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Museums and Wikipedia

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 10 Jun 2010

Is there a place for museums and Wikipedia? Yes, according to the British Museum.

A story in the New York Times, Venerable British Museum Enlists in the Wikipedia Revolution, discusses the British Museum's initiative in appointing a Wikipedian in residence: "Liam Wyatt, will spend five weeks in the museum’s offices to build a relationship between the two organisations, one founded in 1753, the other in 2001."

The reasons seem to be two-fold. First, is the desire to share content with as wide an audience as possible: "For both [parties], it was important that the relationship be about sharing information with the public, not about polishing the British Museum’s reputation on Wikipedia.". Second, is the undoubted popularity of sites like Wikipedia: "... it is among the five most popular sites on the Internet, with an estimated 330 million different visitors a month and billions of page views a year." Liam's blog reports on his progress.

Our research with Museum visitors found that 70% had read a wiki/Wikipedia and of these, 20% had added, edited, deleted a wiki page. Also, our survey of 1,000 Sydneysiders showed that 70% visit Wikipedia and of these, 13% had added, edited, deleted a wiki page. In 2007, a study conducted by Pew Research found that 36% of online American adults consult Wikipedia, and the majority of those were college educated.

There have been discussions about museums and wikipedia on Museum 3.0: How are Museums contributing to Wikipedia? There was also a two-day dialogue between the Australian museum sector and wikimedians last year, and notes from that can be found here on Wikipedia (of course!).

So, do you think there's a natural match between museums and Wkipedia? What should we be doing about it?