Why Wikipedia Needs Archivists

I thought the curators had all the answers and knew the secrets. Then I hung out with the archivists at the Archives of American Art.

Violet Oakley, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Henrietta Cozens, ca. 1901, Violet Oakley papers, Archives of American Art
Violet Oakley, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Henrietta Cozens, ca. 1901, Violet Oakley papers, Archives of American Art

Little did I think I’d be the Wikipedian in Residence at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, hanging out with archivists and picking their brains about all the amazing things they know about the collections. This afternoon I had a chance to do just that, as I met with the archivists team here at AAA.

As I sat down for the discussion, led by Barbara Aikens, Chief of Collections Processing, I felt like I was with old friends. Everyone had input, ideas, and genuine interest in the opportunities behind Wikipedia partnerships and GLAMs. Our brief conversation was an eye opener for me, as they spoke about archival descriptions and the work being done by Daniel Pitti; and most importantly, their desire to make information accessible to the world. That seems to follow in the mission of a similar organization I know.

Barbara spoke about how archivists must remain neutral and seek to deliver “just the facts.” While researchers often look to archivists to provide the information to make their research a success, archivists are often overlooked by the non-scholar as a source of information. The team was excited about the possibilities of working with Wikipedians share their collections with the public on a broad level. "This is a way to reach the public, not just a small group of scholars," Barbara said, in regards to the exciting possibilities of archives working with Wikipedia.

It was at that moment when I realized - Wikipedia Needs Archivists.

Why?

This brief meeting was vital to my role as a Wikipedian, a researcher, an emerging museum professional, and a Renaissance woman. During my time here at the Archives, and the Smithsonian as a whole, I look forward to exploring working relationships with archivists and making the most use of their knowledge.

I hope the Archives of American Art, and this summer’s residency at the National Archives and Records Administration, will encourage archives to consider partnerships with Wikipedia, and encourage them to allow their archivists to shine as evangelists of the dissemination of culture in a place where more and more are seeking information - Wikipedia.

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tagged as: archives of american art,. wikipedia,. Wikipedian in residence. smithsonian. glamwiki. archivists. archives.

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