As a museum studies student I have always looked forward to attending the American Association of Museums (AAM) annual meeting, where thousands of museum professionals nerd-out in over 100 sessions on museum theory and best practice. But, I would never have guessed that my first time at AAM would involve chairing a session …on Wikipedians in Residence no less! Add to that a virtual session for the online conference and an informal Q&A at the Marketplace of Ideas, and I was one busy emerging museum professional soaking in a shockingly Wikipedia-friendly conference.
Let me back up. Two years ago, Wikipedians would not have been considered an integral part of any museum’s mission. It was only after the GLAM-Wiki initiative became more formalized in their outreach efforts that institutions such as the British Museum and the Smithsonian began to pave the way towards legitimizing the concept of GLAM-Wikimedia collaboration. The GLAM-Wiki initiative has come far since those early days, and interest has exploded in cultural institutions all over the world.
It was this interest that led us to be invited to participate in the 2012 AAM annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Five Wikipedians in Residence from three continents came together to discuss the potential for GLAM-Wiki partnerships in museums. Our virtual and on-site panel, titled “Wikipedia and the Museum: Lessons from Wikipedians in Residence,” shared different types of outreach events, methods for connecting with the Wikimedia community, and resources for helping museums get started with a project. Throughout the conference, the sparkly, new GLAM-Wiki US portal was promoted as a tool for US-based museums to connect with the Wikimedia community.
As the week went on, we were extremely encouraged to find that museum professionals no longer needed to be convinced of Wikipedia’s relevance in their institutions; in fact, many were eager and ready to get started with a project. We were also surprised to find that some sessions included GLAM-Wiki as a model project within broader topic areas, including global partnerships within children’s museums, transparency in the future of museum ethics, and “going beyond digitization.”
It’s safe to say that the 2012 AAM conference was a watershed moment for GLAM-Wikimedia collaboration. I’m proud that we’ve reached a point where the question is no longer “Why do I partner with Wikimedia?” but “How do I partner with Wikimedia?” Luckily for the museum sector, the GLAM-Wiki initiative is here to answer that very question!