Imagine an assembly of wikipedians, add some archeologists, a group of high school students, six museums with cultural heritage from Latin America, Africa, Italy and more. Think also about different kinds of people who don’t usually visit museums, such as the elderly and disabled. How beautiful would it be to bring them all together with a new vision of enjoying culture?
Wikimedia Italia is giving it a try by sharing and developing this vision with Archeowiki, a project that combines different areas of interest in the Wikimedia Movement: GLAM, education and diversity. The initiative is a partnership with the cultural institution Fondazione Passaré, the association for the promotion of material and non-material world cultures MiMondo, the volunteer-run archeological organization G.A.Am and the Extraeuropean Collections of Castello Sforzesco in Milan.
Archeowiki is a multidimensional project that involves different categories of participants and beneficiaries, for the purpose of promoting the lesser-known archeological heritage of Lombardy and for engaging the public. The initiative is structured into three parts, connected with different areas of action.
1. GLAM Institutions
During the first phase of the project, which started in the spring and is currently on-going, three Wikipedians-in-residence and some Wikimedia Italia volunteers are working with the archeologists of G.A.Am. and the museums to set the basis for the public part of the project. WMIT volunteers held workshops for the archeologists to teach them how to edit and participate in Wikipedia, while the Wikipedians-in-residence are working to create the first nucleus of documentation on Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia about the museums’ collections.
In Autumn, archeologists and wikipedians will interact with several high schools in Lombardy to teach the students about Wikipedia and about archeological heritage using the materials produced during the first phase. The students will then visit the museums and add content to Wikipedia and to Commons, under the guidance of their teachers. The Building Environmental Sciences and Technology (BEST) department of Politecnico di Milano will also offer 3D reconstructions of the findings and monuments, to give even more interactivity to the experience.
In addition to gender and geography, age is another disparity among Wikipedia editors. And so it is for museums, which can also present significant barriers for people with disabilities. Starting in the winter of 2014, members of Istituto dei Ciechi di Milano will lead a new round of guided visits to the museums, this time directed toward the elderly and disabled, especially the visually impaired. Some of the 3D models made by Politecnico di Milano will be printed, in order to offer a tool to enjoy the artifacts from a tactile, direct perspective. The participants will then attend workshops on Wikipedia and will be encouraged to contribute with the materials collected in the museums.
Besides the variety of public and institutions involved in the project, what is interesting about Archeowiki is its dual nature as an initiative that promotes both local and foreign heritage. In fact, among the participating museums, there are many institutions that focus on both Lombardy cultural heritage and international collections, especially from Perù and Sub-saharan Africa.
Mixing together the near and the far, the elder and the young, the different ways of feeling and learning: This is a great way to experience culture as a product and a necessity of every human being. Connecting it with Wikipedia is a concrete way to affirm this principle.
Ginevra Sanvitale (Atropine), Wikimedia Italia