Museums and thinking communities: the Wiki approach

Wikimuseums was created with the aim of telling and experiencing cases and methods to open our museums and our cultural institutions to a more participatory, inclusive, playful and innovative form of disclosure. In order to start our journey, our first ally could only be Wikimedia Italia.

Despite the many commitments (above all the preparation of Wikimania, the world gathering of Wikipedia that for the first time in June 2016 will arrive in Italy for a week occupying an entire village in the Alps of Lombardy), Wikimedia has given us its support. So now we have the possibility to work with some brave Wikipedians, who will support us during Wikimuseums and especially in the Workshop on Friday, May 6, in which professionals and operators of Italian museums can try themselves to edit Wikipedia pages from the collection of the Museo Pignatelli.

In order to begin to understand what to expect, we asked some questions to Saverio Giulio Malatesta, coordinator of Wikimedia in the Campania region, and Claudio Forziati, coordinator of Wikimedia libraries in the region.

Q: Let’s start with a keyword: GLAM. What is it?

A: GLAM is a project by Wikipedia dedicated to improving the encyclopedia content related to the cultural sector. Concretely, it is a group of creators of Wikipedia pages discussing how to manage pages related to Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM). For example, does it compare to what they have to understand the voices and in what order the information should be displayed? The aim is to allow access to everyone, free and open as possible to the assets held by cultural institutions: to do this we look for the collaboration and the involvement of professionals.

Q: Can you give me some examples of possible actions?

A: Thanks to wiki tools that allow you to produce and share content in a collaborative way, there are many possibilities. You can create pages in the areas covered on Wikipedia, or make accessible the collections through high-resolution images, thanks to Wikimedia Commons. At the same time you can share and make reusable data via Wikidata. All ways to enhance the informative role of institutions and to ensure that their research reaches a wider audience.

Q: If I am a museum employee, where do I start?

A: You can start looking for the GLAM project and in particular those relating to the collaboration with the museums. And you can take inspiration from the practices of museums around the world: the British Museum, the Picasso Museum, or, in Italy, collaboration with MART of Trento and Rovereto and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Milan.  These use an expert of the sector, the Wikipedian in residence, who instructs the operators and facilitates their contributions, helping them to create content and to select materials, both those in the public domain and those for which it is necessary to require institutions to issue licenses that allow the widest possible dissemination and possibility of reuse.

Q: What will change for the public?

A: We believe that openness and data sharing will make possible a virtuous cycle, to enable people to enjoy the culture. Be able to freely access the contents of an archive, view the paintings exhibited in a gallery, see the texts of a library, explore the collections of a museum: these are the basic elements for a personal involvement of the curious visitor, allowing her to move freely inside of a cultural space. For a researcher, it also offers the possibility of contact with the editors; for a student, new readings and a means of discovery. Free sharing and cultural enjoyment, in a game between cultural institutions, training organizations and citizenship, entails accountability towards heritage: an individual visitor or citizen can internalize part of a larger history and become a full member of a larger community.

D: An example of this community awareness?

A: Wiki Loves Monuments! An initiative created in 2010 in the Netherlands as a means of raising awareness of the free licenses and wiki projects, through pictures and their subsequent loading in Wikimedia Commons, which then literally exploded, every September attended by thousands of people. The last edition was attended by people from more than 40 countries worldwide: there was a great bottom-up collective effort in Italy, which has in the past been characterized by distrust of institutions – because of legislative restrictions on freedom of landscape, and not only – so increasing collaboration and openness. It has become increasingly clear that the initiative constituted a powerful tool for citizen engagement: a collective moment of awareness and attention to the cultural and environmental heritage.

For those who want to learn more, the appointment is at Wikimuseums, on May 5 and 6 in Naples; for museums that want to get involved, the registrations to the Workshop are open until Wednesday, April 20!

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