This article was first published in Archaeology Scotland’s membership magazine and is reproduced with kind permission. Written by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, Cara Jones, Jeff Sanders and Leigh Stork.
We all use (and love!) Wikipedia, but we are sometimes frustrated by the quality of the content on the Scottish Archaeology pages. We decided to do something about it and in Spring 2014, the Edinburgh Archaeology Wiki Club was born! Our aim is to meet up once a month and gradually improve the content of Wikipedia pages on Scottish archaeology. As archaeologists, we are regularly required with our work to go and visit archaeological sites in Scotland and are able to take lots of photographs that we are then able to upload. We are also familiar with a lot of the sites, are used to dealing with archaeological information, and have access to good data. We felt that we couldn’t complain about the quality of Wikipedia if we didn’t do something about it ourselves!
However, let’s go back to our first meeting. We were fortunate that Wikipedia provided two Wikipedians-in-residences (Pat Hadley and Ally Crockford) for our initial meet up. They were able to supply us with instructions, do’s and don’ts, and guide us through our initial steps of editing. Both have become a point of contact and support for our group, helping us to tighten up our wiki-editing skills. It is worth noting that (at the time of writing) there are currently two Wikipedians-in-residences in Scotland, and they are here to help you! One great aspect of Wikipedia is how supportive it is as an organisation. One of us (Doug) was funded by Wikipedia to go to the 2014 Wikimania in London and was able to bring back new skills and knowledge to share with the group. Wikipedia takes its contributors seriously and helps support them when they can.
So why do we do this? Well, for one, we are fairly like-minded people who believe passionately that knowledge should be accessible to all, and one way to help disseminate this knowledge is by using an established digital platform (Wikipedia) that is utilised by so many. Wikipedia is one of the top ten visited websites in the world – think about how you use Wikipedia in your daily life – for example to plan your holiday (“ahh I can see that there is an Neolithic Chambered Cairn near us”) or to find out more about your favourite TV programme (“hmmm how accurate really is 10,000BC?”). Go a step further and think about how you could possibly use Wikipedia to encourage visitors to actually visit your local heritage, sometimes by simply adding a photograph (“my goodness – those ramparts look amazing, I must go see that site”).
How easy is it to edit Wikipedia? There are strict rules involved with editing or creating Wikipedia pages – you have to declare any potential conflict of interests on your biographical page, and (when adding text) you must also reference reputable source material. That said, it is actually an easy thing to do and if you get stuck there is a whole army of online advisors out there who are more than happy to help. It is also a fun thing to do once a month – whether you are a group of friends or perhaps a community heritage group.
What is next for our group? Well, we are still learning, but as a group (and some of us are better than others!) we are learning together (i.e. Cara takes a lot of photographs on her travels…Doug helps upload them!). We have two fringe events scheduled at national conferences this year where we hope to help other archaeologists engage with Wikipedia and we have also had enquiries through social media from other archaeologists keen to create a Wiki Club in their area. Watch this space…or rather, Wikipedia page.
Check out one of our earlier Wikipedia entries on Leckie Broch – can you help improve it?
You can learn more about the Wikipedian-in-residence project at http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedian_in_Residence
See Doug Rocks-Macqueen blog (www.dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com) for several articles on Archaeology and Wikipedia.
If you would like to learn more about what we do or if you would to set up a Wiki Club in your area, please get in touch with Cara on twitter @carajones82