Part 1: Making Wikipedia "GLAM-friendly"

Recently there has been a flurry of activity in the Gallery, Library, Archive and Museum (GLAM) sector  about how they can be more “Wikipedia-friendly” both directly and indirectly. But, what’s been happening in the Wikimedia world to make it more “GLAM-friendly”? Actually, a fair bit.

[This is the sign outside “the Domain“, a public park in Sydney, but I would like to think that it applies equally to the Public Domain of creative works. Creative works should be used, not just admired from behind a fence].

But before I get to that (in part 2), here is blogpost part 1. listing just some of the things coming out of the GLAM sector that Wikimedians might be interested in.

1. Collections are for use, but is Wikipedia the prime outlet?” by Josh Hadro at This article states that:

“Special collections are for use…However, opening up digitized special collections to the broadest possible usage isn’t always easy, according to participants, though others stressed the importance of libraries making their collections’ presence known on popular sites.”

It goes on to explicitly discuss the possibility of working with Wikipedia in linking out to library’s special collection archives.

2. Five rules for museum content” by Seb Chan from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney (with whom Wikimedia Australia has worked closely with in the past). These “rules” are that museum content (not limited to object but also the information about those objects) should be:

  • Discoverable – it is where I am and where I look for it.
  • Meaningful – I can understand it.
  • Responsive – to my interests, mood, location.
  • Usable/Shareable – I can pass it on.
  • Available in three locations – online, onsite and offsite.

Combine these simple rules with the Powerhouse Museum’s funky new strategic plan (2009-2012) which calls for “Dissolve boundaries between exhibitions, programs, publications and web content” and “Increase the level of collection information available through open access…” and you have a museum that is trying to lead the way in being open to Wikipedians using and reusing their content.

3. Similarly, the Smithsonian museum has released its new strategy which calls for the creation of the “Smithsonian commons” (on their own blog) (on the Creative Commons blog) which calls for:

“Establish a pan-Institutional policy for sharing and using the Smithsonian’s digital content, with particular focus on Copyright and Public Domain policies that encourage the appropriate re-use and sharing of Smithsonian resources.”

4. The National Library of Australia is creating a “Copyright Status Calculator” which will AFAICT, automate much of the process of determining the copyright status of works in their collection and they intend on making it open source. Once modified for the local copyright laws/exceptions this could be a boon to the staff in GLAM institutions with the often thankless task of undertaking copyright assessment. This program is simple enough to explain but the devil is in the detail. It combines the metadata for the collection item with a flow-chart logic of copyright law. So long as the metadata is in a consistent format the system could conceivably chew through a large proportion of the collection relatively quickly giving precise information. All edge-cases could then be dealt with manually. Very cool. Currently, every single photograph in their collection contains this standard phrase, irrespective of the copyright status of the photo:

“You may save or print this image for research and study. If you wish to use it for any other purposes, you must complete the Request for permission form.” [See my previous post “the digital rail-gauge” for more extensive rant on this topic 🙂 ]
With that kind of automated tool institutions with large collections can safely make more nuanced access statements on most of their collection without increased labour time of individually checking records.

5. Responses to the “GLAM-WIKI recommendations” are starting to come in. Catherine Styles who was with the National Archives of Australia at the time of the conference has recently published her personal response to the recommendations and they are awesome. They point out that in many cases Wikimedians would love to help and do things, in our own esoteric way, that would otherwise cost the institution considerable time and money e.g. digital restoration and metadata cleanup. A theme running through the response is a desire to see a toolkit or training package developed specifically for the GLAM sector to understand all the interlocking issues being raised. Not simply “how to edit” but also more fundamental things like “why not non-commercial”.

5a. Another response to the GLAM-WIK recommendations that will be published soon (and I’m very excited to have heard this) is that the National Library of Australia has convened a high-level committee to make a formal response. As an organisation that already integrates Wikipedia into many of their services (more than anyone else worldwide as far as I know) they are in a fantastic position to really engage with these recommendations. For example, how many libraries do you know that put the Wikipedia biography of the person in their catalogue search records:


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5 Responses to Part 1: Making Wikipedia "GLAM-friendly"

  1. Pingback: Part 2: Making Wikipedia “GLAM-friendly” | Witty’s Blog

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  3. Links to this interesting blogpost are also available in the MuseumsWiki: Museums and Wikis, Museum Documentation and, and Museen und Wikipedia (German).

  4. 5a. […] how many libraries do you know that put the Wikipedia biography of the person in their catalogue search records

    Well, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library) doesn’t include Wikipedia biographies in the Name Authority File (PND), but links to it (e.g.

  5. Pingback: Why Flickr Commons? (and why Wikimedia Commons is very different)

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