Wednesday, 23 April 2008

"Collections" Wikis

I'm starting to feel a bit demotivated this week so I'm trying to keep myself interested by varying the tasks I'm doing. I think one problem is that I've read a good deal of the interesting stuff now, and I'm starting to have to plug the gaps in my reading with the dull stuff - it's not very stimulating!

Instead of reading or writing tonight, I'm going to look at some other museum wikis to prepare for my section that surveys how the museum, or rather heritage, sector is using wikis.

I won't really be focussing on the technical aspects (i.e. what wiki organisations have chosen to build their wiki in etc), others have covered that and I can't claim to be an expert. I'm more interested in what topics people are choosing to create wikis about, and who and how people are contributing. Content rather than technicalities basically.

Tonight I'll consider a couple of what I'll call 'Collecions Wikis' - i.e. Wikis which use objects or documents in their collections as a starting point for Wiki content. To start close to home, let's look first at the Science Museum Object Wiki. Frankie Roberto has blogged about this new project recently.

The Object Wiki was launched in March 2008.On its main page it introduces itself as follows: 'The website contains information about objects held in the museum's collections, selected from the Dan Dare exhibition. The website is a 'wiki', which means that anyone - including you - can contribute by adding information or your memories of the objects.' It currently contains 105 objects. At present, and correct me if I'm wrong, it appears that only Frankie and one of the Science Museum curators has changed any content. I don't think the Wiki has been officially launched yet though so this possibly explains why. The Science Museum's collections are arguably broader than the BPMA's and so might attract the attention of a wider audience. In addition, a massive museum like this one obviously has a large audience that cannot really be compared to the BPMA's, particularly with our lack of physical exhibition space at present. You could argue, however, that our specialist and easier-to-define audience may be easier to attract. Given that these wikis were launched roughly around the same time but are, in many ways, very different, it will be interesting to see how each progresses.

I notice that the object wiki doesn't have talk pages linked to each article, although it does have user talk pages. Our Wiki has neither, but as I have probably already mentioned, studies of Wikipedia view these as central to the building of a regularly editing community. I am currently trying to get around this by creating a google group to try and get to know who is editing the Wiki and interact with them. It's in its early stages at the moment but I've had a few members join this week after I mentioned it in a press release about the philatelic glossary.

The Nationals Archives 'Your Archives'
A similar 'Collections Wiki' was launched in 2007 by The National Archives in Kew. Again, it's homepage says 'The National Archives' online community of records users. These pages are for you to contribute your knowledge of archival sources held by The National Archives and by other archives throughout the UK.' Your Archives requires its users to register before they can contribute. Once registered, users can perform a variety of tasks outlined in the help section called: What can I contribute? You could describe the purpose of this wiki as basically catalogue enhancement. Users can provide transcripts of documents, expand on a catlalogue entry, or help others with research guidance. This is something I had considered using our wiki for in the future i.e getting users to write their own guidance on how to use our Search Room, or about our Museum Store. It would act almost like the alternative prospectuses that universities ask students to write.

As it's a bit more established than the Science Museum one, it's easier to see what kind of activity is going on. It's interesting to see that Guy Grannum (TNA staff member)'s talk page has got some questions on it so people are obviously using the talk pages to interact. The recent changes page shows some interesting activity with Guy Grannum blocking a certain Molly8888 who had added the content: '(deleted "Molly8888": content was: 'molly rocks shes sexy hot my msn is ...' A lot of the activity is by TNA staff Guy Grannum and Simon Dixon but other users are obviously creating content as well. The recent changes page also suggests that users don't just edit one page at a time, but add content to several pages. The 'Featured articles' section on the homepage is useful because it takes you to pages of particular interest - pages that have obviously worked. It is interesting that there are only 4 at present. If we assume that these are the pages that TNA sees as being parituclarly successful then we can assume that a particularly successful function of YourArchives has been people providing transcripts or summaries of the information within particular documents. I hadn't particularly considered doing this, but it could be quite a good idea. We're often being asked if we can provide more of our collections online, this could be a way of doing so.

That's it for tonight, I think this is a useful process so I'll perhaps explore some other museum wikis tomorrow.


Blogger Frankie Roberto said...

Re: Object wiki

You're right that it hasn't been fully launched yet. We're launching it slowly and softly. It'll get more publicity once the related exhibition opens next week. It is already starting to pick up Google traffic, however, and we've had our first public edit - on the page.

Talk pages for both object pages and user pages do exist (see, but we've decided to remove the links to them for the time being. My reasons for this is that early in a wiki's life, the talk pages just sit there empty, and might cause confusion. By removing the links we should encourage people to edit the actual page itself instead. Whether this is the right decision, time will tell. We can always add the links back in later though.

24 April 2008 at 10:33  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks Frankie, it's useful to hear your thinking behind not linking to the talk pages.

Will take a look at your first public edit as well when I get a chance.
Thanks a lot!

24 April 2008 at 13:31  

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