When you’re identifying what digital interpretive tactics work for your organization, eventually you will find one (or a combination of a few) that achieves a number of needs. This is called a strategic linchpin.
Linchpins are the result of beginning the strategic process, engaging experimentally, and giving your plans some time to percolate. The ability to focus more effort on fewer linchpin technologies is a sign that your tactical planning has truly become strategic.
The following are three examples of strategic linchpins specific to points-in-time and cultural organizations from my work in digital initiatives.
Strategic Linchpin 1: NCPTT Podcast
In 2007, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training faced the difficulty of being a National Park Service agency with a mandate to serve a national audience, despite a decade of flat budgets and a relatively remote location in northwest Louisiana. The organization needed a way to show its impact, including the influence of innovative grant projects it funded to support the use of technology for historic preservation purposes. At the time, many of its audiences were cautiously curious about social and online media technologies. Part of this was that there were not really any topically relevant media to compel their participation.
I started the Preservation Technology Podcast as a way to empower staff to showcase their successes, and for audiences to connect to a wider world of like-minded preservation geeks. For all, it was a first step into modern online media, short of the engagement platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which were still viewed as invasive at the time. The podcast’s objectives included the following:
Give the staff a voice
Showcase grant products
Promote peer research
Connect with a national audience on no budget
Encourage adoption of digital media among audiences
Show digital media leadership within NPS
Almost ten years later, the podcast is the longest-running historic preservation podcast being produced. Moreover, NCPTT is noted for its role in championing digital outreach technologies, especially within the National Park Service.
Strategic Linchpin 2: Chemical Heritage Foundation GLAM-Wiki Program
In 2013, the Chemical Heritage Foundation was looking for ways to publicly share its comprehensive collections and research related to the history of chemistry. It used a lower-end collections management system and did not have a public search function enabled. It had narrative histories on its website, but they were difficult to find. At the same time, many staff members expressed frustration about the lack of quality information related to these topics on Wikipedia.
CHF chose to participate in the GLAM-Wiki initiative that helps cultural institutions share their resources with the world through collaborative projects with experienced Wikipedia editors. A Philadelphia-area Wikipedia editor was hired as a Wikipedian-in-Residence. This resulted in staff training on Wikipedia, and a systematic upload of high-quality collections images to WikiMedia Commons, and the creation of a monthly onsite cybercafe that included Wikipedia edit-a-thons.
The Wikipedian-in-Residence position was subsequently funded for a four-year term through a grant with the Beckman Foundation, and the Wikipedia content continues to be a major driver of web traffic to CHF web properties.
Strategic Linchpin 3: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens 3D Documentation
In March 2016, I had recently been contracted by Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, Fl., to give strategic shape to their digital initiatives. I reached out to David Morgan, a former colleague to brainstorm the evolution of a concept with which we had some common experience: 3D documentation. We both worked together several years at the National Park Service National Center for Preservation Technology and Training–an organization at the forefront of innovating technologies for heritage preservation. David has since moved on to become director of the NPS Southeast Archaeological Center in Tallahassee, Fl., and made several introductions to people who performed 3D documentation in Florida.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a historic house museum and formal gardens located on Biscayne Bay in Miami. Its heritage resources are continually threatened from the climate (including sea-level rise) and inclement weather. It is also an extremely popular tourist attraction. Dual-purposing preservation documentation technology with visitor-facing interpretive technologies was an attractive idea for the institution.
Only a few people at the organization were aware of preservation documentation technologies. I wrote an explanatory document in summer 2016 that describes how the tech worked, what the advantages were and what partners could help achieve success (here’s a more general explainer based on that research). Among the benefits outlined were:
Preserve endangered heritage resources
Make resources accessible & tell their stories to visitors
Bridge preservation and interpretive technologies
Nurture academic/tech partnerships
Vizcaya formed a partnership with the University of Florida to prioritize laser scanning and photogrammetry documentation on resources that were of intense interest, but not accessible to the public. In January of 2017, UF completed scanning of the resources for preservation purposes.
In May 2017, the Knight Foundation awarded Vizcaya a grant for $100,000 to fulfill its vision to create visitor-facing virtual experiences based on 3D documentation of these resources. 3D documentation technology has come a long way in the past five years, and really, only now would we be attempting to make this visitor-facing element happen. This was made evident when I attended NCPTT’s 3D Documentation Summit in April. Many of the speakers there mentioned virtual experiences as the “next phase” of this technology. We’d already submitted our grant idea by then, but it was gratifying to know the leaders in this field were thinking the same way.
It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience seeing the idea take root at Vizcaya, knowing that the resources are being cared for, and the visitor experience as well. The values of Vizcaya’s leadership and staff, and the nature of Vizcaya itself, are what made 3D documentation its first strategic linchpin technology.
In 2013, I started up the GLAM-Wiki initiative at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to provide greater access to the organization’s rich store of historical art, books, instruments and oral histories related to the history of chemistry. The program initiative began with the hiring of Mary Ockerbloom as Wikipedian in Residence and continued with trainings and edit-a-thons that have gained participation throughout the Northeast U.S.
Accomplishments as of Spring 2014:
329 Images contributed to Wikimedia Commons.
One million views for pages with CHF images in January 2014
14 new articles on Wikipedia
725 Wikipedia articles edited by Wikipedian in Residence
4,000 edits on Wikipedia by Wikipedian in Residence
Nine “Did You Know” featured articles by Wikipedian in Residence
145 Attendees at eight workshops and talks
140 Attendees at GLAM Cafe Digital Humanities Events
Have you ever wanted to learn hieroglyphics? What if a podcast could help you with that? There is one out there and it’s produced by this episode’s guest. His name is Vincent Brown. Vincent is kind of a new media renaissance man, with a focus on Egyptology and the pyramids. In addition to the podcast he created, he also maintains blogs and a very active Twitter community. That’s one of the things he’s going to talk about is optimizing your Twitter participation for creating a community: crafting relevant tweets and how to optimize those with hashtags as well. Here’s that interview. [Timestamp #00:01:39.6#]
Vincent Brown: I’m a web designer by trade. Before I got into freelance web design, I was an IT network administrator. I was a trainer as well and taught web design. I actually invented a form of Twitter with some guys in my group. I always thought that it would be fantastic to be able to update a website from a mobile phone. We actually got a prototype working. That was 2006, and in the same month, Twitter came out, so I jumped on to that. That’s the powerful aspect of Twitter–to have it on the sidebar of your blog and have those elements remotely feeding into it. #00:02:53.5#
Jeff Guin: Did you have any concept as to how things would evolve with Twitter? #00:02:54.3#
VB: No way. I wasn’t even thinking about social aspects. I was really just thinking about remotely updating a blog, and of course it’s much more than that. #00:03:05.3#
JG: You have quite a community there. Was it intentional for you to build a community through Twitter? #00:03:21.7#
VB: Originally, I started using it as a news outlet–as a micro-blog. My blog posts take hours to write. I get carried away, so there’s a lack of time for doing regular blog posts. As a way of combating that, I decided to post the micro-updates everyday. I generally put out 10-20 a day through my Google Reader feeds that I’ve developed over the years. And that expanded into doing lessons on Twitter as well. I was learning ancient Egyptian, which being a complex language, is a long-term study. I thought if would be great to help my colleagues who were studying with me to have flash cards. So I started by creating a flashcard for one word each day. At the end of the week, I’d compile them and make a chart, which I put on Flickr. Then I thought a video would be even more effective. So I created a video each week to recap six words. Being a trainer, I knew that learning requires extras like sound and visuals for easy memorization. I added music and different backgrounds and released it as Creative Commons content. I really enjoyed the community collaboration of using others’ content and doing that through Creative Commons is a good way, because it allows all involved to be credited for their work. #00:05:48.5#
JG: And this podcast is still available. I discovered it on iTunes. #00:05:53.3#
JG: Who were the folks you interacted with in social media early on? #00:06:01.9#
VB: The Brooklyn Museum was on the forefront early, doing amazing things. They took a few trips to the hospital with their mummy. They did CT scans on a mummy the museum has. Shelley Bernstein, the IT person there, decided to live blog it. I set up a live Twitter feed and embedded it in my blog. I also automated the Twitpics as well so they were coming out on my blog, and encouraged my readers to interact with them so that she was able to receive questions and could ask the curators and scientists questions. The museum also has embraced Flickr in a big way–really pushing The Commons. Flickr was one the first social media companies to embrace the idea of The Commons [here’s a list of participating organizations]. It’s a feature of Flickr, so it was powerful for the museum to put their archives on The Commons. There are a few others: Boston University and Harvard collaborated with Peter Der Manuelian of the Giza Archives, to create some fantastic representations of the Giza plateau and some of the tombs there. #00:08:54.7#
JG: Tell me more about your blog. That really is the heart of your community. #00:08:56.4#
VB: I started it in January 2008. I created a few other websites before that, including Pyramid Texts Online, which is more academic than Talking Pyramids. I traveled to Egypt in 1997. Although the internet was around then, and I did a lot of research online, it was really hard to ascertain which pyramids were open. I was disappointed to arrive at the Great Pyramid and found that two of the three chambers were closed. In fact, another pyramid that I was very interested in going to–the Unas Pyramid in Saqqara, which is the most elaborately inscribed with texts, was sadly closed when I got there. I thought there really should an online resource where travelers can go to find this out. That was impetus behind the site. I also wanted to get into blogging. A website is quite static. Little did I know that a blog requires much more attention, and regular updates. I’m still building up those pyramid pages. I’ve been using social media on those static pages by pulling in, for example, Flickr collections of those individual pyramids. I like that because the content is constantly changing without me having to manually do it myself. #00:11:16.5#
JG: How did you get interested in Egyptology? #00:11:21.5#
VB: It’s hard to pinpoint because I’ve always liked Egyptian music, especially. The first time I picked up a guitar, I wanted to play an middle-eastern sounding riff. It’s my favorite sound. One of my first memories when I was about four-years-old was sitting down with my father to make a cardboard pyramid. It was said that if you put a piece of fruit in a pyramid shape, it will preserve it. It was the era of Uri Geller who was doing the spoon bending tricks. So we put a grape inside and folded it up and sticker-taped the sides. Being four, I wasn’t sure what the word “preserved” meant, so I just thought as long as I could rattle the box and hear it, it was preserved! So that’s my earliest memory. Then, in 1996, I read Secrets of the Great Pyramid by Peter Tompkins. It was a pretty comprehensive book that got me really interested in learning more. A year later, I had saved up enough money to go to Egypt and it continued from there. #00:13:34.0#
JG: Is your professional background purely in web design, or are you also a professional archaeologist? #00:13:41.9#
VB: No, I have no professional background in archaeology or Egyptology. #00:13:50.1#
JG: Yet, you’re an authority … #00:13:57.5#
VB: Funny, isn’t it? That’s the nature of the web, combined with passion. If you love something enough and dedicate your time to it, then anyone can master anything. I have a lot of learning to do still. There’s over 100 pyramids in Egypt and that’s a lot of study. Also the language–that’s an ongoing thing that I dive in and out of as time permits. #00:14:29.5#
JG: Let’s talk more about your Flickr stream, because you have a fairly comprehensive set of photos there. Tell me what inspired you to create your photostream and what the future might be for it. #00:14:45.5#
VB: As I said before I first found out about Flickr when I was teaching web design. It was a great project, because there were community organizations who needed websites made, and I had these guys who could create websites. It was a skill-building process in which Flickr became a major tool. Because of the Creative Commons content there, we could legally use Flickr as a source of images for these websites. I opened up my own personal account, and encouraged my friends and family to do the same. In the old days, you would have to compile photos into a five or 10 megabyte attachment in an email that no one wants to receive. Obviously, Flickr is fantastic for holiday photos. I also find it fantastic for research and use it as a search engine. Recently a friend told me about a church he was visiting in Holland, so I went straight to Flickr and found hundreds of photos. He was describing the patterns on the floor, and I responded “Yes, I see.” He says “what do you mean.” He was surprised so much was already on Flickr. It’s a hugely powerful tool. #00:16:49.7#
JG: You’ve got all the big guys covered: Flickr, Twitter, etc. Are there any other forms of social media that you use to deepen your connection with your audience. #00:17:01.5#
VB: There’s also Delicious.com. Delicious is really powerful. I used to have bookmarks, which got really big and unwieldy. Delicious is a terrific online tool that allows you to give your bookmarks tags to keep them organized and relevant. That is also fed into the sidebar of the blog as well. The thing about YouTube is some people don’t realize how you can used for anything other than upload. I only have a few videos of my own online. However, I have created playlists for all sorts of topics, such as individual pyramids. These playlists are added automatically to each pyramid’s page. Apart from the playlists, I’m always favoriting as well. When you arrive at my channel, you always see the most recent video that I’ve favorited. Sometimes I don’t watch all the videos right away and will come back on the weekend and watch them all in the playlist then. #00:19:48.2#
The big news has been the uprising in Egypt. I’ve tried to keep my focus on pyramids, but it’s hard with such a huge event, so I made up a playlist of the Egyptian songs that were written during and after the protests. #00:20:13.6#
JG: Have you found that those events have driven additional traffic to your blog? #00:20:14.3#
VB: Yes. I’m posting more regularly since this is big news. I’ve tried to keep my readers informed about the looting at the individual pyramid fields. That’s been hard. Official reports have been conflicting and it’s very ongoing. #00:21:05.1#
JG: A lot has been made of the role of new media in the social unrest in the Middle East and other places in the world. What’s your opinion? #00:21:14.0#
VB: It seems that is the case. It started with a post on Facebook by the Google executive Wael Ghonim that was an impetus for the uprising. Twitter was a very big part of that as well. We saw when the internet was turned off, that Twitter and Google joined forces to create a service that would allow people to send tweets through a public phone box, or any phone. We saw two giants come together beyond their competition. Then, once the internet was turned off, the people were in the streets and there came a point when social media didn’t matter anymore. But people were still recording video with their phones and other devices. When the internet came back up, we got to see those stories. Social media played a big part, and I don’t know if it would have happened without that first Facebook post. #00:22:55.2#
JG: How do you curate the news that you put out? #00:22:58.3#
VB: It’s very time consuming. It’s a matter of sitting down and skimming through those feeds. I also use Twitter as much as Google Reader. I have a lot of lists that I look at and particular people that I follow on Twitter. It takes me several hours everyday to do that. #00:23:50.3#
JG: Related to Twitter, you mentioned your lists. Explain how you’ve broken your lists down. #00:24:04.7#
VB: My lists are my meat and potatoes. That’s where all the action happens. I’ve got an Egyptologist list that is purely people working in that field. Then there’s a museums list, and a general ancient Egypt news list, which comprises anyone talking about the topic. This lists are private right now as I try to curate the information, but I’m considering opening those up more. #00:25:23.5#
JG: You are for hire as a web designer. What’s your web design specialty? #00:25:37.6#
VB: My specialty is care and attention to the client. I don’t do cookie-cutter sites. Training is important is well. I want to empower the person to be able to update their site as well. For that reason, I used WordPress a lot, so that people can update their content without having to pay me or someone else to do it. I also train them in social media and often set them up with a Flickr account and teach them to make that useful to promote their website. And also using social media to help them promote their site as well, so there’s an ongoing promotion service if they want that. If anyone does want a site made, they can contact me at Talking Pyramids or through my business website “Vintuitive.” People can have a look there if they want to see some of the sites I’ve made. #00:27:14.8#
JG: What’s your strategy for updating your social media? #00:27:18.4#
VB: For Twitter, I post 10-20 updates a day, depending on the news. YouTube, a couple of times a week. Flickr, once a week. Being from South Australia, it’s not easy for me to go and take photos of pyramids. Some I’ve posted have been from the South Australian Museum’s Egypt Room, for example. People also send me photos. Flickr is very powerful for contacting people who have just come back from Egypt. Everyday, I’ll finish my news posts with a photo, usually on Twitter. Those will usually come from a Flickr search. I’m always looking for feedback from visitors to find out which pyramids are open. Official sites will say one thing and things may be totally different on the ground. Ticket prices will also go up and down. It’s a bit time consuming, but it’s also a good way to expand the network. Those people will start following my Flickr stream and blog because they are obviously interested if they cared enough to visit the pyramids. #00:29:37.2#
JG: Do you find that you have different audiences for each of the social tools you are involved with? #00:29:52.8#
VB: They’re very different audiences. I have a lot of schools linking to a post on ancient Egyptian games. I think in year six primary schools, they do a segment on ancient Egypt. That post receives more hits on my blog than any other. I’ve got a post on how to make a paper pyramid that’s very popular with schools as well. I don’t know how many people follow me across these services. There are a lot of people who just follow me on Flickr. Same with Twitter. Some of those people who read my posts of Twitter never go to my blog. Some bloggers will only use Twitter to announce new blog posts. They are shortchanging themselves because Twitter is a fantastic resource for reading. I spend a lot of time reading there. It’s really just a matter of spending time to manage your filtering. I think most people, when they come to Twitter think this is all about “that guy eating a ham sandwich” or “someone watching television.” Of course, it’s about following the right people. #00:31:46.9#
JG: How do you filter you Twitter feeds other than your lists? #00:31:52.4#
VB: I use TweetDeck, which includes rows and rows of searches. I’ll run a search on “egyptian uprising”. There’s the hashtag #Jan25 which is what I tag any post to do with the Egyptian uprising. Hashtags are a big part of emphasizing what’s important on Twitter. I will do searches on particular hashtags and save it in a TweetDeck column. I’ve intentionally kept anything not related to Egypt out of that Twitter stream, and that’s why I have another Twitter account as vinbrown. I use that account for digital archaeology. #00:33:57.7#
JG: This leads to one of my pet peeves, which is use of hashtags. Many people are putting the hash symbol in front of every noun in their tweets, and it’s annoying and unreadable. From your perspective, what is proper hashtag etiquette? #00:34:14.2#
VB: Don’t look at the trending topics and use those hashtags. Too many put something like #justinbieber in front of something that has absolutely nothing to do with him. I always put any hashtag at the front end of my tweet. It’s stripped out of the sidebar on my blog. Its is okay to make up your own hashtag, as I started doing with #digitalarchaeology. It’s being used my a number of archaeologists now. #00:36:24.7#
JG: I’m seeing #digitalarchaeology in a number of tweets beside your own. What does it mean? #00:36:43.1#
VB: In the examples we talked about before, I think the work of organizations like the Brooklyn Museum online would qualify as digital archaeology. Also, much of the efforts to recreated archaeological sites in 3-D is a powerful thing. There’s also people like Sarah Parcak, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Parcak), and egyptologist who specializes in using satellite technology in two ways–not just to search for sites on the ground, but also to use GPS to navigate to those sites on the ground. That process has enabled archaeologists to find new sites. That’s definitely digital archaeology. #00:37:55.4#
JG: Have you been involved in any uses of SecondLife in archaeology? #00:37:58.7#
VB: I dabbled in Second Life for a project of my own. But I found on the Discovery Channel a really innovative project in SecondLife, which was The Book of the Dead. Now we’re not just recreating a three dimensional space. #00:38:49.0#
JG: Are there any unexpected connections you’ve made through your online communication? #00:39:01.2#
VB: One thing I really haven’t talked about it Pyramid Texts Online. I’ve been contacted a lot through that website from people who are doing work in this field. For example, the Toledo Museum wanted to know if there was any way of getting high resolution images of the pyramid texts. It’s a long process of finding those hi-res images, but I did eventually find them. What I did with the site was to create a nonlinear presentation of the texts. There’s contention among Egyptologists regarding how they were originally sequenced. By putting them in a linear format in a book, you’re forcing the reader into a linear sequence. Really, the only way you effectively present them without bias is to present them in a 3-D sense. That’s how Pyramid Texts Online came about, in a two dimensional application of that idea. When you go to the site, you can read the whole north wall of the sarcophagus chamber. I recreated the wall from a photographic plate. Those photos came from an old book called the Pyramid Texts of Unas. Turns out the photos were taken in 1950 by a guy named Fred Husson. I did some research and found that he is still alive and well. I contacted him, and he didn’t have the photos, so it was back the research. Then I found that both of the people who were involved in making that book Natacha Rambova (wife of Rudolph Valentino) and Alexandre Piankoff, were born in the same year and died within a few weeks apart in 1967 before the book was finished. So it was handed over to the curator of the Brooklyn Museum at that time. So I thought, if he finished the book, the images were likely to be in the repository at the Brooklyn Museum. So I contact Shelley Bernstein, who I had the interaction with on the “monitoring the mummies” project, and asked if she could find a record of the images. A week later, she got back to me and said they had found them. It was an exciting moment to have copies of those photographs finally go back to Fred. They were recently used in a publication. #00:43:14.8#
JG: Do you use your own podcast to learn hieroglyphics? #00:43:19.2#
VB: That was the reason I created it. The vocab is the hardest thing. Eventually, you memorize all the signs and realize what they mean, but it’s another thing to know all the vocab. It’s an ongoing thing and I’m still learning. I can read basic steles and funerary inscriptions, but some of the more complicated things like pyramid texts are very difficult. We are now working to create a 3-D representation of the pyramid texts. Part of that recreation will include analysis of the texts from a variety of people, somewhat like a wiki. Each line could be translated, and then updated with additional commentary and viewpoints. The problem with a MediaWiki format is syntax, especially for the older members of the group. #00:46:45.5#
JG: Why do you think that is? Not that wikis are mind-numbingly complex, but why should you need to know any code at all to use one? #00:46:46.4#
VB: Especially with Wikipedia, you would think they would drive that forward. They did recently upgrade their interface, but it’s still not there. It’s a fantastic resource. And you have to think, who’s making these edits if it requires that kind of technical know-how. #00:47:35.2#
JG: I agree. Vincent, thanks so much for visiting with me. #00:47:41.7#
VB: Thank you, Jeff
Additional resources from Vincent:
A Tumblr page that shows his network of sites and services.
I’d like to thank Jeff Guin for asking me to write a bit about how to get started with wikis and how they can be useful to folks interested in cultural heritage. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to write about a technology I find so useful and flexible. To introduce myself, I’m one of two objects conservators working at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. You can learn about some of what my colleagues and I do through our slideshows on Flickr. I created two small wiki projects, Pemulen TR-2 and Social Media 4 Collections Care [archived] and contribute very occasionally to Wikipedia.
What’s a Wiki?
The term “wiki”, derived from the Hawaiian word for “quick”, refers to a website created with software that allows a group of people to create and edit the site collaboratively. Every change is recorded. If something didn’t go as planned, a wiki page can be reverted to a previous state, if desired. Most wikis have two areas where administrators and members of the wiki can add text: content areas and discussion or comment areas where users can pose questions or make observations about the content. Some wikis are designed such that content areas and discussion areas appear as separate pages while others have discussion areas positioned under the content areas.
MediaWiki is the open source software created for the best known wiki, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. With more than 91 thousand contributors working on over 17 million articles in 270 languages, arguably it has become a first stop for getting information on just about anything. Anyone can improve existing articles or create new ones, as long as the input meets the Wikipedia community’s criteria for notability and neutrality. A help page, “Advice for the cultural sector” includes suggestions for introducing yourself to the community and suggestions for getting started.
Examples in Heritage
The project “Wikipedia Saves Public Art” provides new users with even more help getting started. Project members created a welcoming tutorial for beginners who want to participate in this project to document public art within Wikipedia but need to know the basics of how to use WikiMarkup and get some guidance on the Wikipedia culture. Additionally, a resource page with links to their article template, style guide, and image guide provide new users with helpful tips for creating a successful reasonably respectable first article. I know because I’ve used it myself to create an article about a sculpture on a college campus.
But perhaps you’re looking to share your observations about a particular material or aspects of your original research. While this information could be incredibly useful to others, it does not fit within Wikipedia’s criteria for inclusion. There are wikis that where these kinds of information might be more appropriate. Two, both built using the MediaWiki software, have been funded by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Preservapedia and the American Institute for Conservation’s Conservation Catalogs Collaborative Knowledge Base. Preservapedia is a source of information for those working in historic preservation and is open to anyone with an interest. AIC’s wiki is intended for professional conservators and was based initially on the Specialty Group Catalogs, written compendiums of information on specific topics related to the preservation and conservation treatment practice, though resources beyond the catalogs are now being added as well.The wikis allow the catalogs and other resources for the conservation community to be updated easily by their editors and to link related articles by different specialty groups to enhance collaborations among the disciplines. Placeography, a project by the Minnesota Historical Society where contributors can share information and memories about structures and neighborhoods, also uses MediaWiki for its software.
There are other, simpler options if you’d prefer to collaborate with even smaller groups. PBworks and Wikispaces, are two hosted software options I’ve worked with. Both companies offer users the opportunity to create at least one wiki free of charge and offer a variety of feature upgrades at a monthly rate.There are many other wiki software options.Some are hosted, others would need to be installed on a server.
To get started on a hosted wiki, you need to open an account on one of the sites. The sites have straight-forward, menu driven editing tools. You don’t need to know HTML or WikiMarkup, the code thats used to format Wikipedia, to create something functional quickly. In addition to text and links, most wiki software also permit inclusion of uploaded files and others have modules to include images, video, slide presentations, calendars, audio clips, RSS feeds, instant message discussions, maps, and polls hosted on other sites.
Administrators can control what sort of visibility the wiki has to the general public and what sort of editing rights members of the wiki hold. Administrators may choose to hide their pages from search engines and only allow access to members that they invite. Thus they can be used as internal organizational documents, such as disaster plans or long range planning documents.
Alternatively, wikis can be made available to search engines to allow for public discovery and administrators may allow anyone, even those who choose to remain anonymous, to comment on or edit the contents of the page, if they wish. Some sites also allow more refined control of user privileges. While some wiki members may be allowed to edit the content, others only may be granted privileges to read and not edit or only be allowed to comment in discussion areas, if the administrator desires.
Wikis can be used by multiple authors or content editors to collaborate on writing projects or presentations. The Pemulen TR-2 wiki was initially created to allow me and two Shelburne Museum conservation fellows, Rachel Penniman and Laura Brill, to develop a presentation that we gave at the Wooden Artifacts Specialty Group’s session at the American Institute for Conservation’s 2009 annual meeting. When Rachel had moved to another state for a job, the wiki allowed us to share documents, images, and ideas as we planned our talk. Now that the presentation is over, the wiki is a useful way to share and discuss what we learned with others who weren’t able to attend the meeting and is a place to continue to update what we’re learning about the polymeric emulsifying agent.
Wikis can be platforms for events. The Institute for Museum and Library Services used the Wikispaces site to create UpNext an online discussion that ran over 10 weeks, March-May 2010, exploring the future of museums and libraries. Facilitators framed and posed questions on ten pages and members of the wiki were invited to discuss those questions and raise new ones on the Discussion pages of the wiki.
Although not an exhaustive list by any means, I’ve collected more examples of how wikis are being used by museums and others interested in caring for cultural property and links to articles about creating wikis on Social Media 4 Collections Care [archive]. If you’ve got a favorite heritage-related wiki that you’d like others to know about I hope you’ll share it here.