Daily Dose: National Archives Hires “Wikipedian in Residence”

The National Archives is trying to bring more information to the public through their new “Wikipedian in Residence”, 24-year-old Dominic McDevitt-Parks. McDevitt-Parks has been tasked with getting cultural and historical treasures, like a collection of Ansel Adams photographs, on Wikipedia. He explains the idea behind the newly-created position in a recent interview with the Washington Post:

The bigger picture is it’s a collaboration between the Archives and Wikipedia. Both institutions are like-minded and have different approaches. The Archives is trying to enter the 21st century. If their documents can’t be accessed, there’s not really a point in preserving them. If you put something on the National Archives Web site, you might get 1,000 page views. Yesterday the main Wiki page got 12 million hits. The way I look at it, I’m trying to act as a catalyst to help improve the content on Wiki and help improve discoverability for the content. The idea is to bring the holdings outside our four walls and into the digital space.

National Archives hires first ‘Wikipedian’

The National Archives is one of a handful of institutions that has created position to leverage Wikipedia’s ubiquity on the internet. While the National Archives has a unique mission, many members of the public rely on Wikipedia to look up all different types of information. Agencies and elected officials also have an interest in at least monitoring their Wikipedia pages to ensure that they are being portrayed accurately.

Does your organization using Wikipedia to engage with the public?


“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great a story in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send it to [email protected].

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Jeff Ribeira

Wikipedia is quite often my first source for information on just about everything. It’s been cool to see it go from a simple, fun online resource though not quite seen as a legitimate source of information, to a massive network of multi-peer reviewed articles that cover just about every subject under the sun and now welcomed in many academic institutions. Is “wikipedian” his real title? That’s pretty wild.

Alicia Mazzara

While it’s remarkable that users manage the community to ensure a pretty good level of accuracy, not all content is developed to the same level. I recently read this NYT piece about how Wikipedia contributors are heavily male, which affects which pages get a lot of detail and which do not: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/business/media/31link.html. Given that, I can see how the NASA page is much more populated than DOT.

Faye Newsham

@Andrew – you are sort of comparing apples to oranges in those two. The DOT page is accurate and provides links to the sub-agencies where the “action” happens. NASA has a life of its own – you don’t ever hear about sub-agencies of NASA, you hear about specific programs and efforts. Although the DOT page is shorter and less colorful it still gets you to the main information you may be looking for. I think Wikipedia is a great place to start on topics you know very little about but once you’ve got that, it is still important to hit up those peer reviewed academic sources for most research.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, Faye – I’m just rabble rousing here, but I’d love to see quite a bit more history of the agency – the transition from Commerce to a separate agency, their mission and vision, and overall sense of the agency…I’m still maintaining that it’s sparse and could use some sprucing.