Wiki project adds Western knowledge to mix

Debora Van Brenk // Western NewsMetadata librarian Erin Johnson is leading an initiative to share public-domain resources at Western during Wiki gatherings at the D.B. Weldon Library.

From the prosaic to the arcane, Wikipedia offers a world of factual tidbits, images and data about millions of people, places and things. Now a group of volunteers is looking to add Western-rich content to a number of entries in the crowd-sourced public database.

Metadata librarian Erin Johnson is a volunteer leading the project, which aims to be a central space where wiki editors and the university community can work together to integrate Western resources into Wikipedia and its sister sites such as Wikidata and Wikimedia.

The GLAM-Wiki initiative – GLAM being an acronym for galleries, libraries archives and museums – helps cultural institutions share their resources with the world through collaborative projects with experienced Wikipedia editors.

With this launch, Western becomes one of the first GLAM-Wiki collaborations in Ontario. (University of Toronto also has a GLAM page that began a few months ago, but Western is the only university in Ontario listed on the GLAM Project page.)

“With Wikipedia being a huge resource, we should contribute to it as higher institutions. It’s a for-the-greater-good sort of project,” Johnson said.

The project seeks volunteers to help code materials in the Western collection in a way that makes it easier for Wikipedia editors to discover and cite them when composing entries on everything from glacial age Arva to education in rural Zimbabwe.

For example, Western volunteers could upload Western-held archival photos in the public domain so that the images could be used to support content of existing Wiki articles. Then, by using metadata descriptions, people searching for specific information could find Western-attributed materials and, in turn, use them as citations for expanding Wiki articles.

One source of content for Wiki articles could be Scholarship@Western, a collection of open-access publications that highlight original Western research.

“These are documents that might ordinarily be locked away and now they’re being opened up to the world,” Johnson said.

Another potential project is to add metadata about Western’s historical map collection, also accessible through Scholarship@Western, to Wikimedia.

The possibilities for knowledge-sharing and for Western source material to be integrated into Wiki entries are intriguing and almost unlimited, she said.

The work would be done by volunteer, grassroots contributors and no prior experience as a Wiki editor is necessary. “Everyone should participate, whether you have expertise or not. If you’ve edited in MS Word, you can probably edit in Wikipedia.”

The group has launched with two events – the Juno’s edit-a-thon held yesterday and a monthly gathering, Wiki Tuesdays, on the first Tuesday of every month beginning on April 2, in the Instruction Room at the D.B. Weldon Library.