Wikicite/grant/Research Records of Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Auckland War Memorial Museum./Report/Case Study

Case studies – adding GLAM research to Wikipedia articlesEdit

Natural sciencesEdit

How museum sources were useful for species articlesEdit

Dozens of species were first described in the Records of the Auckland Museum, however one major obstacle was that just because a species was described, did not mean that there was an ongoing discourse about this species, or that it was ever identified again (often the case if careful analysis was needed to differentiate between species).

Some species have so little information available in scholarly discourse. Often the total sum of knowledge for some species was the initial description in the 1800s, followed by brief mentions in textbooks. Some sources on invasive species do not actively specify where the species originated from!

The articles have a wealth of knowledge not necessarily appropriate for casual readers or a Wikipedia article (such as detailed measurements of the type specimen and holotypes), meaning Records could only be used for very general/surface level content, or novel content that would have been of interest to article readers (which often did not match the scope of what the articles focused on or the article authors felt was important, such as range and the species’ role in nature).

Issues with creating new species articles on WikipediaEdit

One of the largest barriers for me was Template:Taxonomy, within the species template box. I believe that ideally this system was made for people who already edit species articles in mind – completing the species box template just to find that it has an error which needs to be fixed can be hard (for one species article, I needed to complete three Template:Taxonomy tiers before the template worked correctly!) This system feels awkward when the species usually already has a taxonomy at Wiki Commons or Wikidata.

If the species has a Wiki Commons category or Wikispecies page, this information is much more easily discoverable (the original source might not be a great source for taxonomy, often they do not list this information, or if they do, ideas on taxonomy have changed since the initial publishing). Finding the species on Wikidata can be helpful for identifying any machine-created articles in different languages (typically Swedish, Cebuano and Vietnamese) which are great sources to use for aspects like taxonomic synonyms.

Impact of adding content to WikipediaEdit

Though the view impact for these articles was very low (each new species article received only hundreds of views), however often you can create a definitive source for information on a single subject (something that may not be immediately useful for many viewers, but potentially useful in 10-20 years’ time, especially if the species becomes more notable), and often the institution’s sources make up the bulk of references.

Impact for adding content on pre-existing articles was much higher (especially non-crustacean non-insect articles) – small improvements to articles on sea snakes and birds resulted in 10,000+ views over the Wikimedian in Residence period. Adding content was easy – it was much simpler to identify gaps in the knowledge of a pre-existing article then to create a new one.

In general, editing species articles feels a lot less restrictive than biography articles, which need a degree of notability in order to be published.

Human historyEdit

Usefulness of museum sources, and issues incorporating content into WikipediaEdit

The main issue in using museum articles for human history sources was their age – sources older than 15 years often needed to be re-contextualised with indigenous perspectives to be useful. Often archaeological articles from the past do not mention local oral histories, or even which groups (iwi/ hapū) lived in these locations. All these articles needed to be balanced with Māori-focused history, mostly found either in government documents (e.g. resource planning documents from local councils, or Treaty of Waitangi settlement documents from the central government).

Many archaeological articles were not useful for Wikipedia content. They focused on topographical details, soil strata, details on the dig itself, or artefacts found at these locations (for New Zealand, often means adze blades). Often this is not appropriate information for the scope of a Wikipedia article (i.e. an article on a suburb of Auckland does not benefit from this information in a history section).

Another issue with archaeological articles is that places shift in importance. Many historically important locations (e.g. the Āwhitu Peninsula or the mouth of the Waikato River) are not as notable in the current day, meaning there is a wealth of history information with no corresponding Wikipedia article on the location to place it in.

Because of these issues, often sources were used for very general information from the context/background sections describing the area, or the discussion sections of articles, which had more useful speculation or theories about what was found during the dig.

Impact of adding content to WikipediaEdit

The impact for any human history content was high. Not only was the content accessed much more often (10,000+ view articles were common), often content was appropriate for a range of articles. For example, the same piece of information on traditional textiles could be used in the main article on this subject (Māori traditional textiles), but also on articles on the plants the fibres were created from, locations where they were found, or even very general articles on weaving techniques.


Author: Marty Blayney, Auckland Museum Wikimedian in Residence, May 2021