It’s a GLAM wrap: Curators meet collaborators at Canberra conference

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Monday, August 17, 2009

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Earlier this month, over 150 delegates from cultural institutions, government and the online community gathered at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra over one and a half days for the first GLAM-WIKI conference. The conference brought together representatives from the GLAM sector, comprising galleries, libraries, archives and museums, politicians, and members of the Wikimedia community (who edit the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and its sister sites), to enter into a dialogue regarding ways the three areas can work collaboratively to preserve and promote cultural collections online.

The panel line-up for the Friday morning discussion
Image: Gnagarra.

Highlights from the conference included keynote speeches by Wikimedia Foundation Chief Program Officer Jennifer Riggs and Senator Kate Lundy, as well as a panel discussion on the political pressures involved in improving and disseminating GLAM organisations’ online collections featuring Senator Lundy as well as Senator Scott Ludlam, ACT Legislative Assembly shadow minister Alistair Coe, Government 2.0 Taskforce member Seb Chan, Adjunct Director to the Digital Library of the National Library of New Zealand Paul Reynolds and Kylie Johnson, the New Media Advisor for the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Sessions focused on ways the Wikimedia and GLAM communities could better work together to further their missions of preserving, curating and sharing cultural knowledge, with streams examining the topics of legal and technical barriers, and the impact on business and education.

Senator Lundy addressing the conference
Image: Gnagarra.

Two case studies were presented at the conference, the first being the Powerhouse Museum’s experimental release of some of their photographic collection to Flickr Commons, and the second the collaboration between the German Wikimedia chapter and German Federal Archives to release their collection to Wikimedia Commons. While these and other projects were examined as successful forays into open content, the recent legal action between the United Kingdom’s National Portrait Gallery and a Wikimedian was raised in most sessions as an example of such efforts having negative consequences.

Delegates at the conference engaged in heated discussion both on- and offline, with the #GLAM-WIKI tag on Twitter generating over 500 tweets during the course of the first day. Overall, feedback from participants was strongly positive over both the event and its plans for the future.

Liam Wyatt, the Vice President of the Australian Wikimedia Chapter and organiser of the event, was impressed by the turnout. According to Wyatt, “at 170 registrations it is one of the largest Wikimedia events ever, after [international Wikimedia conference] Wikimania, and to be able to offer that for no attendance fee is testament to the support we received from our partners – most especially the WMF … There are many proposals and discussions that are now starting up as a result of the event and, rightly, these may take quite some time to bear fruit. However, what I think we have achieved immediately is to take the heat out of the debate between the cultural sector and the Wikimedia community.”

Jennifer Riggs was similarly impressed by the dialogue that came as a result of the conference. “It’s gone terrifically, really. People have had the opportunity to be really frank about the concerns that they have.”



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