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IUPUI Student to Lead Growth of U.S. Wikimedia Cultural Partnerships

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia


December 12, 2011

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An IUPUI student currently serving as Wikipedian in Residence at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will take a lead role in building Wikimedia partnerships for museums, libraries, archives, galleries and other cultural institutions around the country next year.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that supports the free Web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia, has appointed Lori Byrd Phillips as its United States cultural partnerships coordinator for 2012. Through this new position, Phillips will spearhead building the infrastructure needed to support the growing interest among cultural institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums – referred to as GLAMS – to develop partnerships with Wikimedia.

Phillips, a graduate student in the museum studies program in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has served as Wikipedian in Residence at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis since August 2010. In her residency, she has worked with museum curators and volunteers to ensure that the content in Wikipedia related to The Children’s Museum is accurate, informative and accessible.

Wikipedia is a free, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project with articles written by volunteers around the world. The online encyclopedia has about 100,000 regularly active contributors.

Wikipedians in Residence are Wikipedia/Wikimedia contributors who dedicate time to working in-house at a museum, library or other cultural institution. The new position of cultural partnerships coordinator is the outgrowth of the success of the GLAM-Wiki project, which supports such collaborations.

“Galleries, libraries, archives and museums 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,” Asaf Bartov, head of Global South Relationships at the Wikimedia Foundation, wrote in a Wikimedia blog . “Significant press about partnerships at respected institutions such as the British Museum ... and the Smithsonian Institution has led cultural professionals to consider Wikimedia partnerships a cutting-edge trend.”

Phillips is serving as the longest-running Wikipedian residency to date.

“As the first museum in the U.S. to take on a Wikipedian in Residence, and as the museum who has maintained the position the longest, The Children’s Museum has emerged as a leader in the GLAM-Wiki initiative,” Phillips said. “Case studies from our projects have served as models for institutions around the world, and we continue to share what we’ve learned at professional conferences in the U.S. and abroad.”

The demand from U.S. museums and other institutions to establish Wikipedian in Residence projects is quickly outpacing the current capacity of volunteers to support the needs. Thus some of Phillips’ priorities as 2012 coordinator include establishing a system for connecting local Wikipedians with interested cultural institutions; establishing resources that facilitate cultural professionals and academics contributing their expertise to Wikimedia projects; liaising with technical volunteers to promote their creation and improvement; and developing a model for partnerships that becomes self-sustaining by 2013.

“Without the Children’s Museum’s support, I would not have had the opportunity to prove what I knew to be true: that Wikipedia is and will remain an important platform for sharing cultural heritage on a global scale,” Phillips said. “I’m thankful to have had this chance, and to have the Wikimedia Foundation recognize this as a continuing need within the cultural sector.”