Although the summer break means there hasn’t been much outward activity from my residency, there has been — like the swimming of a swan — plenty of activity below the surface, planning and preparing for events to come.
However, one of the highlights, in August, was when we hosted a summit of Wikimedians in Residence from around the UK, jointly with our partners, Wikimedia UK.
It’s only nine years since the world’s first Wikipedian in Residence was at the British Museum (though a blog post had floated the idea in 2006). It’s not so long since a time when I knew who every Wikimedian in Residence in the world was — indeed, I’d met most of them. There are now around a couple of hundred such posts, with examples on every continent.
New and Old Friends
We were joined by Martin Poulter (pictured), Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Oxford, based at the Bodleian Libraries. Martin has long been a friend of Coventry University, and was instrumental in encouraging the creation of the post I now occupy. Alice White, whose full time position as “Digital Editor ” at the Wellcome Collection combines 50% Wikimedian in Residence work and 50% work on their own website, also came. So did Madeleine Goodall, who recently started working as Wikimedian in Residence at the Humanist Society. Welcome to the team, Madeleine!
We were also joined by John Cummings, who has a residency at UNESCO’s Paris HQ, and divides his time between living near there and returning home to Wales to work remotely. Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, was sadly only able to join us for a short while by video link. We also received a couple of apologies from Wikimedians in Residence who sadly couldn’t attend.
Around the table with us were a number of friends and colleagues from Wikimedia UK. Wikimedia UK is the local chapter of the Wikimedia movement, who support and jointly fund a number of UK Wikimedian in Residence posts. Last but not least, Navino Evans, who works on the Histropedia project, came along.
Down to Work
We started the day with each Wikimedian in Residence giving an update of their recent projects and plans. Most of them keep a blog (or a project page on a Wikimedia project) so I won’t repeat the updates here. It was interesting to note the differences in scope and approach taken by each institution. For example Martin’s work includes a demonstration website, displaying data about astrolabes in museums all around the world, including of course those at the Ashmolean in Oxford, but we have none at Coventry and nor do Edinburgh or UNESCO! Each institution, and each Wikimedian in Residence, thus works to their strengths.
After that we were briefed by Wikimedia UK on their latest news, including them sharing copies of a new booklet, “Wikimedia UK: Partners in Open Knowledge — Understanding the impact of our Wikimedians in Residence“— my copy has already been accessioned into the collection of Coventry University’s Lanchester Library (my librarian colleagues tell me they decided on Dewey classification 303.4834, “with the information society-type books”).
Entertaining our Visitors
As hosts, it fell to us at Coventry to provide some relevant and educational entertainment. So, after lunch, we treated everyone to a guided tour of the Lanchester Archive, which was greatly enjoyed.
We ended the day with two workshops. One was by Navino, on making SPARQL queries to retrieve information from Wikidata. The other was by Martin, about another of his projects, the Collections Explorer.
Considering that being a Wikimedian in Residence is a job that did not exist a decade ago, and one done by so few people globally, it’s great to have networks such as these, and our online contacts, for peer support and to give and receive advice.