2 years ago 17 notes
This morning I had the pleasure of hosting Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
This came about because my boss bet that I could
magically convince Jimmy to stop by the museum while he was in Indianapolis for another conference. I had to prove her right! So after meeting Jimmy at Wikimania, followed by my boss (& boss’ boss) formally inviting him to the museum… wouldn’t you know it? He accepted!
Jimmy is a busy guy, and while he’s certainly an advocate for the many amazing outreach projects that Wikimedians take part in, it is not his responsibility to keep up with it all (plus, there’s a lot of stuff to keep up with!) The GLAM movement pretty much came out of nowhere two years ago, and Jimmy mentioned that he hadn’t had too many opportunities to really see in person the kinds of projects that a Wikipedian in Residence carries out. The Children’s Museum was happy to provide for him a glimpse into the world of a GLAM-Wiki partnership.
We started off with an informal breakfast with Jimmy and a handful of select staff and board members that are most directly tied with our various Wikipedia projects. These included a local informatics professor, a curator, exhibit developer, our volunteer coordinator, and our social media manager, to name a few. After sharing about our projects (and after my sappy thank you to the staff for their support) we had an incredible discussion with Jimmy about many topics within the cultural and academic sectors.
His insights were all incredibly timely to the debates and rethinking that is occurring in museum and academic communities today:
- Museums should adapt the models used in open source software. Museums can collaborate instead of reinventing the wheel on things like Units of Study and platforms for sharing resources. As he said, “Imagine the quantity and quality of work that can be done if you collaborate.” (Perfectly, this is a key argument in my thesis.)
- GLAM-Wiki shows what new collaborations can come from Wikipedia. By having Wikipedians collaborating directly with curators, you’re taking advantage of what makes Wikipedia so useful. People can share, collaborate, and improve information from all over the world. Not everyone will have every source, but if we connect we can bring together all of the information.
- The Wikipedian in Residence model is important for engaging experts. For instance, if it were adapted to university settings, it would help facilitate collaboration. If someone owns that title, they can engage with academics and provide that help that they need to get started.
- Wikipedia content can be adapted for specific audiences, like children. As he said, “It’s not about dumbing it down, but making it context-appropriate.” And the typical mantra regarding kids being told not to use Wikipedia, “You can also tell kids not to listen to rock and roll… The right thing is to teach them how to use it.”
After this fantastic discussion, we took Jimmy on a tour of the museum. Things that we noted included:
- Our use of QRpedia codes as a means to increase accessibility to deeper levels of information, and information in other languages.
- Our use of video to tell stories, and noting that oral history can be an important element in fleshing out content in Wikipedia — an area where museums can especially fill the gap.
- Our use of real objects to bring broad topics to life, and providing unique ways for families to share in meaning making. And the ways that images of these objects have permeated huge topic areas within Wikipedia.
As often happens (especially after seeing Dinosphere), he came away very impressed. Most don’t realize what “the biggest and the best Children’s Museum” really means until they come here. It was great for Jimmy to have that experience, and to see for himself how the museum has wholeheartedly gotten behind Wikipedia. They’re in it for the long haul.