Wikimania 2019: Creating visibility for the world’s cultural heritage institutions
From Ewan McAndrew
Through this presentation we will introduce the efforts to collect information about the cultural heritage institutions (often called GLAM, an acronym for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) of the world on Wikidata and what you, or your organization can contribute with. We will open the floor for discussions about challenges, possibilities and what we should try to accomplish under 2019.
There is currently no worldwide database of the world's museums, archives and libraries and their collections. By collecting this data in one accessible place more people can learn about others' cultures, giving them new insights and tools to understand and participate in a global, information-rich world. The data will also be of use for the institutions themselves, helping them gain protection through visibility. In many natural and man-made disasters, cultural heritage institutions have suffered, and the lack of basic information (e.g. their location) has made emergency response more difficult. Furthermore, this unique database has the potential to let institutions in different countries find each other more easily and initiate new partnerships to share a more complete picture of the world with the general public.
The thousands of cultural heritage institutions around the world are a key resource for the public, allowing them to identify where to create interest for knowledge and critical thinking and to find more information to develop an understanding of a topic and the world. A crucial task in any knowledge driven society.
A necessary condition for the institutions to be able to reach their target audience is that clear and accessible information is available about the institutions and their collections. However, this is dependent on them being aware of these resources existing in the first place, something this project will help them with.
GLAM institutions are also central partners for the Wikimedia movement as they are contributing to the work around free knowledge with unique materials, insights, expertise and visibility, to name a few. Better information about where the GLAM institutions are located and what collections they hold increase the possibilities for new and exciting partnerships.
FindingGLAMs (https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/FindingGLAMs) is a project led by Wikimedia Sverige, UNESCO and the Wikimedia Foundation aimed at collating a worldwide open access database of cultural heritage institutions and their collections. The intention is to work with multiple other actors in the GLAM sector and with Wikimedia movement affiliates and volunteers.
In order to make this information as useful as possible, we are working with Wikidata, a free and open database which is a sister site to Wikipedia. The data is structured, queryable and available under an open license, meaning it is not only easily shared on Wikipedia, but also accessible to external users. As a hub of machine-readable data, Wikidata is an invaluable resource for AI research and development, powering innovative tools and facilitating knowledge exchange on the web.
The Wikimedia platforms offer an opportunity to fill this gap, as they give experts and volunteers an arena to collaborate, as well the means to reach audiences around the world – in their own language. Through training, documentation and case studies, we are empowering cultural heritage institutions to share their knowledge and participate in the data collection, facilitating partnerships between the institutions and Wikimedia organizations and volunteers around the world. Our crowdsourcing tool (https://tools.wmflabs.org/monumental-glam/) helps them contribute to Wikidata with their local knowledge, filling in the gaps in existing datasets. Through these events and activities we further the participants’ understanding of how knowledge and information are created, developed and maintained on Wikipedia.
This work is building on great work by the wider community that has already added more that 80,000 institutions to Wikidata (millions are still remaining), and the work spearheaded by Wikimedia Switzerland to develop ways to structure data about GLAM institutions.
We are laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable collaboration between cultural heritage organisations and the Wikimedia movement – taking steps towards a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.
But we need more people to be involved. We need to identify existing datasets and prepare them for mass uploads. For datasets that are not yet under a free license we need to convince the data owners to release it. We need to add missing data through crowdsourcing campaigns. We need to connect the uploaded data to the different Wikimedia projects.