From Sausages to Freedom

Recently I was invited to make two presentations, about the nature of the GLAM sector’s relationship to Wikimedia, one day apart – the first in London and the second in Stockholm.

[The imposing looking Nordiska Museet, Stockholm.
Photo by Elephi Pelephi – CC-by-NC]

The title of this blogpost is the same as that of my second presentation and refers to one of the phrases that I often use when describing Wikipedia – an extension of a phrase often misattributed to Otto von Bismarck:

“People who like sausages and the law should not see either being made”

I add then add the line:

“The same is true for encyclopedias – though the process of making them is messy the outcome is good. You can be sure that every other encyclopedia has the same debates as we do, we just have them in public with makes for greater transperancy.”

London

This presentation was given the billing “everything you wanted to know about Wikipedia but were too afraid to ask” – which is a very large claim to try and live up to, but I tried my best! It was two two-hour presentations to a total of 60 members of the museum sector from across London and the region. It was great to see the diversity of organisations attending – everything from modern art museums to historic houses, from globally renowned institutions to volunteer-run historic trusts.

The seminars were arranged by Culture 24 (namely Jane Finnis and Ruth Harper) a fantastically groovy organisation that provides listings, reviews, events and resources for the UK GLAM sector and hosted by JISC who are all about IT and culture. I published my slides here, and Culture 24 even published a follow-up interview 🙂 As a result of this event I’ve been contacted by a number of UK museums who want to know more about Wikipedia and how they can have a more pro-active relationship with the Wikimedia community. A few are specifically looking at bringing on board their very own Wikipedian in Residence too!

Stockholm

When Kajsa Hartig from the photographic department of the Nordiska Museet in Stockholm (whom I first met in Denver recently) started talking about organising a workshop day about Wikipedia and free-licensing for all of Sweden’s museums, Wikimedia Sverige and I were only too pleased to get involved. Wikimedia Sverige blogged about the event afterwards here (Swedish – google translate to English here). It was a highly successful day with a packed house of 80 GLAM representatives from across the country (including Norway) attending on relatively short notice.

The video of my keynote presentation is here, and here are the slides that went along with it (both free licensed, as always).

Two things I’ve learned about the Swedish GLAM sector:

  • There are no volunteers in Swedish GLAM organisations

This is because of the union fears that volunteers will be used to undercut the work of employed staff. So my usual line about “every museum has a volunteer program, how many have an e-volunteer program” fell flat, oh well 🙂

  • The idea that a GLAM would claim copyright in a scan or a photo of a photo is surprising to the Swedish sector.

Indeed, the fact that this is such a fraught issue between the Wikimedia community and the GLAM sector elsewhere in the world is surprising to them. It was just perfectly obvious to them that a public institution shouldn’t even want to claim copyright in a scan of something that’s out of copyright even if they could legally, which they can’t either.  So, all my usual pussy-footing around the subject was a bit pointless because no one thought it was a controversial topic. What a difference a short flight makes.

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