A few weeks ago I wrote about my priorities during this “fellowship” year – one of which was the concept of the “Wikimedia GLAM Ambassador“. In this post I will try to explain what this means in theory, what has happened so far in practice, and what we hope to do next. I’m writing this on my way to the way to the annual Wikimedia Chapters’ meeting in Berlin. I’ll be there talking with representatives from all the Chapters so we can learn from our failures and successes, can share best-practices and make plans for the coming years. On the way I stopped for a meetup in Singapore and then in Barcelona to give a guest lecture at the university and present at their GLAM-WIKI conference.1
[Participants at GLAM-WIKI:Barcelona in the gorgeous foyer of the Museu Picasso]
Both of these cities have massive GLAM-Wikimedia collaborative potential but have quite different situations. In the citystate of Singapore there is a density of “national” institutions (library, museum, zoo etc.) but no regular Wikimeetups, much less a Chapter. In the regional capital Barcelona there are a plethora of historic landmarks and fine art museums and has an active local Wikimedia group as well as a national Chapter. Both cities straddle multiple languages and are desperate to display their unique culture to the rest of the world – Singapore especially for its gardens and it’s cross-cultural heritage, Barcelona especially for its artistic heritage and public architecture. In both of these cities I believe that the “Ambassadors” could be a successfully way of building/maintaing GLAM-Wikimedia relationships, and if that’s true for Singapore and Barcelona then it should be true for anywhere!
1 – Theory
There are two central purposes to the idea of a Wikimedia GLAM Ambassador:
- For Wikimedians it is a way for people to volunteer to represent our movement in an in-real-life capacity in their own city.
- For GLAMs it is to provide an appropriate local contact for when a GLAM asks “who do you call when you want to work with Wikipedia?”.
Ideally we will end up with a world map with a pin on every major city or region representing a local, trained, approachable, volunteer that GLAMs can “cold call” to arrange multimedia donation, ask for a meeting and localised documentation, organise a ‘Wikipedian in Residence’, or simply learn how to edit Wikipedia as subject-area experts. Having a GLAM ambassador in a city doesn’t mean that other Wikimedians aren’t allowed to do outreach too it just makes it easier to coordinate – much like the Campus Ambassador project.
Of course both of these already have an answer – the Chapters – whose purpose is to be able to run local programs, be the point of contact, and represent the Wikimedia movement especially in the area of cultural partnerships. In countries where a Chapter is already managing successful GLAM relationships it would be counterproductive for an Ambassador to exist without the support of their Chapter. However, not all places have Chapters or, when they do exist, the don’t necessarily have the financial/administrative capacity to support GLAM activities across their country.
So, we have at least three situations. Places where:
1) a Chapter exists, has the capacity and interest to work with GLAMs and is already doing so (e.g. Wikimedia Nederlands).
2) a Chapter exists but does not necessarily have the capacity to formally run GLAM projects, often because of geographical diversity (e.g. Wikimedia Australia – we can’t be everywhere at once).
3) no Chapter exists but the local community still wishes to undertake GLAM projects. A good example is Washington DC where there are many active projects going on but with no funding or organisational support from a Chapter because there is no Wikimedia-USA or Wikimedia-DC [yet].
How to support cultural partnership activities across all of these places in a way that supports any existing work? If we look just at Ambassador recruitment I would suggest that:
In situations like (1) an Ambassador system could become a program that the Chapter supports directly (financially and/or organisationally) by nominating their own Ambassadors, training them etc. In situations like (2) Ambassadors would self-nominate but should as a minimum be approved by, and remain in regular contact with, the Chapter so they can grow together. And in situations like (3) the local community such as a Wikiproject would need to list their support for a self-nominated Ambassador. Overseeing all this would be a GLAM Ambassadors Steering Committee to make sure the system works.
Let’s also be clear: if GLAM-Wikimedia collaborations are working well already in a country in some completely independent manner, that’s fantastic. There is no obligation on anyone to work in this structure and furthermore this structure is not an imposition on any existing program. I have no budget nor to “force” this idea – it’s just an idea
2 – Practice
Based on discussions on the GLAM hub at OutreachWiki (http://glamwiki.org) and on the cultural partners mailinglist I am pleased to say that we have already begun work setting this up. An open call was made and we now have a Steering Committee that’s working to create a position description, criteria for approval of a self-nominated Ambassador (especially with regards to pseudonymity), and responding to the initial group of nominees (listed here).
To that end I’m pleased to announce that, with the formal approval of the steering committee, Wikimedia España and the Catalan Wikipedia community, Àlex [user:Kippelboy] from Barcelona is Wikimedia’s first official GLAM Ambassador!
He was the convener of yesterday’s GLAM-WIKI:Barcelona conference which was attended by over 100 representatives from cultural organisations large and small across Catalonia. I have the strong suspicion that he will be very busy in the next few weeks responding to partnership requests! Congratulations Àlex.
[Especial thanks to Conxa Roda (@innova2) from the Museu Picasso for hosting this event. She first encountered the Wikiverse at the Wikimedia@Museums and the Web conference in Denver last year. Since then she has become one of the best GLAM friends to Wikimedia.]
3- What next
The immediate next step is for me to talk with Chapter representatives at the Berlin meeting and relay any ideas/questions to the steering committee. Ideally, I would like to see if any Chapters in situation 1 (above) would be interested in creating a paid position of “outreach coordinator” to help facilitate a network of volunteer GLAM and Campus ambassadors across their country. More broadly we’ll start to create some documentation and case studies (project page) that Ambassadors can translate and perhaps organise some merchandise! Finally, the New York Public Library has generously agreed to host “GLAMcamp” in late May. This will be an opportunity to have a cross-disciplinary working weekend for people in the Wikiverse involved in cultural sector outreach – stay tuned…
1My guest lecture was built around the question: “What is is the value proposition of museums in an age of information abundance: Haute Couture or Search Engine” My keynote presentation at the conference was based on these slides.