Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

02 May 2013

Wikipedian in Residence: conclusions

My residency at the British Library is coming to an end today, and so it seemed a good chance to look back at what we've done over the past twelve months. It's been a very productive and very interesting year.

The residency was funded by AHRC, who aimed to help find ways for researchers and academics to engage with new communities through Wikipedia, and disseminate the material they were producing as widely as possible. To help with this, we organised a series of introductory workshops; these were mostly held at the British Library, with several more at the University of London (two at Birkbeck and three at Senate House) and others scattered from Southampton to Edinburgh. Through the year, these came to fifty sessions for over four hundred people, including almost a hundred Library staff both in London and at Boston Spa, and another fifty Library readers in London! Attendees got a basic introduction to Wikipedia - how it works, how to edit it, and how to engage with its community - as well as the opportunity to experiment with using the site.

As well as building a broad base of basic skills and awareness, we also worked with individual projects to demonstrate the potential for engagement in specific case. At the Library, the International Dunhuang Project organised a multi-day, multi-language, editing event in October; IDP staff, student groups, and Wikipedia volunteers worked on articles about central Asian archaeology, creating or improving around fifty articles.

At the Library, one of the most visible outcomes has been the "Picturing Canada" project, digitising around 4,000 photographs from the Canadian Copyright Collection, with funding from Wikimedia UK and the Eccles Centre for American Studies. We've released around 2,000 images so far, as JPEGs and as high-resolution TIFFs, with the full collection likely to be available by early June (we've just found enough left in the budget to do an extra batch of postcards). Other content releases have included digitised books, historic photographs, collection objects, and ancient manuscripts (below).

We also hosted the GLAM-Wiki conference in April, which was a great success, with over 150 attendees and speakers from around the world. Several of the presentations are now online.

While I'm leaving the Library, some of these projects I've been working on will be continuing - we still have another 2,000 of the Canadian photographs to be released, for example! We're also hoping to host some more workshops here in the future (possibly as part of the upcoming JISC program). I'll still be contactable, and I'm happy to help with any future projects you might have in mind; please do get in touch if there's something I can help you with.


Alexander in a submarine - British Library Royal MS 15 E vi f20v (detail)
Library curators exploring a new world (or, Alexander the Great being lowered into the water in a submarine); BL Royal MS 15 E vi f20v.


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