Editing an online encyclopedia may not sounds glamorous, but for Liam Wyatt, Wikimedia’s GLAM fellow (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum), it certainly is, and it’s about far more than glamour. The world’s online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, is about making human knowledge freely available to everyone in their own language, and Liam believes cultural institutions should play an active role in sharing their vast knowledge through Wikipedia. As he put it, share your information where the audience is or risk being irrelevant.
Creative Commons Qatar and ictQATAR brought Liam to Doha this week to meet with numerous institutions in Qatar to explore how they could work to help grow a vibrant Wikipedia community in Qatar and the Arab world, openly share content and contribute to knowledge available in the public domain. Much of the valuable content created here has value well beyond our borders, and if shared through Wikipedia, can greatly add to the world’s collective knowledge. The Wikimedia Foundation is planning to invest significant resources in the MENA region, so Qatar has a great opportunity to take a lead in increasing shared knowledge from the region. Here’s a quick recap of some of the meetings.
Qatar Museum Authority – Liam spoke to Qatar’s museum community, including people from the Museum of Islamic Art, the Qatar National Museum and Mathaf. In his presentation he said that Wikipedia is a way to bridge cultural divides and encouraged QMA to find ways to contribute to the Wikipedia community. He stressed that QMA, by sharing some of its valuable content, whether digital images, artist profiles, or expert knowledge on artifacts, the museums could establish themselves as leading voices in their areas of expertise and share they collections far beyond their museum walls.
Liam challenged the museums in Qatar to make more contently freely available, and to make “free” the default policy. He shared tangible examples of ways other museums had participated in the Wikipedia community and highlighted efforts he led during his time as a Wikipedian in Residence at the British Museum. Museums here seemed enthused about the ideas and discussions are under way to develop some concrete projects here.
Al Jazeera – An early adopter of Creative Commons, it’s no surprise that Al Jazeera was extremely receptive to being a more active part of the Wikipedia community. Al Jazeera’s rich multi-visual resources would be invaluable to Wikipedians if they are shared in a way that can be used freely. Already, still shots from Al Jazeera footage is used on Wikipedia, however images from their Flickr account couldn’t be used because of their licensing. Right after our meeting, Al Jazeera changed the license on their Flickr photos to CC’s Attribution-Share alike license, making them usable by Wikipedians and they are already populating Wikipedia. Also, Al Jazeera is exploring ways to make it easier to use their content as sources for articles and also considering offering video footage in an open source format so it can also be used on Wikipedia. Great potential!
ictQATAR – Yes, I made sure Liam met with my organization too. Liam specifically met with our teams leading digitization programs and business incubation efforts. As a result of the meeting, ictQATAR will work to ensure that any work cultural works digitized through ictQATAR are shared in a way that can be used by Wikipedians so it reaches a broader audience, and also ictQATAR will look at more “open” business models for a variety of incubation services.
Let’s Tweet in Arabic (Taghreedat) – You can’t help but be impressed by the work of Taghreedat. What started as a small group that wanted to Tweet more in Arabic has grown into an active community of more than 15,000 people on Twitter that are discussing a wide range of topics regularly and even working to develop the Twitter Arabic interface. Liam met with numerous Taghreedat members and shared a variety of ways they could be engaged in the Wikipedia community, including enhancing the Wikipedia Arabic interface and becoming active Wikipedia contributors/editors. I am expecting some exciting Taghreedat/Wikipedia collaboration soon!
Education City – The librarians at Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar and Northwestern University Qatar organized a public presentation on Wikimedia for the Education City community. Liam shared a range of ways educators, librarians and students could become more active contributors to the Wikimedia community, including as editors, translators and by sharing original works in the Wikicommons or Wikisource. He showed examples of schools that have incorporated Wikipedia editing into the curriculum and also highlighted some innovative libraries sharing more of their collections in ways that are usable by Wikipedians.
Clearly, there were a lot of positive meetings and discussions! I’m hopeful we’ll see some excellent Wikipedia/Wikimedia oriented initiatives coming from Qatar soon, in addition to the formal partnership of Qatar Foundation with the Wikimedia Foundation. I look forward to working with the various organizations as part of CC Qatar to share more knowledge from Qatar freely!