the workshop.
During the afternoon, four "breakout sessions" were formed around the issues raised in the morning. They addressed technology, content, return on investment, and model projects. Some of the main issues they explored were: importing metadata from museums, adding references to articles, differentiating between reliable and unreliable sources from Wikipedia's perspective, addressing conflict of interest issues, and developing partnerships. Ayers reported that "by and large people were enthusiastic about interacting with the site". Both groups learned about each others' assumptions and misconceptions as well. For example, Pellegrini noted that "It was clear that museums ... are reluctant to release free images for fear of losing revenue. Yet this is one of the first things that Wikipedians want from such a collaboration." Wyatt discovered that the prohibition against adding "external links" was being interpreted by museums as a prohibition against adding references in addition to promotional links. While the issue of multimedia collaboration was continually raised at the conference, Wyatt and others attempted to demonstrate that there were possibilities for content partnerships as well.
Four Wikimedians, Wyatt, Schindler, Wadewitz, and Multichill, remained for the rest of the conference, building on the connections established during the workshop and developing additional ones. On Thursday, Wyatt, Wadewitz, and Multichill ran an unconference session entitled "Everything you wanted to know about Wikipedia but were afraid to ask" and on Friday, Wyatt, Wadewitz, Bearman and Trant presented a summary of the proceedings on Tuesday to the entire conference and answered questions about Wikimedia.
The conference helped individual museums make connections with Wikimedians and see what kinds of projects are possible, such as creating learning resources on Wikibooks. Ayers pointed out that there are steps Wikipedia can take to make such projects easier to start, such as providing a notability guideline for artworks and setting up a "centralized and updated list of partnerships", which has already been started at WP:GLAM. Pellegrini and Anderson are working on "creating a mailing list for Wikipedia editors and museum staffers". On a broader level, the conference helped "legitimise [W]ikipedia and Wikimedia as a point of discussion in the global museum sector", as Wyatt said. "We will no longer be talked about as some anonymous thing, but as a legitimate thing that can be openly discussed at board meetings in museums.... Wikimedia has now stood up, waved, and introduced itself."
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