Since the National Library appointed a Wikipedian in Residence in January 2015 many interesting and exciting collaborations have occurred, and the Library is now pioneering a brand new idea – Give a Wikidata expert access to Library metadata so that they can turn it into linked up Wikidata.
The idea of a ‘Wikipedia’ Visiting Scholars is not new, and the scheme, which gives volunteer Wikipedia editors free access to Library collections, has been run by the Wikipedia Library in the United States for several years, but bringing in a Wikidata specialist to work with data sets, as a visiting scholar, is a world first.
Wikidata is a linked database that can be read and edited by both humans and machines. It contains millions of pieces of data on all sorts of subjects, which all link together to form a hive of knowledge and, like all Wiki projects any one can contribute and reuse the Wikidata for free.
A sample of the Library’s huge Geoff Charles photographic collection. Collections can easily be explored geographical using Wikidata.
Wikidata was used to create this Histropedia timeline of National Library Collections with Wikipedia articles.
The first Wikidata Visiting Scholar is Simon Cobb who recently graduated Aberystwyth University with an MA in Information and Library Studies and now works for Leeds University Library. On becoming our Wikidata Visiting Scholar Simon said;
“I will be working to add some of the National Library of Wales’ collections to Wikidata, accompanied by high quality metadata that will link individual items to associated places, people, temporal periods and much more besides. This has the potential to reveal new and interesting links between materials, both within the National Library and far beyond, and this is what I find particularly exciting about having the opportunity to work with the National Library’s datasets and Wikidata.”
Our Wikidata Visiting Scholar volunteering at a Wikidata Edit-a-thon at the National Library.
Our Visiting Scholar’s first task is to use Metadata for 3000 images from the Welsh Landscape collection, which are available on Wikimedia Commons, to create detailed linked data. Simon will then work with the Library and volunteers in the Wikidata community to explore new ways of exploring and analysing the data and associated images.
An image from the Welsh Landscape Collection demonstrating the level of detailed linked data our volunteer is creating for each image.
Wikidata already contains over 17 million entries and is growing fast. At the same time software developers are creating increasingly innovative tools for exploring and analyzing this data. It is hoped that sharing National Library of Wales metadata openly for projects such as this, will enable and inspire the public use of our digital collections and data in many exciting and innovative ways.
This trial scheme is being supported by the Wikipedia Library, and it’s hoped that it can be used to attract other cultural institutions to run similar projects in the near future.
Hundreds of new articles created, thousands of images shared and millions of hits on Wikipedia
It’s been a year now since I began my journey into the world of Wikipedia. My brief was simple enough – get people editing, engage the community and embed an open access ethos at the National Library of Wales.
With 18 billion page views a month it seems that Wikipedia is most peoples’ one stop shop for information of any kind, and across the world top cultural institutions have been teaming up with the giant encyclopaedia in order to share their knowledge and their growing digital collections. The Nations Library’s goal is to provide knowledge for all, and Wikipedia is just one avenue being used to share that knowledge.
Making Wikipedia better
Wikipedia has not been without its critics, and its policy of inviting anyone and everyone to contribute means that some articles have certain shortcomings. To help remedy this and to better represent Wales on Wikipedia, a number of community events, or ‘Edit-a-thons’, have been organised to train new Wikipedia editors on a number of subjects from Medieval Law to the Rugby World Cup.
Over 100 people have volunteered to have a go at editing during organised events, and Wikipedia’s introduction of the new ‘Visual Editor’ has made contributing even easier.
A volunteer improving Wikipedia articles relating to WWI at a Public Edit-a-thon event
Staff and members of the Library’s enthusiastic volunteer team have also been busy working on Wikipedia related projects, and with 6.5 million printed books in the Library vaults there is no shortage of information to be added.
Through the course of the year it has also become apparent that Edit-a-thons act as a gateway for community engagement. They help engage the public with the library, its collections and with Welsh heritage in a flexible, inspiring and subtle way.
The Library began digitising its collections nearly 20 years ago and has now amassed hundreds of thousands of digital items representing all aspects of Wales cultural heritage. More recently a major shift in policy meant that they no longer lay claim to copyright of digital images, if copyright in the original works has expired.
This open access policy has led the library to start sharing parts of its digital collections on Flickr, and social media. During the residency the library have taken the next step towards openness by sharing nearly 8000 images with Wikipedia’s sister project Wikimedia Commons, where they are freely available to all without any restrictions.
Already, National Library of Wales images have been added to over a thousand Wikipedia articles in more the 70 languages and since those images were added, these articles have been viewed nearly 33 million times, highlighting the incredible exposure Wikipedia can facilitate.
Statistics highlighting the impact of sharing images via Wikimedia Commons
Improving content and sharing collections are both crucial aspects of the residency but it is equally important that the benefits of activities are clearly recorded and shared with others.
Demonstrating impact certainly made it easier for the Library to extend the residency, and one of the library’s major partners, People’s Collection Wales have taken big steps toward open access and a sustainable relationship with Wikipedia.
One of the first things I did as a Wikipedian was to delve into the world of Twitter as a way of networking and sharing news about the residency, and this has led to great exposure both for the Library and for Wikipedia in Wales. Community events and digital content shared with Wikimedia Commons has caught the eye of news agencies, magazines and bloggers alike.
Infographic highlighting advocacy work during the first year of the residency
Together the Library and Wikimedia UK were able to extend the residency beyond the initial 12 months and the post is now funded until August 30th 2016.
Work on improving Wikipedia content will continue in English and in Welsh and thousand more images will be made available via Wiki Commons.
Images from the National Library of Wales on Wikimedia Commons. (left to right) Powis Castle 1794, ‘Boy destroying Piano by Philip Jones Griffiths, The siege of Jerusalem from the medeival ‘Vaux Passional’ manuscript.
Existing partnerships will be built upon, but I also want to reach out to other Welsh cultural institutions and encourage them to get involved in any way they can.
One of the biggest challenges between now and August will be finding ways to get Wikipedia into the education sector – to encourage young people and their teachers not to ignore the enormous globe shaped elephant in the room, but to engage with it responsibly.
Finally, all credit to the National Library who have embraced Wikipedia. With their open access, knowledge for all, ethos and my residency has been supported at every turn. Steps are now being taken to ensure that the legacy of the Wikipedian will be long and fruitful, helping ensure that Wales, its people and culture are well represented on the world’s biggest ever encyclopaedia.
On the 10th of June 323 BC Alexander the Great lay on his deathbed aged 32 and his vast empire soon fell into turmoil. His legacy is far reaching, but perhaps one of his greatest achievements was the foundation of Alexandria in Egypt.
The Greek, or Hellenistic, culture he seeded there and throughout his realm lead to the creation of the Royal Library of Alexandria. The Library boasted reading rooms, lecture halls, acquisitions and cataloguing departments and was part of a wider ‘Musaeum of Alexandria’.
Over two thousand years ago the Alexandrians paved the way for the modern National Library. Fire famously robbed the ancient world of many of its literary treasures when the great library burned.
Two years ago the National Library of Wales was itself ablaze, very nearly leading to a very Welsh ‘Greek Tragedy’. To celebrate the life of Alexander, the National Library has released digital images of thirty one 15th century decorated illuminations from ‘The Battles of Alexander the Great’.
These images from one of our most treasured illuminated manuscripts have been released into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons where they can be freely accessed, downloaded and used in Wikipedia articles.
A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.
Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.