National Library of Scotland to hire ‘Wikipedian’

ITS vast collections include everything from centuries-old historical documents, manuscripts and maps to modern-day newspapers, magazines and films.
Soon people worldwide will have access to National Library of Scotland treasures. Picture: Phil WilkinsonSoon people worldwide will have access to National Library of Scotland treasures. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Soon people worldwide will have access to National Library of Scotland treasures. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Now the National Library of Scotland is to attempt to open up access to its archives, which contain 15 million artefacts, with the help of the vast online 
encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Scotland’s largest library, which is also one of the major research libraries in Europe, has become the first institution in the country to join forces with the site’s founders, Wikimedia, to create a “Wikipedian in residence”.

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He or she will be expected to lead efforts to see more of the Edinburgh-based organisation’s collections and expert knowledge featured on the site, which has about 470 million users a month.

It is hoped the Wikipedian will help staff, regular researchers and members of the public using the library’s facilities to add their own content to the online encyclopaedia, which was launched 12 years ago.

A key aim of the venture, which is being run as a pilot project for four months, is improving understanding and knowledge of Scotland’s history.

Wikimedia held talks with NLS chiefs about a joint venture after the British Library recruited its first “Wikipedian in residence” last year.

It is thought the partnership could eventually extend to the other national collections, including National Museums Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Records of Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and 
Historical Monuments of Scotland.

A job advert for the position states: “Are you looking for a temporary job? Do you enjoy editing Wikipedia and can you teach others to do it, too?

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“If the answer to these questions is yes, a current vacancy at the National Library of Scotland may interest you.

“This is a unique opportunity to help enrich Wikipedia and its sister projects and share with the world the resources and knowledge from the National Library of Scotland’s collections and to involve librarians, members of the public and researchers in contributing to articles on Wikipedia, the world’s largest open-source project.”

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The NLS archives alone include about 100,000 manuscripts, nearly two million maps, more than 32,000 films and 25,000 newspaper and magazine titles.

It can call on specialist expertise in digital material, rare books, manuscripts, maps, music, business information, and science and technology. Digitised versions of some of the most iconic items in the NLS archives could soon appear on Wikipedia, including the last known letter of Mary Queen of Scots, the official order for the Glencoe Massacre and handwritten poems by Robert Burns.

Gill Hamilton, digital access manager at the National Library of Scotland, said: “This partnership with Wikimedia is a wonderful way for people around the world to learn about the history and culture of Scotland by accessing information from our amazing collections.

“This combines the richness of our archives with the power of the internet to let many more people learn about the story of Scotland.

“Unfortunately, not everyone can visit the Library in Edinburgh to see these and many other historic items so this is a way of making them available to a much wider audience.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The National Library of Scotland is one of Europe’s major research and reference libraries, offering world-class special collections as a rich resource to promote Scotland’s unique heritage and distinctive culture.

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“With the many millions of people worldwide who view themselves as Scots, this initiative offers an easy and user-friendly way for Wikipedia users to enhance their learning about Scotland, its people and its place in the world.”

Daria Cybulska, a spokeswoman for Wikimedia UK, said: “We are always keen to co-operate and open up partnerships with other organisations.”