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For anyone who grew up with a set of encyclopedia, the rise of Wikipedia seemed suspicious. Online and editable, it turned the notion of a single source of truth on its head. In reality, the peer-reviewed, open-source nature of Wikipedia makes it a platform for many voices and many truths, and arguably better suited to 21st-century research and knowledge sharing. We spoke to Auckland Museum's 2021 Wikimedian in Residence, Marty Blayney, about making sure the research contained in the Records of the Auckland Museum is used as widely as possible. 

You can learn more about the Museum's work with Wikipedia here.

Could you describe your project at the Museum? 

I'm the Wikimedian in Residence – our project is co-funded between the Museum and the Wikimedia Foundation to better incorporate the Museum's work with Wikipedia (including our research and image collections).


What does your work involve?

Most of my time has been looking through the scholarly articles in the Records of the Auckland Museum, looking for articles on Wikipedia that would benefit from the Museum's research, and then adding in this content. This meant flexing my abilities as an editor – I had never edited articles on historical events or plants and insects before!


Your work in numbers: how many articles have you published so far? How many people have viewed them?

About 20 completely new articles, but I mostly focus on improving pre-existing articles. As of mid-May, I've edited 350 articles and added 850 citations to Wikipedia (mostly from the Records). Collectively, these articles have been viewed more than 500,000 times since I made my additions.


In March 2021 alone, this glass wine bottle from the Museum's collection was viewed 51,165 times on Wikipedia.

Auckland Museum, 1997.80.28. More information ›

Can you make editorial decisions about how the information is incorporated into Wikipedia?

Its complicated. I make editorial decisions all the time, like balancing archaeological articles from the Records with Māori historical sources. My changes aren't necessarily permanent – Wikipedia articles are living documents, meaning people can freely change the content if new information is found, if important perspectives weren't considered, or even just to improve the formatting. As long as my decisions are reasonable, valid and well-sourced, the content should stay up.

Some content I wrote as an editor 14 years ago is still unchanged on Wikipedia, while some gets changed within minutes!


This mourning brooch, featured on the Wikipedia page for 'momento mori', was viewed 73,360 times in March 2021.

Auckland War Memorial Museum, 1973.101. More information ›

Could you tell us about the Edit-a-thon that was run on 1 May?

This is a part of a project called Women in Red (WiR). When you link to an article on Wikipedia and there's no article with that name, the link comes up red. This project aims to change the names of women from red to blue (blue meaning that there's an article at that page). Originally this event was tied to International Women's Day, but unfortunately that was right when we had our most recent COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland!

We worked together to make or improve pages for New Zealand women who should have had pages but didn't. Together in the Museum's Reading Room we worked together creating pages for musician and TV producer Hinewehi Mohi, Outrageous Fortune producer Rachel Lang, Milne & Choyce (an early department store in Auckland owned by women), fashion designer Joan Talbot and waiata composer Tuini Ngāwai. It was great fun!


Mary Jane and Charlotte Milne, proprietors of Milne & Choyce.

More information ›

Have you uncovered any surprises? Any sleeper success stories?

Many!

If a sea snake washes up on a beach, it's technically protected by law as as a native animal, since animals like the yellow-bellied sea snake have been living in and visiting the waters of Aotearoa for millennia (but if you do find one, please please please tell DOC!).

We have some invasive species that biologists are often happy to see in New Zealand! Many lacewings and parasitic wasps only prey on single species (often things like aphids, which farmers and gardeners are not big fans of).

Some of the articles I didn't expect to get big numbers were adze, the First Taranaki War (not the second, only the first) and the paper mulberry tree.


When anyone in the world searches Google for "The Treaty of Versailles", they are met with this image from a copy in the Museum's collection. It was viewed 552,520 times in March 2021 alone.

Auckland War Memorial Museum, KZ186.2 TRE. More information ›

How has Wikipedia's use and acceptance in GLAM organisations [galleries, libraries, archives and museums] changed over time?

That's something ongoing! Some organisations like the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the Brooklyn Museum (and us!) have massive amounts of content on Wiki Commons (either donated or made freely available to use). It's a great outreach tool, to make your institution's resources available to such a massively wide audience. Why do all this research if nobody can find out about it easily?


Sir Edmund Hillary's personal grant of Armoural Bearings, with Supporters. Viewed 58,500 times in March 2021.

Auckland War Memorial Museum AM 2014.7.17-4.

 

If you're interested in learning more about Wikipedia and museums and other cultural institutions, you can come along to one of these events:

21 May – Wikipedia & GLAM event

16-18 July – Wikicon Aotearoa/Auckland 2021Outreach to the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) Sector and Inclusion