THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

5 posts categorized "Wikipedia"

14 June 2021

Adding Data to Wikidata is Efficient with QuickStatements

Add comment

Once I was set up on Wikipedia (see Triangulating Bermuda, Detroit and William Wallace), I got started with Wikidata. Wikidata is the part of the Wikimedia universe which deals with structured data, like dates of birth, shelf marks and more.

Adding data to Wikidata is really simple: it just requires logging into Wikidata (or creating an account if you don’t already have one) and then pressing edit on any page. you want to edit.

Image of a Wikidata entry about Earth
Editing Wikidata

If the page doesn’t already exist, then creating it is also very simple: just select ‘create a new item’ from the menu on the left-hand side of the page.

When using Wikidata, there are some powerful tools which make adding data quicker and easier. One of these is Quick Statements. Unfortunately, using QuickStatements requires that you have made 50 edits on Wikidata before you make your first batch. Fortunately, it is rather quicker than Citation Hunt (for which, see Triangulating Bermuda, Detroit and William Wallace).

Image of Wikidata menu with 'Create a new item' highlighted
Creating a new item in Wikidata

I made those 50 edits very quickly, by setting up Wikidata item pages for each of the sample items from the India Office Records that we are working with (at the moment we are prioritising adding information about the records; further work will take place before any digitised items are uploaded to Wikimedia platforms). Basic information was added to each of the item pages.

Q107074264 (India Office List January 1885)

Q107074434 (India Office List July 1885)

Q107074463 (India Office List January 1886)

Q107074676 (India Office List July 1886)

Q107074754 (India Office List 1886 Supplement)

Q107074810 (1888-9 Report on the Administration of Bengal)

Q107074801 (1889-90 Report on the Administration of Bengal)

Once I had done this, it became clear that I needed to create more general pages, which could contain the DOIs that link back to the digitised records which are currently only accessible via batch download through the British Library research repository.

Q107134086 Page for administrative reports (V/10/60-1) in general.

Q107136752 Page for India lists (v/13/173-6) in general.

Image of the WikiProject page for the India Office Records
The WikiProject page for the India Office Records

The final preparatory step was to create a WikiProject page, which will facilitate collaboration on the project. This page contains links to all the pages involved in the project and will soon also contain useful resources such as templates for creating new pages as part of the project and queries for using the data.

After this, I began to experiment with Quick Statements, making heavy use of the useful guide to it available on Wikidata.

I decided to upload information on members of a particular regiment in Bengal, since this was information I could easily copy into a spreadsheet because the versions of the reports in the British Library research repository support Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

Image of the original India Office List containing information on members of the 14th Infantry Regiment
Section of the original India Office List containing information on members of the 14th Infantry Regiment (IOR/V/6/175, page 258)

Finally, once I had done all of this, I met with the curators of the India Office Records for feedback and suggestions. It became clear from this that there was in fact some confusion about the exact identification of the regiment they were involved in. Fortunately, it turned out we had identified the correct regiment, but had we made a mistake, it would have just required a simple batch of the Quick Statement edits to quickly put right.

Image of a section of a spreadsheet of members of the 14th Infantry Regiment
Section of my spreadsheet of members of the 14th Infantry Regiment

All in all, I can recommend using Wikidata and I hope I have shown that I can be a useful tool, but also that it is easy to use. The next step for our Wikidata project will be to upload templates and case studies to help and support future volunteer editors to develop it further. We will also add resources to support research on the uploaded data.

Image of Quick Statements for adding gender to each of the pages for the officers
Screenshot of Quick Statements for adding gender to each of the pages for the officers

This is a guest post by UCL Digital Humanities MA student Dominic Kane.

02 June 2021

Triangulating Bermuda, Detroit and William Wallace

Add comment

Last Monday I began a work placement with the British Library working with its Wikimedian-in-Residence, Dr Lucy Hinnie, to add information and text from the India Office Records to Wikisource and Wikidata.

My first day mainly consisted of a several different meetings. I was introduced to the team dealing with the India Office Records, which really helped me to get a better sense of the importance of the project and its key objectives. I then attended a metadata workshop (metadata is, generally speaking, data about data, e.g. the author of a book, the time a photo was taken etc). This introduced me to the British Library’s current metadata practices and will be very useful when I begin to upload data to Wikidata in ensuring it is as useful as possible. Finally, I attended a meeting with the curators of the Contemporary British collections, which gave me an overview of the range of the Library’s activities online, its current and future exhibitions and its holdings.

On my second day, I finished my basic Wikipedia training and moved on to getting fully registered, which is needed if you want to add new pages to Wikipedia. This requires 10 edits to existing Wikipedia pages. The fastest way to do this was by completing Citation Hunt, according to Dr Hinnie. What she did not mention was Citation Hunt is roughly what would happen if the British Library catalogue and the Easter Bunny came together to plan an Easter egg hunt in St Pancras.

Screen grab showing the interface for Citation Hunt
Screenshot of Citation Hunt

Citation Hunt gives a random passage of Wikipedia in need of citation and you can either add a citation or skip to another. As you might imagine, these pages are completely unrelated to one another. As such, Citation Hunt had me trawling the internet for such delights as:

• Proof that William Wallace appeared in Age of Empires II. Unfortunately, ‘I remember that bit from when I played’ does not meet Wikipedia’s reliable source guidelines. (William Wallace - Wikipedia)

• A discussion of the OECD ‘Acquis Communautaire.’ (Acquis communautaire - Wikipedia)

• The amount of RAM of in an Atari 1040ST, even though that computer is well and truly before my time. (Atari ST - Wikipedia)

• Evidence that Bill Gates invested in a particular company. (Bill Gates - Wikipedia)

I also found myself lost in the Bermudan Economy (Economy of Bermuda - Wikipedia) and growing into researching commercial agriculture (Ethylene - Wikipedia). Most surreal of all was adding directions from Google Maps for the relative locations of two places in Detroit. (Detroit - Wikipedia) I have never been to Detroit…

Ending my first week, I attended a meeting of the British Library’s Digital Scholarship team. It was really interesting to hear about all the different digital initiatives going on, both within the BL and in partnership with other organisations.

This week, I'm having further training on the tools I will need to use for this project and then, for the remaining four weeks of the placement, I will be uploading and enriching data from the India Office Records.

I look forward to updating you soon on the progress I make!

This is a guest post by UCL Digital Humanities MA student Dominic Kane.

26 May 2021

Endangered Archives and Notable Women

Add comment

At the beginning of this month, I began a work placement with the British Library's Endangered Archives Programme (EAP). The EAP hosted a group of University College London students for several projects, and I was working to further connect EAP collections with Wikimedia. We were able to tailor the project to our interests, which meant that I was able to spend my placement researching and writing about two pioneering women photographers, Marie-Lydie Bonfils (EAP644) and Annemarie Heinrich (EAP755).

Creating a Wikipedia article

I began with Marie-Lydie Bonfils (1837–1918), an early woman photographer and co-owner of the Maison Bonfils studio in Beirut. The Bonfils family archive was digitised in a 2013 project between the EAP and the Jafet Memorial Library, American University of Beirut, and the physical archive is currently preserved at the Sursock Museum.

Perhaps unsurprisingly to those interested in women’s history, while her husband, Félix Bonfils, already had his own Wikipedia article, Marie-Lydie did not. So, I created a new article for her, adding to Félix’s along the way as well. I worked from as many biographical sources as I could possibly access online, including the excellent EAP blog post on Marie-Lydie.

Image of Marie-Lydie Cabanis Bonfils Wikipedia entry
Marie-Lydie Cabanis Bonfils' Wikipedia entry

Wikipedia’s notability criteria were a concern for me when publishing. Topics on Wikipedia must be considered “notable” to avoid needless and self-promotional content. This can have the unintended consequence of noteworthy articles being removed if they are not able to demonstrate their significance to other users. Balancing the objective language of Wikipedia with the need to persuade others of Marie-Lydie’s importance was something I had to be careful of when writing the text.

Once published, the article was given a C rating, which shows room for improvement and expansion. As I was waiting in suspense to see if the article would be removed entirely, a C was really quite exciting! Wikipedia articles are ongoing, collaborative projects rather than the completed essays that I am more used to in my studies. This has encouraged me to have a different and more productive mindset about my work more broadly.

Editing a Wikipedia article

Next, I began to look into Annemarie Heinrich (1912–2005). A German photographer who lived most of her life in Argentina, Heinrich was particularly famous for her celebrity portraits, such as those of Carmen Miranda, Pablo Neruda and Eva Perón. Her archive was added to the EAP collections in 2016, in a project with the Institute for Research in Art and Culture, Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Argentina. I expanded upon Heinrich’s short existing Wikipedia article.

On beginning my research, I discovered that her article on Spanish Wikipedia was much more extensive. This provided a useful starting point for biographical information and tracking down additional citations (thank you GCSE Spanish!). Heinrich’s lack of recognition on the English-speaking web made research difficult, but also highlighted the importance of adding more information about her onto English Wikipedia.

Black and white image of Annemarie Heinrich
A portrait of Annemarie Heinrich, date unknown. Public Domain.

Wrapping my head around Wikidata

I was also introduced to Wikidata on my placement, another of Wikimedia’s projects consisting of open linked data and a completely unknown field to me. On the placement, we were able to attend the IFLA Wikidata and Wikibase Working Group office hour. The thought-provoking whistle-stop tour of the platform that we were given in this meeting had me creating an account immediately after closing the Zoom call tab.

Image of the Wikidata logo
Wikidata logo, Public Domain.,

As expected due to their Wikipedia articles, Félix Bonfils and Annemarie Heinrich had Wikidata item entries already, but so did Marie-Lydie, their son, Adrien, and Maison Bonfils. This is likely because of the generally less intensive notability criteria on Wikidata.

I did have a few challenges with Wikidata over my second week. One arose when I tried to add the EAP to the Bonfils’ items. Adrien Bonfils had an existing property for “has works in the collection”, with museums and galleries listed, so I added the EAP to this section. However, on looking at a similar artist’s item entry, I found that there is also a property for “archives at” that might better apply.

Image of a Wikidata entry about the Bonfils Collection
Wikidata entry for the Bonfils Collection

Seeing this, I not only realised that I might have used the wrong category, but also that there might be others that were more relevant that I just hadn’t seen yet! Being able to search for each qualifier allows for a flexible and tailored user experience but, for a newbie, the amount of choice can be a bit overwhelming! The upside is that Wikidata is quite forgiving, with changes easily made and explanatory symbols popping up when the system recognises a mistake (as can be seen in the image below).

Image of amended Wikidata entry for the Bonfils Collection
Amended Wikidata entry for the Bonfils Collection on Wikidata

To sum up, researching the lives and careers of these women photographers from the EAP collections has been fascinating. It has been so rewarding to help to increase their online discoverability, and that of the EAP.

Working remotely, this placement was bound to be unusual in some ways, but the BL team was really welcoming and encouraged us all to ask lots of questions (which I absolutely did!). I have learnt a lot about Wikimedia in these few weeks and I will definitely continue exploring and making edits in the future.

This is a guest post by UCL Archives and Records Management MA student and recent Wiki convert, Hope Lowther (@hopelowther)

13 May 2021

Getting a head start for the online Urban Tree Wikithon

Add comment

We could not be more excited about the upcoming Urban Tree Festival and our Wikithon. If you’d like to join in the fun, there’s plenty of time! Come along to our online event on Saturday 15th May at 11:00 BST for free training and information. You do not need any prior Wikipedia experience and we have nurtured a forest of useful resources to share with you.

Two apples on a branch, one of them is a Wikipedia globe, the background is dark green

If you’d like to get a head start, you can read our handy guide to setting up your Wikipedia account. There is advice on creating your account, Wikipedia's username policy and how to create your user page.

Once you have done that, or if you already have a Wikipedia account, please join our Urban Tree Wikithon dashboard (the enrollment passcode is vmqytwdr) and go through the introductory exercises, which cover:

  • Wikipedia Essentials
  • Editing Basics
  • Evaluating Articles and Sources
  • Contributing Images and Media Files
  • Sandboxes and Mainspace
  • Sources and Citations
  • Plagiarism

These exercises aren’t time consuming – it’s definitely not an Entmoot situation – and they will help you prepare for editing Wikipedia during the Urban Tree Festival.

The easiest and swiftest way to verify your Wikipedia account is to do 10 small edits, one way to do this is to find articles where citations are needed, and add them via Citation Hunt (please make sure you are logged in for this!). For further information on adding citations, this video may be useful.

While it’s nice to be prepared, we understand that life is hectic and we are all busy bees, so if you don’t have a chance to do these activities in advance, it’s no problem. We will provide instructions on how to start from scratch at the session this Saturday.

Absolutely anyone can edit Wikipedia, and we can’t wait to help you on your way.

‘Tree’ you later!

This post is by Wikimedian in Residence Lucy Hinnie (@BL_Wikimedian) & Digital Curator Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom). Embedded videos are by Ewan McAndrew (@emcandre), Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.

07 May 2021

Laying Down Roots With WikTreePedia

Add comment

If there’s one thing we love here at the Library, it’s trees. They help make books, they’ve kept many of us grounded over the last year of Covid-19 lockdowns, and each and every one of them holds a unique and special history. London itself is home to over 8 million trees, trees like these in our towns and cities are celebrated annually by the wonderful Urban Tree Festival.

This year, the festival runs from 15–23 May and will consist primarily of online events. As part of the Wikimedia residency at the Library, we will be running an online Urban Tree Wikithon to create, edit and improve articles about trees on Wikipedia.

Two apples on a branch, one of them is a Wikipedia globe, the background is dark green

Working together with library innovator, Marion Tessier, literary tree enthusiast, Dr Danielle Howarth, plus Dr Sara Thomas and Stuart Prior from Wikimedia UK, we are excited to be exploring trees from many angles: historical (like some of the oldest trees in the UK), geographical (such as the most northern tree in the world), political (did you know about Glasgow’s Suffragette oak?) and literary (who could forget good old Treebeard or the Faraway Tree?).

If you have a hankering for all things arboreal, come and join us - Wikipedia editing training will be freely provided at our online launch event on Saturday 15th May at 11:00 BST, plus there will be some drop-in online sessions through the week of the festival to support and nurture your article acorns.

No previous editing experience is needed, we will have a forest of useful resources, hints and tips to help guide you on your way. During the festival please use use #wiktreepedia on social media to share details of your work in progress, including links to tree related articles that you create or improve, or photographs of trees that you have added to Wikimedia Commons.

At the end of the festival, we will celebrate the fruits of our labours at a Show & Tell event on Sunday 23rd May at 11:00 BST.

This post is by Wikimedian in Residence Lucy Hinnie (@BL_Wikimedian) & Digital Curator Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom).