Liam Wyatt and the Mumbai Wikipedia GLAM Meetup

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on February 14, 2011 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

For the past few days, Liam Wyatt has been going around cultural institutions in Mumbai. We had a meetup yesterday at the Pinstorm offices in Santacruz. Our thanks to Netra there who offered and allowed us use of space on such short notice. We had a nice turn up today of around 20-25 people.

We started off with directly with Liam’s talk on his work with the British Museum. His work/documentation of his work here can be found here. He then talked about his idea behind doing a project with the British Museum after a controversy the year before with the British National Archives. He said that the relationship was mutually beneficial to both and did not compromise on the principles of either Wikipedia or the British Museum. He talked about the series of conferences called GLAMWIKI that have already happened in London and Paris and are planned in Washington DC and Barcelona.

He then went on to talk about five of the events that he conducted during his 5 month stint as the Wikipedian-in-Residence at the British Museum. These included the Backstage Pass, One on One Collaborations/Photos Requested, Feature Article Prize, the Hoxne Challenge and the School Translations.

Backstage Pass involves a free tour of Museum objects in display and out of display by curators of the Museum for Wikipedians working on an article. The One-on-One Collaborations was an exchange of requests between Curators and Wikipedians who needed each others help – curators to improve articles on Wikipedia and Wikipedians for expert advice on articles in Wikipedia. Photos Requested requested for photos in different parts of the museum. Feature Article Prize was an interesting if controversial experiment. The British Museum offered 100 pounds for the 5 articles in Featured Article in Wikipedia related to an item in the British Museum. This became similar to the pay-for-edit idea. However, the rationale was that since the prize money was not for an article on the British Museum and was for an object/topic related article, it was okay. The Hoxne Challenge was an effort to see how Wikipedians could improve an article on one subject given access to subject experts etc.The subject given was that of the Hoxne Hoard discovered in England in 1992. I think it goes without saying that the article reached Featured Article rating pretty quickly. The last was the School Translations project where a group of French school children that Liam knew translated the articles on certain items in the British Museum from English into French as part of their English class homework. The students later visited London (like they regularly apparently did) and visited the Museum to see the objects they had written about as part of class.

These were some of the implementations possible in the 5 week period whilst Liam was with British Museum.

Bishaka and Liam reported on their visits to The Museum (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay) and Jnanapravaha. I accompanied Liam and Bishaka to The Museum. I am pleasantly surprised by the way they have transformed it! We’ve reported on positive responses from these cultural institutions. Liam and Bishaka will be visiting one more institution tomorrow.

In the discussion that followed, we had a discussion about GLAM applications in Indian libraries and archives. Ashwin Baindur asked about how to work with institutions like Maharashtra Archives which are facing a brunt of the budget cuts (they get the money after the song and dance shows, museums etc all get their cut) and have trouble with up-keep of their archives. Liam replied that this would mainly be in helping them digitise records. The trouble, Liam said, was on where to begin and how to priorotise work. Stating the example of the National Library, Kolkata he said that some books were not even catalogued. We agreed that Libraries and Archives also suffered because there was no good Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software for Indic languages. Liam suggested a French example of how an old French cursive text made it un-OCR-able (new word – mine!) and got help from Wikipedians to manually type in text onto WikiSource.

Bishaka raised the point that all of the GLAM activities could also be simultaneously done in various languages in-parallel. So, during a Backstage Pass event in Mumbai, we could improve the English, Hindi and Marathi (as an example) articles at once.

We then had a brief introduction to pad.ma (I have written about this in detail earlier). The part that relates to Wikimedia Commons was a demo on how a plugin for Firefox developed by the same team helped in uploading files in the .ogg format to Wikimedia Commons.

We had a small reference to the Workshop for Women on Wikipedia (WWW) and we suggested the idea to two students who had come from SNDT Women’s University to the meetup. We’ve requested them to check on the possibility of using their labs to conduct the Workshop in Mumbai on or around March 8, 2011 (to re-iterate: the centenary celebrations of Women’s Day.

All-in-all it was a fun 7th meetup of Wikipedians in Mumbai.

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