How GLAM Institutions Thrive on Wikipedia: A Report on Freer Gallery of Art’s Wikipedia Presence
by Joyce Lu and Chelsea Tufarolo
For the final project we, Joyce and Chelsea, worked together to create a report which addresses the Freer Gallery of Art’s presence on Wikipedia and position in comparison to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and other art museums in Washington, D.C. Specifically, we looked at the National Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and National Museum of African Art.
We chose the Freer|Sackler specifically because of our ability to communicate directly with those working at the museum. Through our class edit-a-thon and Chelsea’s internship at the galleries, we were able to reach out to the museum staff, namely the Chief Digital Officer Courtney O’Callaghan, to address what the staff felt were the most immediate issues with the Freer|Sackler Wikipedia pages. Additionally, our connection and partnership with the galleries will allow us to share our finished product with the institution, in hopes that our recommended changes will be implemented.
For our analysis, we initially planned to rely on the BaGLAMa tool to analyze the position of the Freer|Sackler and draw comparisons between these galleries and other art museums in the Washington, D.C. area. Prior to using this tool, Joyce reached out to Dylan Kinnett, the Web and Social Media Manager at the Walters Art Museum.
In addition to the shortcomings addressed by Dylan, we found that the tool is not readily used by the majority of art institutions in the Washington, D.C. area. In fact, out of the institutions we initially planned to investigate, we found the Freer Gallery of Art was the only museum to be featured on this site. So although we were able to compile a substantial amount of information specifically about this gallery, we were unable to find comparable data from the other institutions. This forced us to view the Freer Gallery of Art’s page as a separate entity from the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery page. In the future, if someone were to explore this same topic, the addition of the missing museums to the BaGLAMa tool would be extraordinarily useful.
The comparisons we made between the museums were based on our own analysis of their respective Wikipedia articles. The culmination of our work can be seen in our report on the Freer Gallery of Art. Art museums’ use of Wikipedia is important because of the growing popularity of the site. Those looking up these institutions may turn to Wikipedia instead of the museums’ actual website. It is important for GLAM institutions to acknowledge this and respond accordingly.
In terms of the utilization of BaGLAMa tool, we looked at the ten most viewed Wikipedia sites, on which pages featuring items from Freer Gallery of Art are being viewed and examined. In addition, we also explored ten Wikipedia sites that have most pages containing items from the Freer Gallery of Art. Through these two aspects, we were able to compare the relationship between the view clicks and the number of related pages. These results are outline and discussed in our final report.
Further more, we were also able to retrieve those most-used collections from Freer Gallery of Art in Wikipedia and its representative topics. For example, on the English Wikipedia site, the most viewed page featuring items from Freer Gallery of Art is Krishna, while the featured item in the museum is Krishna with Flute. In the report, we listed both ten most viewed articles and the ten most most viewed Wikipedia sites. We think this a great resource for the museum’s staff to know what their most popular exhibition is and what people from other languages would know about them and their collections.
It addition to recognizing the needs of their visitors, it is also important for GLAM institutions, and public relations practitioners in general, to know about the guidelines of Wikipedia. In our discussions with public relations representatives, both inside and outside GLAM environments, we found that knowledge of Wikipedia conflict of interest policies played a role in how the individuals dealt with the site.
PR Practices on Wikipedia Editing Policy
In order to know PR practices on Wikipedia editing policy, we contacted one of our class guest speaker, Bill Beutler, the president of a boutique PR firm specialized in Wikipedia editing. Even though Wikipedia has been strongly adverse to paid editing, PR practitioners still plays their role on Wikipedia to improve clients’ online presence and search engine optimization. According to Bill, not many agencies and in-house communication teams have a clear Wikipedia editing policy. It is assumed it’s okay for their employees to edit topics of their own interest, and to follow best practices and stick to Talk pages when working on articles for clients or similar relationships. In the following, we will introduce our observations of organizations’ Wikipedia activities and also our own experience of being PR practitioners while dealing with Wikipedia policies:
In working with Allison Peck, the head of Public Relations and Marketing at the Freer|Sackler, Courtney O’Callaghan, the Chief Digital Officer, and the rest of the Social Media Taskforce, Chelsea found that the galleries’ current approach to dealing with Wikipedia came from a lack of experience. As noted in our report, the Freer Gallery of Art article had been labeled as being updated by “a major contributor.” This was evident by the use of external links and non-neutral language promoting specific exhibitions and activities related to the galleries. Although this aligns with the objectives of the Freer|Sackler’s internal departments, it is technically against Wikipedia’s policies. The Freer|Sackler’s future approach for dealing with the site will likely be to solicit help from outside sources, specifically in the form of future edit-a-thon partnerships, so as to ensure the pages are updated while also remaining as neutral as possible.
Joyce has been working with Wilderness50, a coalition of federal agencies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and other wilderness user groups whose purpose is to plan and eventually implement local, regional, and national events and projects, specifically designed to elevate the profile of wilderness during the 50th anniversary celebration. Joyce was involved with creating the Wikipedia page “National Wilderness Conference” and inserting “50th Anniversary of Wilderness Act” into the page “Wilderness Act.” Joyce also updated some external links on each pages related. Given the nature of the coalition and the celebrating events, it was notable enough to meet the Notability policy on Wikipedia. However, Joyce had a hard time to upload the coalition’s logo onto WikiCommons because she initially failed to categorize it into any optional licenses. Tentatively Joyce categorized it as “work from federal government” and it works. When Joyce told the communication specialist in the coalition about the existence of the Wikipedia page, she suggested Joyce remove all external links irrelevant to the anniversary itself. However, on a second thought, Joyce felt it was a good supplement resource for viewers to understand what is wildness, why it is important and how we have been protecting it legally. After a couple of emails back and forth, the client understood Wikipedia page is not merely a social promote site, but a site to inform people about a specific topic and the editorial tone should stay in neutral.
Finally, we are able to secure the external links from different perspectives, and glad to see that following editors’ editing footprint. “Internet is written in edit-able ink.” This is especially applied to Wikipedia pages. As we talked with Bill Beutler, he pointed out the editing process for public relations people is like dancing with shackles. We all should notice the neutral point of view and refrain from violating it while we are cross-pollinating the message on Wikipedia.