“As soon as I left the session, I knew that this would be a ground-breaking project for us,” said Bettina Cousineau, Exhibits Specialist at the Gerald Ford Library and Museum.
Cousineau was at this summer’s Association of Midwest Museums Conference in Indianapolis, IN, and attended the session “Wikimedia: Commons and GLAM” presented by Lori Phillips, the Wikimedia Foundation’s U.S. Cultural Partnerships Coordinator.
GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), a small part of the Wikipedia group, plays a huge role in providing public access to copyright free images from cultural institutions all over the world. These images are then incorporated into articles written by Wikipedia editors.
“We already have an extensive website with thousands of digitized images, documents and artifacts for the public to view. But by uploading those same materials to Wikimedia, they can be used in any Wikipedia article written by anyone in the world in almost any language,” Cousineau said. “I imagined an article written by a Wikipedia editor in Finland, using a document from President Ford’s participation in the 1975 Helsinki Conference as his source and illustration. To me that is significant public access of our material.”
To date, Cousineau has uploaded over 200 artifacts and photographs onto the Wikimedia Commons site. She and her team have connected with volunteer Wikipedia administrators who provide technical and coding assistance. The next step includes a batch up-load of previously digitized documents already located on the Ford Library’s website. This upload will be categorized and located on the Library’s Wikimedia page.
Dominic McDevitt-Parks, who was the National Archives Wikipedian-in-Residence, has uploaded thousands of photographs and documents from National Archives holdings. Cousineau worked with him to ensure that category terms and licensing language is consistent.
During the pilot phase of this new initiative, the Ford Library and Museum staff have many aspects to consider, from identifying priority categories of materials to up-load, to working out details of workflow for a smooth and efficient process. Cousineau made a presentation to the library staff in October, demonstrating what has been accomplished to date. The presentation generated a spirited discussion about how this project can further extend the library’s reach to a global audience by building on what has already been digitized in textual and visual material, and adding artifacts to the mix.
“I love this project. I feel that it’s crucial that we do everything we can to provide our materials to the world in as many ways as possible,” Cousineau said. “And it’s working! Since we began uploading in August, several of our images have already been used in Wikipedia articles.”