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Submissions/A Gateway Theory – How Edit-a-thons Can Lure Innocent GLAMs into the World of Wiki

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2015.

Submission no.
Title of the submission

A Gateway Theory – How Edit-a-thons Can Lure Innocent GLAMs into the World of Wiki

Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)


Author of the submission

Sanna Hirvonen

E-mail address




Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Wikimedia Finland (2014)

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

Increasing contributions and skills or recruiting new editors are often listed as the primary goals of editing events. I propose in my presentation that there’s more to edit-a-thons than such straightforward effects. The events are a channel to reach and influence GLAM professionals, which in the long run has bigger effects than content added at an event.

My perspective
I’m a museum professional that somehow turned into a GLAM-Wiki advocate. It happened innocently, by first hosting a massive editing event in my own institution, continuing with smaller events, and ending up in the Chapter Board. Soon I noticed I was coordinating and organising events with other institutions.

From the point of view of Wikimetrics I’m a barely surviving editor, but I’m useful in other ways. I share knowledge and experiences peer to peer, which is often more effective than information or requirements from an outside actor.

Why professionals matter
I see GLAM professionals as important stakeholders and a target group of events. Once inspired, they have the power to change things. They can make decisions on opening data and materials, on directing resources to new events, on hiring Wikipedians in Residence etc. But to do this they need hands-on experience and networks that build their trust in Wikipedia. Edit-a-thons are a natural first step.

Practical examples
Last year Wikimedia Finland organised an edit-a-thon course together with 6 GLAM organisations and an educational institution. The course was directed at anyone who wanted to learn editing and visit cultural institutions behind the scenes. Looking back, the most important result of the course was that we reached dozens of professionals and gave them their first encounter with editing Wikipedia. Afterwards all partner institutions reported that they are open to collaboration in the future, interested in new events, content donations or a Wikipedian in Residence. Could we have accomplished this without edit-a-thons?

Collaborate and build on the work of others
Wikimedia isn’t an island. It is clever to team up with other open data agents to build networks with organisations. Wiki activities in Finland have benefited a lot from the Open Culture Data masterclass organised last year by Open Knowledge Finland, the local Open GLAM network and Aalto University, and funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Wikimedia Finland presented the possibilities of the Wikimedia environment as part of the course.

The masterclass implied opening a set of data or materials from the participating organisations and resulted in an impressive list of CC-licensed releases. The masterclass also created a strong sense of community and a network of open GLAMs. Our editathon course built on the class in many ways, finding partners through it and making use of the content opened.

What GLAMs can benefit
The GLAM sector is moving from broadcast to platform thinking; organisations want to open up and engage their audiences. Wikimedia projects are one platform for this. In my experience, the benefits of Wiki collaboration to GLAMs include

  • engaging their community in a new way and spreading knowledge about what they do
  • increasing the understanding and appreciation of their field of expertise by bringing information and content to where people can find and use it
  • finding new applications and contexts to their subject matter
  • learning a more open and generous organisation culture
  • building their brand by making unique events and doing things that stand out

Not just for fun
GLAMs are more and more goal-oriented. They do things that help them reach their goals and implement their strategies. Wiki activities are no exception.

To help GLAMs use Wiki or other open GLAM projects to their own advantage we need to find and support wiki ambassadors inside the sector. We need to foster networks of GLAMs. We need to encourage GLAM professionals to share their experiences to each other.

The organisations need to make the projects their own. Otherwise it will be just… edit-a-thons.


GLAM Outreach

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)

30 minutes

Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?


Slides or further information (optional)
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Interested attendees

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  1. Daniel Mietchen (talk) 11:35, 26 February 2015 (UTC)[reply]
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