Why it took so long to get wikipedians together with GLAMs

Nick Moyes asks in his blog post about the recent conference at derby museum why it took so long for people from GLAMs (galleries libraries archives and museums) and wikipedians to get together.

To some extent we have been working together for a while. For example we’ve been working with the German Federal Archives as far back as December 2008.

For the sake of a time-line the incident with the national portrait gallery was in July 2009 and the first GLAMwiki conference I’m aware of was in August 2009.

Still wikipedia has been around for 10 years so why so long.

Well strange as it may seem now it’s not until late 2004 early 2005 that wikipedia became more significant than just another website and for a few years after that (say up to 2007) most of wikipedia’s effort was going into learning to cope with the growth and traffic levels.

After that though I feel it’s down to organisational issues on the wikipedia side. the wikimedia foundation fairly sensibly has historically stuck to the tech side of things. Keeping the servers running and the phone answered. It’s forays into other areas have been less successful. The German the oldest and most successful of the local chapters has again focused on the tech side with the highly successful tool server. Outside the chapter system there is a limit to what individual wikipedians can do since ultimately they are random members of the public (I poked about a bit in about 2006 but didn’t get very far). Being able to use the name wikipedia opens a lot of doors.

So what happened in the UK. Well the first wikimedia UK came into existence back in 2006 but sadly ended up stalled. It finally folded in in late 2008 and the current chapter (sometimes knowns wikimedia UK 2.0) was formed shortly afterwards (very shorty in fact the first steps to forming WMUK 2.0 were taken in IRC within hours of WMUK formally announcing it’s dissolution). The next year was spent dealing with various legal issues so it’s only really in 2010 that there has been a body of wikipedians for museums to work with. It then took australian in the form of Witty Lama to get things going. Since then things appear to have been moving along well enough with the GLAM wiki event and the British museum and now the work at derby.

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