MuseumNext Barcelona: A Wikipedian’s Perspective


From May 23 to 25, I had the amazing opportunity to represent Wikimedia at MuseumNext in Barcelona, joining four other Wikimedians from countries throughout Europe.  Now in its fourth year, MuseumNext brings together an international group of cultural professionals to share best practices in digital engagement in museums. In addition to presenting about QRpedia, our group was personally invited to coordinate a Wikipedia Lounge dedicated to helping museum professionals connect with the GLAM-Wiki community.

It was great to see Wikipedia emerge as a timely and relevant resource at MuseumNext.  Not only were our presentation and Wikipedia Lounge met with enthusiasm, but Wikipedia was also a recurring theme throughout the conference. Wikipedia was mentioned in three of the four keynotes, and was used as the core example of “community sourcing” by Nancy Proctor, Head of Mobile Strategies at the Smithsonian. This reaffirmed the sense that we got from the American Association of Museums last month: Wikipedians are beyond convincing museums of the why; we’re now onto the how. In fact, that’s what we spent a lot of time doing at our Wikipedia Lounge at MuseumNext. It was all how and hardly any why.

This year, it’s become clear that museums are ready to use external platforms to share the majority of their content, rather than maintaining silos of hoarded information on their websites. Wikipedians have been making this argument, albeit in a focused, specific way, for the past two years. (“Go where your audience is!”)  It was only a year ago that forward-thinking museum professionals began to more pointedly discuss the idea of distributed content. In April 2011, Koven Smith clearly challenged the status quo in his Ignite Smithsonian talk, “What’s the point of the museum website?” He argued that the current practice of keeping all content on museum websites is “reinventing the conestoga wagon,” rather than taking advantage of the abundance of platforms at our disposal.

Now, a year later, sharing content on external platforms has become accepted practice, and Wikipedia is the platform everyone wants to better utilize. Wikipedia is one piece of a much wider content-puzzle that museums are just beginning to sift through. Thankfully, Wikipedia is the low-hanging fruit for museums looking to share content.  It has one of the widest user bases, needs the expert content residing in museums, and there’s an established community dedicated to helping museums share this content.  This was the first time that I’ve seen museum professionals tell each other, repeatedly, that connecting with the Wikipedia community is a good idea. For Wikipedians, that’s a great position to be in.

Image: cc by-sa 3.0 Alex Hinojo

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