The treasure behind Görlitz’s age-old walls

German version can be found here. 

In early November 2013 in Görlitz, Germany, staff from the Upper Lusatian Library of Sciences (OLB) met with 19 Wikipedians, Wikilibrarians and Wikidatists from the German and Sorbian Wikipedia, along with people involved with Wikimedia Commons. The library now forms part of the Görlitz Collections of History and Culture. It was founded in the 18th century as the research library for the Upper Lusatian Society of Sciences with an aim quite similar to that of Wikimedia projects today, which is to promote enlightened ideals and disseminate knowledge.

The event was prompted when OLB posted an article about itself on German Wikipedia in early 2012. This was followed by productive discussions between Wikipedians and the library staff, and led to the article being revised to meet the guidelines for Wikipedia entries. The library staff watched in delight as their Wikipedia entry took shape. They were not discouraged by the editing process. They got used to the fact that their text gradually developed into something new. Some of the subsequent organizers of the event in Görlitz contacted the library and after discussing it further at their regular Wikimedia meetings and securing Wikimedia Deutschland’s (WMDE) support, they came up with the idea of hosting the second stop of GLAM on Tour at the library in Görlitz to explore further options for collaboration. The OLB staff were extremely open to the idea and did all they could to accommodate the ideas put forward by the Wikipedians and Wikilibrarians.

The weekend of November 1 and 2 provided an ideal opportunity to develop the project. Participants from all over Upper Lusatia and beyond travelled to Görlitz to discuss the projects they were involved in. They also worked together over the weekend to produce online content in the form of text and images.

GLAM on tour

They made ambitious plans for the future. In addition to editing and posting the material produced during the writing workshop, the participants also discussed potential opportunities for creating free content and attracting new authors to Wikimedia projects.

For example, participants spoke to a member of the Saxon Association for Traditional Building Methods about a long-term project to create a list and map of all the Upper Lusatian houses in the region, which are close to the German, Polish and Czech borders. (As this involves 19,000 datasets, Wikidata would be required.) The library in Görlitz is also receiving the technical support it needs to update the relevant MediaWiki wikis with biographical data of famous people from Upper Lusatia.

The provision of a good Internet connection needs to be improved. Especially in GLAM on Tour, which allows participants to use their own computer, setting up the Internet connection takes too much time. I recommend that WMDE bring a mobile internet access kit with tried-and-tested hardware to improve security and provide a backup connection. However, by using a WikiSpot and with the support of the C3 from Dresden, it was possible to build on the technology available and, after spending some time getting everything running smoothly, to provide a stable network. When planning the event, the organizers from Wikipedia in particular had to take care not to invite too many people. The high turnout made things pretty crowded in the reading room, which was set up for only twelve people. The lack of space gave the event an intimate feel, but unfortunately made it difficult for people to work effectively.

One of the high points of the day was the tour we took of the city. Participants learned lots of interesting information about the history of Görlitz and were also able to view some private homes thanks to their guide, Frank Vater, who knows the owners personally. The library’s large scanner also met with enthusiasm and allowed the participants to produce useful material for future use. WMDE paid for a yearlong membership of the OLB for those members who wanted to visit again.

You will find lots more details about the event on the following page, and more information is still being added. This project page is also intended to provide a space for other institutions in Upper Lusatia that might be interested in collaboration. Some Wikipedians are already excited about new opportunities for mutual support. WMDE is always happy to answer questions on this subject.

Those interested can view the documentation created during the project at the following Wikipedia link.

Conrad Nutschan-Wikipedian 

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