All quiet on the GLAM-wiki front

Two months on from the groundbreaking GLAM-wiki conference, where cultural workers and wikipedians met to consider mutual benefits of a partnership (I blogged about it here), I have been gathering some thoughts on the recommendations – and will post them soon. Strangely, very few people have publicly commented, notable exceptions being GerardM (a Dutch wikipedian), Liam himself, and (briefly) Mia Ridge, a London-based digital cultural worker. What’s with the silence?

Is there a good reason why no Australian cultural workers have commented publicly, or are you, like me, puzzled by the eerie quiet?

In my view, even cultural workers very pressed for time should be thinking about it, because that page of recommendations is an important work-in-progress. Why? Because everyone who works in a cultural institution is responsible in some way for enabling members of the public to access and engage with cultural heritage. I can’t think of a cultural institution whose mission is not to extend and enhance access to and engagement with cultural heritage. And from my perspective, the GLAM-wiki conference buzzed for the very reason that a partnership between the cultural and wiki sectors holds such promise.

If wikipedians and cultural workers could collaborate effectively, both sectors (and let’s face it, the public) would benefit immensely, as Liam suggested in the abstract for his presentation to Wikipedians about the GLAM-wiki conference:

[Wiki] projects have fantastic coverage – both breadth and depth – in popular culture but the same cannot be said for ‘high’ culture. […] if we hope to produce ‘the sum of all human knowledge’ then we need to address this gap. Where this information resides is in the world’s museums, libraries, archives and galleries and we must begin to work with these institutions – for our mutual benefit.

In other words, the wiki community is hoping to get hold of significant knowledge that is currently hidden from popular view because it resides only in cultural institutions. And for cultural institutions, their collection material could gain the popularity of Wikipedia.

So how come – and despite the wiki community’s enthusiasm – the cultural community seems so lukewarm? As cultural workers we might see the obstacles; but we can still seek the goal.

Is it that staff of cultural institutions don’t see the potential? Could it be that we have popularity ‘issues’? Or as a collective, are we simply (still) anti-Wikipedia? I’m curious to learn what others think.

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