Over the past two years, the GLAM-Wiki initiative (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) has grown from strength to strength, gaining the attention of cultural institutions and organizations from around the world. Due to this ever-increasing interest, a group of Wikipedians in Residence were invited to participate in the 2012 American Association of Museums annual meeting (AAM) in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the end of April. While volunteers in the GLAM-Wiki movement frequently present at professional conferences, at 4,500 participants AAM is the largest and most prestigious conference that we’ve had the opportunity to attend.
Because of the importance of this conference, much preparation went into bringing together five Wikipedians in Residence from around the world to represent the work of the GLAM-Wiki initiative. Liam Wyatt, Sarah Stierch, Àlex Hinojo, and I participated in both a virtual and an on-site panel titled “Wikipedia and the Museum: Lessons from Wikipedians in Residence.” Dominic McDevitt-Parks facilitated a table at the “Marketplace of Ideas” event, which focused on how museums can best share their resources with Wikipedia. Throughout the conference, the GLAM-Wiki US portal was promoted as a new tool for American museums to more easily connect with the Wikimedia community.
Highlights of our outreach included:
- For the in-person Wikipedians in Residence panel, over fifty museum professionals gathered to hear about the GLAM-Wiki initiative, the types of outreach events, the methods for connecting with the Wikimedia community and the resources for helping museums get started with a project.
- The virtual session brought together over fifty museum professionals and GLAM-Wikimedians from around the world to discuss best practices. Event organizers allowed Wikipedians free access to the event and the recorded session is now publicly accessible.
- Due to the high level of interest, all of the Wikipedians in Residence jumped in to assist with the Marketplace of Ideas table. Over a three-hour period we answered questions, shared resources and left with a number of potential new museum cooperations.
As the conference went on, it was abundantly clear that museum professionals were ready to more fully engage with the Wikimedia community. A handful of sessions independently discussed the GLAM-Wiki initiative as a model project within broader topic areas, including global partnerships within children’s museums, transparency in the future of museum ethics and “going beyond digitization.”
The AAM conference was a watershed moment for GLAM-Wikimedia collaboration. We were surprised that many people no longer needed to be convinced of Wikimedia’s relevance within their institution. Instead, many were eager and ready to take the next step toward connecting with the Wikimedia community. As a museum professional myself, it was inspiring to directly witness the museum field wholly embracing Wikipedia as a serious tool for furthering their missions.
It has been a long time coming.
Lori Byrd Phillips, US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator
(Participation by Wikipedians in Residence in the American Association of Museums conference was made possible through the Wikimedia Participation Grants program.)