One Small Museum Making a Big Impact: An Interview with Roger Bamkin

Roger Bamkin is not only the Chairman of the board of Wikimedia UK, but has also emerged as a leader in the GLAM-Wiki community over the past year. He has coordinated a number of projects at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, including a multi-lingual challenge, which aimed to increase and improve articles related to the museum in as many languages as possible. This contest was made possible by the creation of QRpedia, a special QR code that directs users to the Wikipedia article on a topic in your own language.

Read on to discover how Wikipedia, combined with a savvy new tool, helped a small regional museum become relevant to a global audience. You can visit Lori’s blog for the full interview.

It took the boldness of one curator to step out and try two cutting edge ideas: Wikipedia and QR codes. How did this come about?
We had planned to do a multi-lingual contest in Derby as we thought it would allow British Wikipedia editors to create new articles. I began discussing why we couldn’t use Wikipedia to create the museum labels. Nick Moyes, a former curator of the museum, did not know much about QR codes but agreed to give it a try. Within three days we had created codes that directed to Wikipedia articles and installed them on labels in the exhibits.

But how could we sell the idea of the multi-lingual challenge when QR codes only worked in one language? That problem is what led to the conception of QRpedia.

How did the Derby Museum’s multi-lingual challenge surprise you?
The plan had been to engage British people whose first language was not English. In the end, we had only a few British editors and many more international editors. The editors came from over 20 countries including Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya and many European countries. There are now over 1,200 articles that can be read in 55 languages (up from approximately five).

Another surprise was in how the volunteers congregated around QRpedia rather than the museum. QRpedia has now been adopted by museums in the US and Spain, with the original QRpedia translators assisting with these projects. The Wikipedians who helped with Derby can, in some cases. not talk to each other because of language barriers, but between us we are bringing down the barriers for any museum visitor.

How has Derby Museum’s QRpedia project shown how small museums can reach global audiences?
We have many more online visitors from outside the UK than we have in Derby in person. The ranking of a website in Google is largely based on how many other web sites link to your website and how important those websites are. We know that the multi-lingual challenge resulted in the positions of Derby Museum-related objects moving slightly higher up the search rankings. In other languages, the effect is much more marked. If I look at your city on a Google Map in Belerusian, Finnish, or Indonesian, will your museum appear? Derby Museum does. The number of people who read our articles is over 100,000 in Russia alone.

What are your hopes for the future of QRpedia in museums?
I know that we have turned the museum inside out. I’m hoping that one day I will follow a Russian around a museum in Vietnam, and, despite the fact that neither of us can read the labels nor speak to curators, we can smile at each other as we both read slightly different articles that describe the same object in two different languages. Now that would be success — and we’re getting there.

This is the first in what will be a sporadic series of interviews with museum technologists and Wikipedians who are carrying out unique and promising collaborative projects.


One Response to “One Small Museum Making a Big Impact: An Interview with Roger Bamkin”

  1. Helen Osborne says:

    I was delighted to discover this – I used to live in Derbyshire and remember the old Derby museum – now in California and haven’t seen such an imaginative use of technology here yet. I really hope it spreads to other museums here so that I can see how well it works in person.

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