Sharing Resources with a Global Audience: Practical Methods for Collaborating with Wikipedia


Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:00am - 4:30am
Room: Cairo


  1. Name: Angela McNew
    Title: Director, Web and Emerging Media
    Organization: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
  2. Name: Lori Byrd Phillips
    Title: Wikipedian-in-Residence, Web and Emerging Media Intern
    Organization: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis


The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest children’s museum in the world, has reached out to the Wikimedia community in a collaborative effort to share the museum’s collections and research content with a global audience. Working with a Wikipedian-in-Residence, the museum has increased accessibility to its collection through a number of projects that have proved mutually beneficial for both organizations. These projects included an image content donation organized by the Wikipedian-in-Residence in close collaboration with the collections department, a research project with Museum Apprentice Program youth to create Wikipedia articles about notable museum objects, and outreach events with the local Wikimedia community that resulted in article improvement and museum-related images.  The process has resulted in a deeper understanding among museum staff about the practical implications of using Wikipedia to share the museum’s content in order to reach a global audience.

Session Description:

The GLAM initiative (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) is a community with the goal of increasing the efficiency of museum-Wikipedia collaborations. The GLAM initiative has become increasingly organized over the past year with support from the Wikimedia Foundation. The Children’s Museum collaboration has served as a case study as the initiative has begun shaping its processes for initiating museum collaborations, training GLAM ambassadors, and providing support for museums who wish to share content.

As part of this collaboration, the Children’s Museum enlisted the help of a Wikipedian-in-Residence, a concept developed by GLAM community leaders.  In the case of the Children’s Museum, the Wikipedian-in-Residence is a local museum studies graduate student and Wikipedian who helps to coordinate the various projects stemming from the collaboration.

The mission of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is family learning. The overarching goal of the Children’s Museum-Wikipedia collaboration is to share the museum’s abundance of family learning resources with a global audience through Wikipedia. The partnership, which began in September 2010 and is ongoing, branched out to include a number of simultaneous projects that proved beneficial to both the museum and Wikimedia. Presenters will discuss each of these projects in turn, their strengths and weaknesses, and their surprising results.

The original project centered on the donation of Children’s Museum images to Wikimedia Commons. The Wikipedian-in-Residence worked closely with collections staff to choose useful images and upload them to Wikimedia Commons, resulting in their use throughout Wikipedia articles.  The Wikipedian-in-Residence also developed a public program with middle and high school students in the Museum Apprentice Program. The students worked in teams to research notable objects in the museum’s collection, learned how to edit in Wikipedia, and contributed their research to new articles. This project resulted in five new articles and an abundance of evaluative material to be used in future research on Wikipedia as a 21st century research tool in museum programming.  

In addition to these concrete deliverables, the museum also organized outreach events with the local Wikipedia community, including a Backstage Pass event and a one-on-one collaboration with a Wikipedian who brought an existing museum-related Wikipedia article to Featured Article status. This outreach was also mirrored within the museum, as the Wikipedian-in-Residence organized staff Lunch and Learns to increase staff understanding, met with staff at all levels to share the project, and collaborated closely with nearly every department in order to gather resources. In the end, the Wikipedian-in-Residence became more than a coordinator for the collaboration, but also a resource for staff as interest and excitement for the museum’s contribution to Wikipedia began to grow.

The Wikipedian-in-Residence, together with the Children’s Museum Director of Web and Emerging Media, will discuss the process and outcomes to date, share the new resources available to museums interested in collaborating with Wikipedia, and discuss the museum’s future plans for collaborating and using Wikipedia.

Session Info

  • Type: Full Panel
  • Keywords:
  • Relevance: This presentation is intended for any museum professional who is interested in increasing access to their collections through methods that are readily available. The topic is extremely relevant at a time when GLAM-Wikipedia collaborations are increasing. Museums are beginning to see Wikipedia as a viable tool for sharing content, but require the insight from existing collaborations to know how to go about such a project efficiently. The Children’s Museum is one of only three institutions to use the Wikipedian-in-Residence model; the only one in the United States. The project is also the most lengthy and has resulted in a number of deliverables that can prove enlightening for institutions considering similar projects.