Keep Austin Weird

I’m in Austin, Texas this week for the Museum Computer Network conference to talk about the British Museum project and generally fly the flag for free-culture.


I’ve never been to this part of the world and I’ve discovered that the local slogan for the “live music capital of the world” is KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD.


….or equally, “make Austin weirder”. This was a poster on the ceiling of a bar we visited last night. The (very) local band playing was called “Hug, Fuck Work” with such wonderful songs as Take off your pants, Car crash and Canadian bathroom. The lead singer was wearing a Kimono and the bass player an electrified sombrero. Yep… weird. But cool! The fact that it’s also Halloween weekend makes it even weirder.

Tomorrow I will be making a variation on the presentation that I gave at Wikimania this year. Here are those slides.

Presenting in the same session will be Richard McCoy and Lori Philips from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, talking about their public artwork outreach project on Wikipedia. They’ve got a lot of interesting stuff coming up and both Adrianne Wadewitz and I be visiting them next week in Indianapolis as part of their “Wikipedia and the Cultural Sector: Lecture and Workshop” and also the Wikipedia Backstage Pass event at the Children’s Museum.

One of the surprising things I’ve seen so far at this conference is the number of museum representatives who’ve come up to me and said “I read about how Wikipedia is collaborating with museums in that New York Times article [Noam Cohen’s, Venerable British Museum enlists in Wikipedia revolution] – our museum is interested in Working with Wikipedia too.” It seems that that article alone has gone a long way to increase the visibility and acceptability of GLAM-Wiki collaboration.

As the number and variety of potential collaboration project is increasing I am increasingly convinced that:

  • Since the Wikimedia Foundation does not (and should not) be directly involved in content projects, there really really needs to be a Wikimedia USA chapter. This might be as a ramping-up of Wikimedia NYC, some sort of collaboration of several US state-based Chapters, or a new National chapter altogether, but it needs to happen!
  • Once they’ve become stable (with fundraising infrastructure etc. in place) Wikimedia Chapters everywhere general should investigate hiring an “outreach coordinator” to professionally manage the relationship with the many GLAM organisation (also including educational organisations, media organisations etc. etc.) that are contacting Wikimedia wanting to run projects. Kind of like a more meta version of what I did at the British Museum.
 Austin skyline, by Visualist Images - CC by nc sa

Austin skyline, by Visualist Images: CC-by-nc-sa

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2 Responses to Keep Austin Weird

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  2. Aubrey says:

    Hi Liam, and thanks for sharing your thoughts about this GLAM trip. I bet I’m not the only one who’s really interested in what you are doing. Regarding the e-membership, having done few workshops with professionals (e.g. librarians) and other non-wikipedian people, I always feel a bit embarassed in telling them how Wikipedians can be rude or not-welcoming or not comprehensive. I mean, before suggesting an e-membership program to a GLAM, I would like to know if the Wikipedian community is by my side, and will elaborate a communal strategy to let the GLAM e-volunteers work and understand how Wikipedia (and sister-projects) works in a “protected” environment. I’ve seen to many times professionals in good-faith being “bited” and blocked with just few slang lines of explanation. What do you think about the issue? Are you warning the GLAMs about it?

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