Most of us have used Wikipedia, “the world’s largest and most popular encyclopedia” as a launching pad for research on every subject under the sun. Much to my surprise, I discovered that Wikipedia is part of a much larger organization called Wikimedia.

So, what is Wikimedia? The Wikimedia Foundation,  Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content, and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge. The Wikimedia foundation operates some of the largest collaboratively edited reference projects in the world,  including Wikipedia,  a top-ten internet property.
Source “Home.” Wikimedia Foundation, . 30 Aug 2011, 15:57 UTC. 1 Sep 2011, 15:54 <//>.

In addition to Wikipedia the Wikimedia foundation has the following 9 major projects:

  • Wiktionary
  • Wikiquote
  • Wikibooks
  • Wikisource
  • Wikispecies
  • Wikinews
  • Wikiversity
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • MediaWiki

Click on the Wikimedia Our Projects  link to access descriptions of the categories in the list above, including Wikipedia.

You can also access recent and archived press releases and there’s even a Wikimedia blog.

On July 25, 2011, “The Text Message”  (NARAs blog of the work and discoveries of processing and reference archivists on the job) uploaded a post about the Wikimedia’s Wikisource project entitled Wikimedia the new collaborative digital archives, which gives readers information about this fabulous resource, a lesser-known sister project of Wikipedia.

If you click on  Wikimedia Commons to see the entry informing the reader that the National Archives and Records Administration has contributed over 100,000 historical photographs and documents from their archives and how you can help to categorize the images.

I’ve published the following entire post by dmcdevitt-parks from yesterday’s entry on NARAtions, the blog of the United States National Archives for your convenience, but please also click on NARAtions to see the cogent original, which will be of great interest to family historians and genealogists and other researchers:  

A few weeks ago on The Text Message, I introduced Wikimedia’s Wikisource project to you. A sister project of Wikipedia, Wikisource is a free repository of primary-source texts which are transcribed, proofread, and arranged—like Wikipedia—collaboratively by a community of online volunteers. It is my pleasure to announce that, since August 15, Wikimedia’s presence now extends even into the National Archives’ online catalog. The National Archives now links to any validated Wikisource transcriptions of National Archives documents from our catalog. You can see all the pages linked so far at this listing; the first batch included 21 transcribed documents, with 4 more added the next week. Each of these has a little icon on their page linking to the catalog record and a banner on their associated discussion page that mentions their status as NARA-linked transcriptions. “Validated” transcriptions are ones in which every page has passed Wikisource’s system of transcription and proofreading, which requires two humans to have independently approved them. We are hoping to encourage more volunteers to help transcribe our documents using Wikisource, and the project is currently featured on Wikisource’s main page.

If you take a look at one of the records with the new links, like Henry Blackwell’s “Objections to Woman Suffrage Answered,” you’ll see what these catalog records look like in practice:

We are going to be adding similar links in our catalog to documents in Wikimedia Commons and the Internet Archive, where volunteers from the International Amateur Scanning League’s FedFlix project have digitized videos that the National Archives does not host in its catalog, and often are only otherwise available if purchased from Amazon (as covered on the AOTUS blog previously). In the future, there may be a field in the catalog record for adding transcriptions and we may have capability to embed full-length, high-quality sound video directly in the catalog records, meaning the content produced by online volunteers would be displayed in full in our own catalog, rather than having to link to an external web page. For now, though, this measure ensures greater access for researchers within our current means.

I am excited because this means our efforts engaging the Wikimedia projects are not just benefiting visitors to their own sites, but are also adding value directly back to our own site. Researchers using the National Archives’ catalog will benefit even if they had never heard of Wikisource or Commons before, and wouldn’t have visited them to find information about our documents. Finally, unreservedly recommending these sites as a resource, which the catalog now does, should hopefully also help demonstrate to the Wikimedia community that the National Archives supports and appreciates work by Wikimedians which adds value to its collections, and encourage more of it.

On a more general note, there is enormous untapped potential here for archives and other institutions. Wikisource houses thousands of texts, many of which, especially the ones that are unique documents, are held in the collections of libraries and archives whose users would benefit from its transcriptions but will never find them using the institution’s catalog and research tools. Some institutions are already ahead of the National Archives in this regard, and none of this would be news for them. Notably, the National Library of Sweden provides links to the full text of documents on the Swedish Wikisource, articles of authors in the Swedish Wikipedia, and even includes wiki citation format among the outputs for its “Cite” widget (example record), while the National Library of France links each page of its scanned books to the corresponding page on the French Wikisource, inviting visitors to help transcribe (see “Contribute” link on this example page). However, it’s a shame that most institutions are unaware of the work done by Wikisource and the other Wikimedia projects, because it means that their patrons are missing out. Institutions could also get involved more directly and donate their images of texts to Wikisource to encourage transcription, as the National Archives is doing (and the National Library of France did), and even use it as a collaborative platform for the institution’s own volunteers to transcribe its documents. Hopefully this is only the beginning of more similar partnerships between Wikimedia and those institutions which have a stake in its work that enhance their ability to make documents more accessible and usable.

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6 Comments on Wikimedia resources plus new links to NARA’s online catalog

  1. Kai says:

    Thank you for this post. Looking forward to seeing more of this type of information. I’ve just found a new source of research.

  2. Marg H says:

    Thanks for passing along this information. It’s a fantastic resource.

  3. Tin Lizzie says:

    I don’t live in the United States but find the National Archives of the United States interesting. Wikimedia is a great resource. Thanks for passing on the information.

  4. Jennifer F says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I never knew that wikipedia was a part of a much greater network that can be so useful and chock full of information.

  5. Projekt says:

    Thanks for finally talking about >Wikimedia resources plus new links to NARA’s online catalog | <Loved it!

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