Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

The Power of Wiki

Museum of Modern Art. Source: The Guardian.

Robin Cembalest, Museums Open Up to the Power of Wiki, The Wall Street Journal, 11 October 2015

“Stay cool when the editing gets hot” was the catchphrase in the Museum of Modern Art’s library one Saturday earlier this month, where volunteers from New York City’s Wikimedia chapter were training a diverse group on the culture and mechanics of crowd-sourced Web content.

The seven-hour event, devoted to updating Wikipedia entries on topics of Latin American art and culture, included lunch and free child care. Attracting contributors ranging from educators and scholars to an engineer, a banker and a marketer, the gathering would have been unthinkable at a gatekeeper of authority, such as MoMA’s library, just a few years ago, several staff members agreed.

But this is becoming the new normal at the museum, which hosts monthly edit-a-thons, as meet-ups to improve Wikipedia pages are called.

The meet-ups are part of a larger shift at MoMA as the venerable institution grapples with the sea change in which content is created and shared in the digital era. Rather than seeing the crowd-sourced encyclopedia as a natural antagonist to its curatorial authority, the museum has begun to embrace Wikipedia as a partner in a hyper-connected, ever-expanding information network.

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