Last week, I brought you QRpedia; one of the UK’s most innovative technologies, quickly gaining popularity in museums worldwide. This week, I’m pleased to present to you Lori Byrd Phillips, Wikipedian in Residence and Web Content Specialist at the Children’s Museum of IndianapolisAND the US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation. Impressive. Who is she? What does she do? WHAT'S A WIKIPEDIAN IN RESIDENCE? Should your museum consider one?
Read on for my interview with Lori as we discuss her unique and pioneering work in the museum field (be sure to click the picture to the right to expand it, from cc by-sa 3.0 The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis from July 2011).
Elizabeth: Lori, can you tell us about your background, pre-Wikipedian in Residence?
Lori: For years I was going to be a middle school history teacher. I completed my BA in history and began my Masters in Education at George Mason University. My focus was on education, but I was always intrigued by objects telling stories. When my husband and I relocated from Virginia to Indiana, I had the opportunity to reassess my career path and I made the switch to museum studies. Throughout my graduate program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) I explored museum education, collections management, and preventative conservation in historic houses. In the end though, I fell into a rather interesting niche – engaging museums to collaborate with the Wikipedia community in order to share cultural resources on a global scale
E: What exactly IS a Wikipedian in Residence and what is your role in the museum?
L: As Wikipedian in Residence I am a liaison between the museum staff and the Wikipedia community (the volunteer contributors and editors of the encyclopedia). I work within the museum to increase understanding about Wikipedia among staff and to facilitate the sharing of content with Wikipedia, which the community then uses to improve articles.
E: And how about your job as the US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation. What does that position entail?
L: My position with the Wikimedia Foundation is much broader in scope. As US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator I am helping to develop a sustainable system for cultural organizations to more easily connect with local and online Wikipedians who can assist with projects. If
you’re interested in getting started with Wikipedia, check out our new GLAM:Connect page.
E: What is the Wikimedia Foundation? What is GLAM-Wiki?
L:The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and a number of smaller “sister projects” such as Wikisource, Wikiquote, Wikinews, and Wikimedia Commons, the image repository. GLAM-Wiki (which stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums working with Wikipedia), is an international group of Wikipedians who assist cultural organizations with sharing their resources and expertise with Wikimedia. This group began to formalize in the summer of 2010 and has continued to grow over the past two years.
E: How did you get involved working with and for Wikipedia?
L: I have only been involved in Wikipedia since the Fall of 2009, when I was required to create two Wikipedia articles for a class project. I quickly saw the potential in Wikipedia to increase access to museum collections and to serve as a platform for dialogue about cultural topics (via the talk pages and the Wikipedia community.) In the Spring of 2010 I met Liam Wyatt, an Australian history graduate who was beginning to move forward with a bold idea to more deliberately help cultural institutions work directly with Wikipedia. He had the opportunity to put this concept to the test in June 2010, when he volunteered at the British Museum as the first-ever Wikipedian in Residence.
E: And how did you become the Wikipedian in Residence at the Children’s Museum?
L: I started at The Children’s Museum in an internship position in August 2010, serving as the second Wikipedian in Residence following Liam residency. Angie McNew, the Children’s Museum’s Director of Websites and Emerging Media, had met Liam at a conference earlier that year and was intrigued by the Wikipedian in Residence concept. At that time I was becoming more involved in the beginnings of the GLAM-Wiki initiative. This experience, combined with my museum studies coursework in Indianapolis, led me to be an ideal candidate for this position.
E: What projects have you worked on to expand the GLAM-Wiki program at the Museum?
L: During the past two years I have piloted a number of projects that have served as models for the GLAM-Wiki initiative:
• A curator-vetted image donation of over 250 images.
• A collaboration that brought our Broad Ripple Park Carousel article to Featured Article status.
• Backstage Pass events that took local Wikipedians behind the scenes at the museum.
• Edit-a-Thons and Translate-a-Thons with curators, Wikipedians, and students in Mexico.
• Student article research & creation with the Children’s Museum’s teen student volunteers.
E: You hold such a unique position at the Museum. For my peers exploring employment opportunities in the arts management field, can you offer some advice?
L: We often joke in my museum studies program that in this economy you need to “create a job around yourself.” This means that during internships you should do such an incredible, amazing job that you create unique value in yourself as an employee. It started off as a joke, but became reality for me. In museum studies I found a way to combine my background in education, history, collections, and my interest in social media. Add to that a passion for Wikipedia as a platform for sharing knowledge and you have my unique spark that has kept me around the Children’s Museum.
E: Can you talk a bit more about the uniqueness of your job? It's revolutionary. Wikipedian in Residence isn't a typical job title found on a Human Resources “Employment Opportunities” page. But it seems so...so necessary for today's museum.
L: I have been amazed to watch the GLAM-Wiki initiative and the Wikipedian in Residence model expand so quickly over the past two years. There are now about ten residencies that have taken place in major institutions all over the world, from Versailles to the Israel Museum to the Smithsonian, with more to come at institutions such as the British Library. What makes the residency model so unique is the way it puts a face to Wikipedia. Many don’t realize that there is a vast community behind Wikipedia that keeps it moving forward. Once cultural professionals have this basic understanding, it’s easier to move forward with using Wikipedia to digitally share collections with as wide an audience as possible – an ethical mandate that every institution takes to heart.
Wikipedians in Residence are only one type of GLAM-Wiki collaboration, however. There are many Wikipedia volunteers who are not formal residents, but who spend much time assisting with Edit-a-Thons and other projects. The list of institutions who have collaborated with Wikipedia is ever-growing, which means more resources are being shared and more people are able to access this incredible wealth of information. In the end, that’s what GLAM-Wiki is all about.
Stay tuned for Part Two of my interview with Lori where we discuss Wikipedia, QRpedia and QR codes in general, and their PROPER application in the museum setting.