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March 27, 2013

Andrew Sayers resigns National Museum of Australia directorship

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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The Director of the National Museum of Australia, Andrew Sayers, has resigned his position effective July 1 in a move that came as a surprise to his colleagues. Sayers cited distance issues as his wife is currently working full time in Melbourne.

Sayers is quoted in a statement as saying, “I leave the museum confident that the reputation of the Museum as the home of our national treasures is one of which we can all be proud. […] Professionally, I have enjoyed making a contribution to the Museum, yet, as many couples have discovered a ‘commuter relationship’ is not ideal.”

Sayers was contracted for five years, and was only into his third year in the post. Prior to his position at the National Museum, he spent ten years in the same role at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. He also spent thirteen years working as as a curator and assistant director at the National Gallery of Australia. He began his museum career at Art Gallery of New South Wales and Newcastle Region Art Gallery. Following his resignation, Sayers will retire to live in Melbourne with his wife.



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March 25, 2013

Science museum hosts first-ever \’Maker Faire\’ for city of Tyler, Texas

Science museum hosts first-ever ‘Maker Faire’ for city of Tyler, Texas

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Monday, March 25, 2013

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On Saturday, Discovery Science Place hosted a mini Maker Faire in Tyler, Texas. Multiple vendors and exhibitors were on hand. An art car, featuring what might be the largest collection of singing robotic lobsters anywhere in the world was on display, curiously titled the “Sashimi Tabernacle Choir.” A large modular analog synthesizer was also available for attendees to experiment with, designed by staff at Synthesizers.com.

Some exhibits were quite simple, showing how to modify inexpensive radio-controlled cars using epoxy and LEGO bricks. Two three-dimensional printers were displayed, showing attendees how the new technology operates. Outdoor exhibits included multiple forms of robots and flying drone-style aircraft (see video below). According to a news release, the event is one of 60 planned to occur worldwide this year.

Numerous volunteers were on hand to assist with the event. Colleges and university groups were on hand, including representatives from The University of Texas at Tyler, among others.

A public display of a radio-controlled mini drone-style bot.
Video: Buddpaul.



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March 25, 2012

Two San Diego art museums receive $40 million art collection

Two San Diego art museums receive $40 million art collection

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
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San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art
Image: ConspiracyofHappiness (Flickr).

Two museums in San Diego, California have been bequested an art collection worth more than $40 million. The art collection was donated by Dr. Vance E. Kondon and Elisabeth Giesberger to both the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the San Diego Museum of Art.

Kondon, a former board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art, died in 1997 and Giesberger died in 2011. Kondon was a notable art collector in San Diego, and collected for over 30 years. Roxana Velásquez, SDMA executive director, described their bequeathed collection’s “rarity” and said the pieces would add “depth” to the two existing museum collections.

The collection will be separated between the two museums due to the art movements represented within it. The Museum of Contemporary Art will receive 30 contemporary works by artists such as Franz Kline, Christo, and Craig Kauffman. The Museum of Art was bequeathed 48 German Expressionist paintings, drawings and prints. This collection includes artworks by Otto Dix, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele.



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February 17, 2012

Armed robbers steal valuable statuettes from Olympia museum, Greece

Armed robbers steal valuable statuettes from Olympia museum, Greece

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Culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos, pictured from file, has resigned over the robbery

Armed robbers stole around 60 valuable statuettes from a museum in Olympia, Greece this morning. A state television channel reported that the Greek culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos tendered his resignation upon hearing of the robbery.

“We must wait and see what the local archaeology supervisor will say, but the items were of incalculable value,” local mayor Thymios Kotzias said. The value of the articles hasn’t been calculated yet.

The masked robbers initially demanded a female employee to hand over the articles. When she refused, they tied her up and snatched the articles through the glass planes themselves.

This is the second major robbery in the country recently. Paintings by Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian and others were stolen from Athens National Museum in January. Olympia is the place where the first Olympic Games were held.



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  • “Valuable paintings stolen from Greek gallery” — Wikinews, January 12, 2012

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November 2, 2011

Google Street View comes indoors

Google Street View comes indoors – Wikinews, the free news source

Google Street View comes indoors

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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Internet giant Google has begun a pilot program, allowing users of its “Maps” service to look inside businesses. This tool is aimed to further the controversial Street View feature which already allows the public to access 360° images of streets.

Cquote1.svg We hope to enable businesses to highlight the qualities that make their locations stand out through professional, high-quality imagery. Cquote2.svg

—A Google spokesman

A spokesman for Google described the new feature: “Building on the Google Art Project, which took Street View technology inside 17 acclaimed museums, this project is another creative implementation of Street View technology, to help businesses as they build their online presence.” He also told of how the company hoped the service would “Enable businesses to highlight the qualities that make their locations stand out through professional, high-quality imagery.”

Combating previous complaints about privacy, this service will be rolled out on an entirely voluntary basis, with businesses allowed to post their own photographs. Businesses will also be instructed to warn customers that they will be photographed.

Google will roll out this initiative across the world with initially-selected locations including London and Paris as well as a number of other cities in Japan and Australia.



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July 29, 2011

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Grant Stott, and Bryony Hare opening the museum.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertaining the crowd
The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening
Animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertaining the crowd
Street theater for the opening
The Mugenkyo Taiko drummers performing on the museum steps
Street theater for the opening
Street theater for the opening

Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

Press preview

A ‘God of the Sea’ carving from the Cook Islands, on display in the World Cultures Galleries.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The newly-opened, vaulted-ceilinged Entrance Hall.
Image: Brian McNeil.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

The bridge joining the Old College to the museum.
Image: Brian McNeil.

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The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh‘s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

The guided tour

View of the Grand Gallery from the south-east corner.
Image: Brian McNeil.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The Millennium Clock, centred in the Discoveries Gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton‘s Crystal Palace.

Newly-installed escalator in the Discoveries Gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

History of the Museum

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University‘s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

The renovation

A GE 950. The oldest colour television in the world, build to a design by pioneer John Logie Baird.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grand Gallery on opening day

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery
Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny’ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Captain Cook’s clock, a Shelton regulator, taken on his first voyage to the Pacific to observe the transit of Venus in Tahiti.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

Galleries and exhibits

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

The newly-opened, vaulted-ceilinged, ground floor.
The first floor, with the Grand Gallery.
Second floor, including the Ancient Egypt gallery.
Top floor, including the Looking East gallery.

A collection of local signs in the Window on the World; not readily accessible, the red tramways sign may be a sore point with some Edinburgh residents.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The World Cultures Galleries

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

A display housing musical instruments from around the world, on show in the Performance & Lives gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

An interactive tonal matrix, constructed by Portugese-Angolan artist Victor Garna.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The Natural World Galleries

A range of sea creatures are suspended in the open space, with giant screens showing them in their natural habitat.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

The head of the cast life-size T-Rex
Life-size replica of T-Rex
A pair of peacocks fighting
A giraffe shown using his long tongue to forage
The elephant that wouldn't leave; this exhibit stayed in a corner through the renovations

At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

A giant centrepiece in the Restless Earth gallery.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

The more familiar, the “Refreshed Galleries”

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Buddha figures sit alongside a gyrocopter in the Window on the World.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

A display of Egyptian shabtis, statues thought to act as servants to the dead in the afterlife.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

The Scottish Galleries

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

The modern extension, housing the Scottish Galleries.
Image: Maccoinnich.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

A replica Carnyx war horn being played at the museum opening.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.

Sources

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June 30, 2011

Wikinews interviews US National Archives Wikipedian in Residence

Wikinews interviews US National Archives Wikipedian in Residence

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Dominic McDevitt-Parks speaks during a January 2011 Wikipedia Campus Ambassador training event.
Image: Sage Ross.

The National Archives at College Park, Maryland, known informally as Archives II, was built due to space constraints at the main building in Washington, D.C..
Image: National Archives and Records Administration.

Dominic McDevitt-Parks, a prolific contributor to Wikipedia and a graduate student in history and archives management, agreed to answer a few questions about his new role as “Wikipedian in Residence” at the US National Archives and Records Administration.

“Wikipedians in Residence” are volunteers placed with institutions, such as museums and libraries, to facilitate use of those institutions’ resources on Wikipedia.

According to a Pew Internet report, 42 percent of Americans use Wikipedia as an online source of information. The online, collaborative encyclopedia boasts more than 3.5 million articles in English and versions in over 250 languages. Given the website’s vast readership, the Archivist of the United States has proclaimed himself “a big fan of Wikipedia” and emphasizes the need for the National Archives to work with the project. The Archives posted the internship listing in March, expressing its desire for an employee who “will work as a community coordinator and strengthen the relationship between the Archives and the Wikipedian community through a range of activities”.

McDevitt-Parks, who describes himself as a “history buff, a word nerd, a news junkie and an occasional pedant,” is a 24-year-old graduate student at Simmons College in Boston. On Wikipedia, he has contributed for more than seven years under the username “Dominic”, his work focusing mostly on Latin American history.

He began his work at the Archives in late May, and since then he has undertaken numerous projects, including uploading onto Wikipedia 200 photos taken by Ansel Adams for the National Park Service. Although those photos have always remained in the public domain, accessing their high-definition versions could be problematic. Researchers who wanted to view the files had to visit the Archives facilities in College Park, Maryland.

McDevitt-Parks is also preparing a “Today’s Document challenge” on Wikipedia, where works featured as “Today’s Document” on the Archives’ website are also the main focus of newly written or expanded encyclopedia articles displayed on Wikipedia’s home page. The first — and so far only — winner of the challenge was the Wikipedia article “Desegregation in the United States Marine Corps“, which incorporated an Archives-held photo of the first African-American recruit to the US Marine Corps. Before the challenge, according to McDevitt-Parks, “a thorough history of desegregation in the U.S. Marines didn’t exist in Wikipedia’s knowledge ecosystem. The topic wasn’t totally ignored, but simply split among related entries; a devoted, focused article never existed solely in its own right.”

The “Wikipedian in Residence” position falls within the Archives’ social media staff within the Open Government division of Information Services, since the institution’s goal is to distribute as much content to the widest audience possible. The internship is 40 hours per week from mid-May to late August.

Interview

The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, has been very supportive of Wikipedia. He is shown here welcoming Wikipedians to the Archives to celebrate the project’s tenth birthday.
Image: Sarah Stierch.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Before you started your internship, how close of a relationship did the National Archives have with Wikipedia?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDominic McDevitt-ParksWikinews waves Right.pngThere was no official relationship, however the National Archives has long been supportive of Wikipedia. Earlier this year, for instance, the National Archives hosted a meetup in the main DC location in honor of Wikipedia’s tenth anniversary. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, is incredibly friendly to Wikipedia, as are many of the National Archives’ staff. As he wrote after WikiXDC, “As an agency, I look forward to our staff learning more about the fabric and culture of Wikipedia and how to get involved.” He also penned a letter to the Wikimedia Foundation offering support from the National Archives for the successful Washington D.C. bid for Wikimania 2012. In all likelihood, this is not a relationship that will end after this summer, either.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Why is it important that institutions like the National Archives foster this sort of relationship with Wikipedia?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngArchives and other such institutions preserve our cultural heritage not just for the sake of keeping them, but so that we may access and use them. In the 21st century, accessibility is about more than just having exhibitions or a public research room; it is about having a digital presence and proactively delivering content to people with an information need, whether or not they were looking for a particular document from an institution’s holding. Wikipedia and its sister projects are perfectly suited for this purpose in a number of ways. The most obvious is visibility. There is no institutional web site in the world that is more popular among general web users than Wikipedia, which is one of the top 10 ranked web sites according to volume of traffic. Its article on a given topic will nearly always rank higher in search engine results than any institution’s page, even one about a document actually held by that institution. In general, Wikipedia is the first and often only place online searchers will go to learn about the issues and items in which an institution might specialize. This means that there is no better way to reach the public than Wikipedia, and there is no better way to make one’s holdings accessible and—just as important—discoverable than by making it directly available on Wikipedia. The pervasiveness of Wikipedia also means that work to improve it will have much more impact than many other education and outreach programs.

Wikimedia’s projects can do more than just reach people, though. It’s not merely a content host or a forum, like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Wikimedia is a community with an intellectual mission. It will not only make holdings findable, but it will add value to them. They write encyclopedia articles related to the holdings of cultural institutions, or to subjects for which holdings are valuable source material or illustrations; they organize, categorize, and even sometimes digitally restore images; they transcribe and proofread textual documents. They are doing this for their personal fulfillment, nearly always without the knowledge and cooperation of associated cultural institutions. Indeed, thousands of Wikimedians are already engaged in their own little projects which donated content or expertise can help along; both parties are interested in adding value to their work by partnering with the other.

Finally, Wikimedia is unique among the major online fora and hosts for cultural content in that it shares cultural institutions’ commitment to open access and public education. Wikipedia is a non-profit, and creating free public knowledge is its sole purpose. All original content is released under a free copyright license so that it can be widely disseminated without permission or fee. In fact, its commitment to freedom of information is so strong that it often cannot even accept works from some cultural institutions which restrict their use in some way (such as by disallowing derivative works or requiring non-commercial use), and making institutions truly free and compatible with Wikipedia is one of the jobs of Wikipedans in Residence. Wikipedia is not just a venue for presenting our cultural heritage, it is an active ally for all institutions that seek to do so.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What aspect of having a Wikipedian in Residence is seen as most valuable to the National Archives? What would you, personally, say is the greatest benefit to any cultural institution from engaging with the Wikimedia community?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngFor the National Archives, all of the above apply. This is about public outreach and increasing access and use. NARA wants to find users where they are, not just wait for them to visit, and the people are on Wikipedia. According to David Ferriero, the National Archives would like this collaboration with Wikipedia to exemplify their “commitment to the Open Government principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration.” Wikimedia partnerships are so promising because they can be extensions of any institution’s mission in a number of conceivable ways.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png You have already told The Washington Post that other institutions have hired Wikipedians in residence, including the British Museum, the Museu Picasso, and the Archives of American Art. Do you know of any other institutions that may develop similar relationships with Wikipedia in the near future?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngYou can see a listing of other Wikipedian residencies here. There have been several, but still less than ten, and each situation has been unique. I can’t really speak to any specific future collaborations being worked on, as I am not privy to those negotiations. However, I will say more generally that these relationships are only going to become more common. Wikimedians and chapters around the world have been in touch with various institutions interested in working with us. I saw and met many of these people firsthand at GLAMcamp NYC, which was attended by dozens of excited representatives from cultural institutions attracted by the prospect of a relationship with Wikipedia and just as many incredibly motivated Wikimedians who are involved in reaching out to these institutions.

The National Archives is reaching out to other crowdsourced projects for scanning and transcription. During a program on citizen archivists, Jessica Zelt (North American Bird Phenology Program), Matthew Knutzen (New York Public Library), and Darla Adams (Ancestry.com) are shown with moderator Meredith Stewart (National Archives).
Image: National Archives and Records Administration.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are there other — non-Wikimedia — opportunities online you feel the National Archives should look for?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngThe goal of cataloging, describing, digitizing, and transcribing the entire holdings of the National Archives is an impossible one using traditional methods and within traditional budget constraints. Cultural institutions need to engage the interested public to become active partners in preserving cultural heritage, rather than simply consumers. The work with Wikimedia is an important aspect of that new thinking, but there are all sorts of allied projects out there that would also make good partners. This includes similar crowdsourced projects for scanning and transcription, which the National Archives is already seeking out, as well as other specialized groups interested in digital history or particular topic areas.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How have your experiences — both in school and in Wikipedia — prepared you for this job?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngI am a history geek and an archivist-in-training. In my life off of Wikipedia, I have an undergraduate history degree, have worked in library/archive settings before, and am currently pursuing master’s degrees in both history and library science (archives management). I think these real-life experiences in their field are one of the main reasons that the National Archives was comfortable letting me on to their staff. I hope to be able to relate to the people and the practices here on a higher level than the average Wikimedian. I believe strongly in the work and the mission of the National Archives completely apart from how it syncs up with Wikipedia.

As a Wikimedian, I have been deeply immersed in various aspects of the project for many years now. I first started back in 2004, and have been an administrator since 2005. Along the way, I served as arbitrator, CheckUser, oversighter, and OTRSer, gaining a useful perspective on some of the project’s inner workings and (for lack of a better word) governance. I’ve also done outreach to real people as a Wikipedia Campus Ambassador for university students in Boston. I am cross-project Wikimedian, having also been very involved in Wiktionary over the years, where I am also an administrator. I have written content ranging from dictionary definitions of modern colloquialisms to articles on Chilean revolutionaries. But, most importantly, I hope that my familiarity with the culture and practices of Wikimedians will help facilitate this National Archives collaboration.

This photo, taken by Ansel Adams at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, was provided by the National Archives as part of its partnership with Wikipedia
Image: Ansel Adams.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Having worked in the National Archives for a few weeks now, has your approach to or perception of your work in Wikipedia or the National Archives changed in any way?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngI really wasn’t sure what to expect when I got here. The staff have all been exceedingly welcoming and cooperative which is a major relief. The real work has been figuring out what I can do and where best to spend my time. Most of the National Archives’ documents are not digitized, and possibly not even cataloged on the item-level. Those certainly include some items that Wikimedians would like to use for their projects, but it remains to be seen how much I can realistically do in one summer with those documents. I do want to get as much digital content as possible on Commons, but aside from the technological challenges we face at Commons in trying to figure out how to do mass uploads, the situation with the National Archives’ scan files is just as much of a barrier. They are often confusingly named, difficult to locate, or incomplete. I hit the ground running with the upload of an important batch of Ansel Adams photographs, but it turns out that that was actually the lowest-possible hanging fruit.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What challenges do you foresee having to face in your work?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngThe real challenges are about organization, both of documents—as I mentioned—and of people.

One of the biggest challenges is that we need Wikimedians to get on board with the project in a big way. This is an incredible opportunity for us as a project, but it requires a special community effort to take full advantage of it. We need volunteers to tag articles, to categorize media, to help with templates and coding tools, to write related article content, to transcribe and proofread texts, to add new images to articles, to digitally restore images, and so on. I can personally serve as the point of contact between the National Archives and Wikimedia, but it needs to be much more than that to be a successful project. At this point, the project spaces I am creating on-wiki are my attempt to create an inviting and useful infrastructure to serve as a hub for this effort, but they are not organically grown like most Wikimedia projects. I, and various helpers with templates and coding, have magicked them into existence in the last few weeks. They need participants to sign up and adopt them as their own so we can really get the ball rolling.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The New York Times reported in January that less than fifteen percent of Wikipedia’s contributors are women. The article raised concerns that this gender gap has affected the relative emphasis of topics covered on the encyclopedia. In what ways would this problem affect your own efforts to organize the Wikipedia community, and how do you plan to address it?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngThis is an issue that I care strongly about. (And somewhat relatedly, I served, and will continue to serve, as Campus Ambassador at a women’s college, and it was a wonderful experience.) The problem is really about more than gender imbalance; it’s about having a community that represents a diversity of backgrounds, viewpoints, and personalities. Those of us who work in the humanities can also sometimes feel like a minority on Wikipedia, as one would expect from a male-dominated culture. There is a lot of room for improvement on Wikipedia of articles related to women’s history—as well as the history of minority and non-Western peoples—and the National Archives has some incredible resources for these topics. One of the things that I would like to be able to do at the National Archives is to tap their existing pool of volunteers and funnel them towards NARA-related volunteerism on Wikimedia projects. As a national organization with various facilities and presidential libraries throughout the country, there is a lot of potential for various local volunteer communities to get involved. Institutions like the National Archives have volunteers eager to help their cause, but who would otherwise not get involved in Wikipedia, and this group of people likely has a very different demographic makeup than Wikipedia as a whole. I can attest that the library/archives community is certainly not male-dominated. The National Archives is interested in collaborating with Wikipedia not because it wants to lay work at the feet of the Wikipedia community specifically, but because it wants Wikipedia to be a platform for the public at large to be able to become active participants in preserving and interpreting their cultural heritage. This plan also means organizing a corresponding corps of Wikipedian volunteers to welcome and mentor such new editors.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Which aspects of this particular internship attracted you more than any other job opportunity you could have obtained?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngI am a longtime, obsessive Wikimedian with a passion for history who is studying to become an archivist. Every aspect of the opportunity attracted me as soon as I learned about it. 🙂

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June 27, 2011

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visits Shakespeare\’s birthplace

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visits Shakespeare’s birthplace

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Premier Jiabao
Image: World Economic Forum.

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao paid a visit to the birthplace of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare on Sunday. The visit to Stratford-upon-Avon was included in his three-day tour of various industries in Britain. The UK is one of China’s biggest trading partners, second only to the EU.

Cquote1.svg [Stratford-upon-Avon] has produced a figure who belongs not only to the UK but to the world. A great man who belongs not just to his era but to entire history. Cquote2.svg

—Premier Wen Jiabao

The 68-year-old Wen, reportedly a fan of Shakespeare, was met upon his arrival at Stratford-upon-Avon by dozens of flag-waving individuals from the UK’s Chinese community. He visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, which is now a museum and then attended a scene from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet“, his favourite play, while sitting in the “sun-drenched” garden. He toured the collection of treasures at the town’s Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. On his tour at the Trust, lasting half an hour longer than planned, he looked through a 17th-century folio of Shakespeare’s famous plays. Trust director Diana Owen, who talked with Wen during his informal tour, said Wen described Shakespeare as “the greatest writer of all time.”

Wen told Sky News that his love of Shakespeare began as a child.

“The local people here have every reason to take pride that this place has produced a figure who belongs not only to the UK but to the world,” Mr Wen said to Sky News. “A great man who belongs not just to his era but to entire history.”

The Chinese leader’s arrival in England came days after the announcement of activist and dissident sculptor Ai Weiwei‘s release by Beijing last Wednesday, after a global call for his release. The announcement, made before Wen’s meeting today with British Prime Minister David Cameron, was likely discussed along with the issue of China’s record on human rights and trade deals. There were several protesters outside Downing Street, who held a banner that read “Cameron and Wen: human rights before trade”.

The goal of the visit, part of a three-nation tour of Europe, is the strengthening of economic ties between the two countries. China is increasingly outsourcing its own manufacturing to less costly labour markets and wants to increase its investments in established European brands. Today, China and Britain announced contracts worth over one billion pounds.

John Shakespeare’s house, believed to be Shakespeare’s birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Image: File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske).

Cquote1.svg I am hoping that a billion Chinese might see some pictures on their TV of their premier coming and visiting the birthplace of Shakespeare, and thinking: ‘Well, I’d like to go there as well.’ Cquote2.svg

—Jeremy Hunt, British Culture Secretary

British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose wife is Chinese, was hopeful that Wen’s visit would have a positive effect on the country’s tourism industry. He told Sky News, “I am hoping that a billion Chinese might see some pictures on their TV of their premier coming and visiting the birthplace of Shakespeare, and thinking: ‘Well, I’d like to go there as well.’ ” Hunt noted that 150,000 Chinese visit the UK yearly and thinks that is “the tip of the iceberg”.

Hunt stressed that Wen’s visit is not only about jobs. It is also about developing broader cultural ties “which is the best possible way to make sure we understand each other and avoid the kind of misunderstanding that so can bedevil relationships, as has happened in the past,” he told the BBC.

The Chinese are interested in British happenings. About 30 million Chinese watched the recent Royal wedding.



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November 9, 2010

US TV: Jay Leno bested by Conan O\’Brien in late night ratings

US TV: Jay Leno bested by Conan O’Brien in late night ratings

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

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Television audience ratings for U.S. TV host Conan O’Brien‘s first TBS program Conan last night were higher than rival Jay Leno and his late night program on NBC, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. O’Brien’s ratings were also higher than CBS network’s David Letterman, as well as Comedy Central programs hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Conan O’Brien in 2007
Image: John J. Kruzel/American Forces Press Service.

Monday marked O’Brien’s return to late night television after his departure as host of The Tonight Show on NBC following a dispute this year, in which Leno’s program The Jay Leno Show was canceled after poor ratings, and NBC reinstated Leno as host of The Tonight Show.

Cquote1.svg Conan O’Brien is enjoying a sweet, sweet victory in the ratings. Cquote2.svg

The Hollywood Reporter

O’Brien’s debut program featured guests including curator Arlene Wagner of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, actor Seth Rogen and actress Lea Michele. His guest schedule for Tuesday night’s program included actors Tom Hanks and Jack McBrayer, in addition to music from the group Soundgarden.

The premiere of Conan was watched by over 4.1 million viewers. Nielsen ratings data made public today showed that Leno’s program The Tonight Show was only watched by 3.5 million viewers, and Letterman’s Late Show was seen by 3.4 million people. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report were watched by 1.3 million and 1 million viewers, respectively.

O’Brien announced his move to TBS, a cable channel founded by Ted Turner and owned by Time Warner, in April.

O’Brien’s viewership trended towards younger people, with 2,451,000 individuals ranges from ages 18 to 34 – and 3,285,000 people in the 18 to 49 age demographic. Leno’s The Tonight Show, in comparison, only drew in 950,000 people in the same younger demographic breakdown.

In an analysis of O’Brien’s ratings win, Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times wrote, “the debut of ‘Conan,’ the new late-night show starring Conan O’Brien, got off to a strong start”. James Hibberd commented for The Hollywood Reporter, “Conan O’Brien is enjoying a sweet, sweet victory in the ratings.”



Related news

  • “US TV host Conan O’Brien leads in late night ratings” — Wikinews, January 17, 2010
  • “US TV host Conan O’Brien rejects NBC’s offer to switch his show’s time slot” — Wikinews, January 13, 2010

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg The Tonight Show host and timeslot conflict

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May 20, 2010

Works valued at €100 million stolen from the Musée d\’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Works valued at €100 million stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Picasso’s Le pigeon aux petits pois is amongst the paintings stolen from a Paris museum

Five paintings, in total valued at almost €100 million. were stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris overnight on Wednesday. The works were Le pigeon aux petits pois by Pablo Picasso, La Pastorale by Henri Matisse, L’Olivier Près de l’Estaque by Georges Braque, La Femme a l’Eventail by Amedeo Modigliani and Nature Morte aux Chandeliers by Fernand Léger.

The museum itself has been closed and cordoned off by police investigating the theft. The thief is believed to have entered the museum by climbing through a window and the museum is investigating how the theft took place despite the presence of guards and a complex security system.

Christophe Girard, deputy mayor of Paris with responsibility for culture, told a press conference: “This is a serious crime to the heritage of humanity”, adding that the perpetrator or perpetrators were “obviously organised”. It is thought that the paintings are too well known to be easily sold and there has been speculation that they will be used as “currency” by criminal gangs, as opposed to having been “stolen for hire” on behalf of a collector.

An unnamed source told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s an enormous crime, one of the biggest in art history” while the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, called the theft “an intolerable attack on Paris’s universal cultural heritage” and art historian Tim Marlow commented that the thief obviously “knew what he was taking”.

The theft was discovered at approximately 7a.m. local time (5a.m. UTC) by museum staff. The Paris prosecutor’s office said that a single masked man was captured on CCTV walking away with the works, which had been removed from their frames with care rather than being sliced out. The paintings belong to the museum’s permanent collection.

Investigators are questioning museum staff after speculation that the perpetrator may have had assistance from somebody on “the inside”. The investigation into the thefts is being led by the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme, an elite French police unit.


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