US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator: Lori Byrd Phillips

Lori Phillips (CC-by-sa by Lori Phillips)

The Wikimedia Foundation is pleased to announce Lori Byrd Phillips as the United States Cultural Partnerships Coordinator in 2012. Through this new position within the Global Development department, the US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator will lead in building the infrastructure needed to support the growing interest in Wikimedia partnerships among cultural institutions in the United States, ultimately working to make cultural partnerships in the US self-sustaining starting 2013.

Thanks to the efforts of the global GLAM-Wiki initiative over the past two years, much inspired and aided by Liam Wyatt’s Wikimedia GLAM Fellowship, just now coming to its scheduled end, professionals from galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs) have begun to seriously discuss partnership with Wikimedia as a means to increase accessibility to cultural resources, and to draw new audiences to their collections. Significant press about partnerships at respected institutions such as the British Museum [NY Times], the National Archives and Records Administration [Yahoo!], and the Smithsonian Institution [Chronicle of Philanthropy] has led cultural professionals to consider Wikimedia partnerships a cutting-edge trend. This resulted in demand from museums and other institutions to establish relationships with Wikimedia through Wikipedians in Residence and other projects. In the US, however, this growing interest from cultural institutions is quickly outpacing the current capacity of the present volunteer community to support these needs.

Interest is continuing to explode in the US, with plans for grant projects and for Wikimedia-museum partnerships to be featured in a number of upcoming conferences, most significantly a dedicated panel discussion at the American Association of Museums annual conference and Museum Expo.

While there is much interest among US Wikimedians to assist with cultural partnerships, a systematic structure is needed to connect these volunteers with cultural institutions and to provide the resources needed to establish successful partnerships. In order to accomplish this, the priorities of the Coordinator’s one-year project include:

  • Organizing US community volunteers and establishing a system for connecting local Wikipedians with interested cultural institutions.
  • Completing documentation and building capacity to scale volunteer efforts with a self-service model for institutions.
  • Establishing resources that facilitate cultural professionals and academics contributing their expertise to Wikimedia projects.
  • Identifying missing tools and liaising with technical volunteers to promote their creation and improvement.
  • Developing a model for partnerships with cultural institutions that
    becomes self-sustaining by 2013.

Lori Byrd Phillips has served as Wikipedian in Residence at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis since August 2010. She was the second to take on the title following Liam Wyatt’s residency at the British Museum and is serving the longest-running residency to date. She has been involved in the GLAM initiative for nearly two years, carrying out a number of pilot projects that have served as best practice for museum-Wikimedia partnerships. Lori is also a graduate student in the museum studies program at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis and has presented, written articles, and blogged for a number of professional museum organizations about her work with museums and Wikipedia. For more information, visit Lori’s personal site.

I will be Lori’s contact person at the Foundation.  Monthly reports about her work will be included in the Foundation’s general monthly report, and much would no doubt be relevant to the This Month in GLAM newsletter as well.  I look forward to a GLAMorous year for GLAM in the US (and elsewhere).

If you would like to join in any aspect of the cultural partnerships initiative please visit the project pages at If you represent a cultural institution and would like to engage in a project please write to

Asaf Bartov, Head of Global South Relationships,, User:Ijon

GLAM logo (CC-by-sa by Husky, h3m3ls, Mischa de Muynck, Niels, and PKM)


  • Why is this position being funded through the Global Development department?
    • The Foundation is the only entity operating throughout the US at the moment.  As more and more Wikimedia chapters support GLAM partnerships in their respective countries, the Global Development department undertook to fund the US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator as a new position within the department. The Coordinator will be working closely with the New York and DC chapters to streamline volunteer efforts and resources related to GLAM.
  • How is this position related to the global GLAM-Wiki initiative?
    • This position is highly connected with the global GLAM-Wiki initiative, but also has goals specific to the US.  While the Coordinator will be working alongside the wider GLAM-Wiki community to improve general resources and documentation, the primary goal of this position is to coordinate volunteers to assist US GLAMs locally and virtually. In other countries, this coordination is often carried out by the local chapter. In the US there is overwhelming interest from GLAMs, but no streamlined way for GLAMs to connect with a Wikimedian.
  • What are some measures of success for this position?
    • An established list of local Wikipedian contacts for national & regional organizations (e.g. California Association of Museums).
    • An organized task force of online volunteers interested in assisting virtually with GLAMs.
    • An organized task force of outreach volunteers interested in providing localized, on-site support for GLAM partnerships.
    • A short list of Wikimedians with the relevant level of experience who are willing to take on the role of Wikipedians in Residence.
    • Maintenance of the core GLAM-Wiki Web pages on Outreach, Commons, and English Wikipedia, which will allow museums to independently find information and get started on their own.
    • Case studies and relevant documentation listed among the model projects that have been established on
    • The existence of a self-sustaining community of GLAM-Wiki practitioners in the US, starting 2013.
  • How does this position fit in with the broader goals of the Wikimedia Foundation?
    • GLAMs can be one answer to each of the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation’s strategic goals:

      • GLAMs have the experts. Cultural institutions house the resources and specialists that can enhance the quality of Wikipedia with their deep subject-matter expertise.

      • GLAMs have the tools. The museum and library technology community is continually developing tools for pan-institutional sharing of resources and data. It is mutually beneficial to connect with these ongoing projects.

      • GLAMs have the women. The cultural sector is made up of a significant number of women who, when given practical methods for becoming editors, will be an important factor in closing the gender gap.

  • You mention interest in cultural partnerships is exploding in the US now.  {{cite}}?
    • The nature of partnership talks is that potential partners are usually wary of being mentioned before something definite has been negotiated, so it’s difficult to disclose a full list of institutions that have expressed initial interest.  The one reference for level of interest we can point to is the list of current partnerships, here:
  • Are any other Cultural Partnership Coordinator positions planned?
    • The US Cultural Partnership Coordinator position was created in response to a need formulated by US cultural partnership volunteers.  It is primarily a capacity-building position, designed to make itself redundant at the end of one year.  While no other such positions are currently planned, the Foundation will continue to consider community requests such as this one.
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6 Comments on US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator: Lori Byrd Phillips

pill 4 years

I see, the absurdity of WMF paranoia has reached a new level. “Miss Gardner, do you think the USA is “Global South”?” … gosh, that’s just downright ridiculous. Marcus, I’m puzzled that you don’t seem to realize that yourself.

Asaf 4 years

Hi, Marcus.

The allegations in your comment are false:

1. It is false that other countries have to make do without the Foundation’s help. As you are no doubt aware, the Foundation has been supporting Wikimedian activity through chapters in a variety of ways, including substantial funding through the Wikimedia Grants program, and more recently, through funding entire annual plans for chapters. The Austrian chapter, for instance, will receive 131,000 Euros from the Foundation this year.

2. The Foundation never committed to spending money only in the Global South. Also, one cannot just throw money at the Global South to make progress. Where a Wikimedian community simply does not exist, for example, there are fewer opportunities to spend money effectively. So even as we spend money on Global South initiatives, we remain committed to supporting our community and volunteers throughout the world, including Europe and the US.

3. The chapters agreement certainly does not put chapters “under financial control” of the Foundation. It merely formalizes the relationship between chapters and Foundation — granting trademark permission, specifying mutual duties, etc. The (related, but quite different) questions of fundraising and fund dissemination are, indeed, being debated in our movement right now, and we share the chapters’ voiced wish for a better arrangement. You are welcome to join that conversation. (But please try to do a better job of assuming good faith before engaging others in it.)

4. It is not true that there is no one to watch over the Foundation. The Foundation is formally subject to both the Audit Committee and an external auditing firm (KPMG). More importantly, the Foundation is committed to transparency, and constantly solicits and integrates community feedback about its programs and actions. All our grantmaking, for example, is done in public, on Meta pages.

Finally, let me reiterate that this position was created not because of the Foundation’s initiative (indeed, it was not included in this year’s annual plan), but expressly as a response to a need voiced by the GLAM practitioner community in the US.

I hope the above helps put this in better perspective. If you still feel very angry, perhaps you can be more specific about the negative results you perceive in this new role.

slowking 4 years

hi lori, hope you like the place and decide to stay. hope you have your passport in order. whenever you’re in DC stop by and have a cold beverage. i trust you know that Stierch person.

Marcus Cyron 4 years

It’s funny – I can’t write on the Mailing list, so I have to do it here:

Unbeleavable! Once more the Foundation acts as USA-chapter. This is impossible and inaccaptable! Every other country has to see, what it can reach, but the United States can take everything they want out of the big Foundation pot. Especially in a time Sue Gardner thinks, the “Old world” country are so far and her “Global south” needs more money an unbeleavable development. Miss Gardner, do you think the USA is “Global South”? Or do you think, this applies only for the other countries – the countries in the old Europe?

With the chapters agreement the chapters should be under financiel control by the foundation. But who watches the watchmen? Who watches the “big chapter”, that’s not a chapter, but acts like one? Dear Foundation, did you never learn? What do you think, how long the authors in all the other countries will accept this?

To Lori Byrd Phillips – this is expressly not against you!

Filceolaire 4 years

I really like that you do not fall in the “USA is the world” mindset. You see the USA in the context of the rest of the world – an important place that deserves help when they have a specific project which can be part of a global strategy.

As country chapters get organised and start to finance projects (Wikimedia Germany with Wikidata; WMUK with QRpedia, WM India with oral Citations for example) WMF will need to give some thought to the position of the USA.

Ioannis 4 years

What is the point of this? Wikipedia content is free to access and re-use anyway.

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