The Children's Museum of Indianapolis Creates New Learning Opportunities through Wikipedian-in-Residence
Continuing its tradition of excellence and innovation, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the world's first museum to have a dedicated staff person serving as Wikipedian-in-Residence.
By organizing the museum's research and images for publication on Wikipedia, Lori Phillips will help make more of the museum's 120,000-piece collection available online to children and families around the world.
With only 10 percent of the museum's collection on display at any time, Phillips' efforts will greatly expand the institution's educational reach.
"Our new Wikipedian helps fulfill the museum's mission to contribute to family learning with a global audience," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.
"Children today are very technology savvy, often turning to the Internet for information," he added. "Wikipedia articles often appear on the very first page of an Internet search. Because family learning is a museum priority, we are now able to provide information via the Internet that is accurate and easily accessible to children and their families."
The Wikipedian-in-Residence efforts began in June of 2010, when Wikimedia Cultural Partnerships fellow Liam Wyatt noted the need for Wikipedia to strengthen partnerships with museums to create the most up-to-date and accurate information. He was concerned about the disconnect between collections in public museums and what could be found on Wikipedia.
Representatives of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis learned about these efforts and requested his assistance in bringing the program to the United States. The museum began the program in the fall of 2010 with Phillips volunteering as a Wikipedian-in-Residence.
The museum subsequently became part of the GLAM project (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), an international initiative that encourages cultural institutions to share content with Wikipedia. Phillips coordinated the world's second-ever backstage pass event, which brought Wikipedians together with curators to discuss ways e-volunteers could contribute in-depth, accurate information to the rest of the world via Wikipedia.
Working with The British Museum, Liam Wyatt kicked off a pilot project as a Wikipedian-in-Residence.
"A global effort is underway to encourage cultural institutions to contribute to Wikipedia in the hopes of improving the quality of information about their artifacts that is provided to the general public," Phillips said. "I'm excited that this has become a worldwide initiative, with other prestigious institutions involved. Museums are now sharing knowledge that in some cases had been buried in archives and museum vaults for decades."
Phillips recently spoke in Israel at Wikimania, sharing information about a unique program she created for The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, which teaches middle and high school students how to contribute to Wikipedia. These students created five articles about the museum's iconic objects.
Midwest vacations are no longer the only way children and families can experience The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Now they can access that information on the Web or visit the museum in person and access articles utilizing QR codes in the exhibits.
QRpedia allows people to access Wikipedia articles in their native language based on their smartphone settings. Phillips is currently coordinating a worldwide effort with several countries including Spain, France and Mexico to translate the student-created articles.
As the largest children's museum in the world, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has more than 120,000 pieces in its collection. By searching Wikipedia with the help of its Wikipedian, the general public can now easily view photographs and detailed information about various pieces of the collection that may not be on display at any given time.
"Previously, someone would have to go to each individual institution and dig through old records to see if they had any information about specific pieces," said David Donaldson, chief technology officer, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. "We would love to make as much of our collection available to the broadest audience as possible. It is our hope that it will generate even more interest in the depth and breadth of our collection and assist with family adventures in learning."
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a nonprofit institution committed to creating extraordinary family learning experiences that have the power to transform the lives of children and families across the arts, sciences and humanities. For more information about The Children's Museum, visit www.childrensmuseum.org, follow us on Twitter @TCMIndy, Facebook.com/childrensmuseum and YouTube.com/IndyTCM.
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