“One is most amused” – Queen Victoria’s Journals editathon

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria

This post was written by Liz McCarthy, Communications and Social Media Officer for the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford

‘This book, Mamma gave me, that I might write the journal of my journey to Wales in it.’ So began the young Victoria in 1832, beginning a lifelong habit – and providing fodder for researchers around the world.

As Communications and Social Media Officer for the Bodleian Libraries , it was my job to find ways to get the word out and help our audiences engage with the Queen Victoria’s Journals project. The project, a collaborative effort between the Bodleian Libraries, the Royal Archives and information  company ProQuest, has made Queen Victoria’s diaries available online.

The Bodleian Libraries communications team had already begun to consider how we might create stronger links with the Wikipedia community – we’ve been chatting to Wikipedians in Residence and working with local editors to improve collection-related content. Engaging with the Wikipedia community seemed like a great way to put the Journals material to use as well as to help us develop relationships with Wikipedians in the area, and we decided to run a Queen Victoria’s Journals editathon to coincide with the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birthday on 24 May.

The project’s timing meant that we had a very short window in which to organise an event, but we went ahead. We quickly pulled together some promotional material and got curators lined up for the day, then spent about two and half weeks promoting the event. The help of Wikimedia UK was crucial in getting the word out and making sure everything was set up correctly, but we also advertised within the University and to various Victorian research groups.

We ended up with 14 participants (5 virtual, using IRC to ask questions) as well as curators and staff who came by to answer questions and facilitate. We were lucky enough to have Wikimedia trainers Charles Matthews and Doug Taylor join us, and they provided one-to-one support to the new editors – including the Director of Records for the Royal Household, who was roped into making his first ever edit! Our curators began with a quick intro to Queen Victoria’s journals and the Journals website, and then we dived right in.

The day was a success in terms of articles edited (38, including 3 new ones); Wikipedia is now the 2nd-highest referring site to the Journals website. It was also a relaxed opportunity to engage with the Wikipedia community and to introduce new ways of exploring our collections to those who know most about them. We look forward to hosting another event in the autumn – next time, with kids!