Sloan-Supported Collaboration to make Digital Public Library of America Cultural Artifacts more accessible on Wikipedia

By DPLA, December 18, 2019.

This is one of two Digital Public Library of America collaborations involving Wikipedia announced this month. 

In an effort to make artifacts from cultural heritage institutions more accessible to all, Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the national aggregator of digital heritage collections, and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, are collaborating to facilitate the incorporation of DPLA’s cultural artifacts into Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. Funded by a $215,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this collaboration will expand the availability of artifacts such as books, maps, government documents, photos, and more from U.S. cultural heritage institutions across the web.

“If you’re in the business of democratizing knowledge, there is no better partner than Wikimedia,” said John Bracken, DPLA’s executive director. “As a result of this collaboration, many of the artifacts carefully contributed by our cultural heritage partners across the country and aggregated at will be seen by millions of people online, which will help to ensure that the story of our nation can be told and retold for generations to come.”

Bracken added, “From inception, the Sloan Foundation has been one of DPLA’s strongest supporters; we wouldn’t be where we are today without their support.”

“We are delighted to support this inaugural effort between two pillars of Sloan’s Universal Access to Knowledge program,” said Doron Weber, vice president and program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “DPLA’s rich heritage of cultural materials will now be made accessible to new audiences via Wikimedia’s structured data on commons, a win-win for both organizations and for the general public.”

“Extending the reach of digitized collections at cultural institutions has been a goal of Wikimedia communities for years. We now have the potential to bring this collaboration to greater scale with recent technical advances and through new relationships with organizations like DPLA, which represents thousands of institutions,” said Ben Vershbow, director of community programs at the Wikimedia Foundation.

This is one of two DPLA collaborations involving Wikipedia announced this month. Thanks to funding by Report for America, DPLA, Charlotte public radio station WFAE and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library are collaborating to fill news gaps in the Charlotte area. As part of the collaboration, a journalist based at WFAE will work with a community Wikipedia editor based at local library branches in Charlotte to write about and document undercovered topics. The journalist will focus on undercovered local government topics for local news outlets and the community Wikipedia editor will focus on undercovered topics from the library’s archives for Wikipedia articles, especially topics that are most relevant to Charlotte.

“In a country founded on the freedom of the press, there shouldn’t be news deserts, but there are – places where people don’t have access to the latest information about their community,” said Bracken. “Through this unique collaboration with Charlotte Mecklenberg Library and WFAE, DPLA will help fill this gap for Charlotte by doing what others have only talked about – combining the strengths of Wikipedia with the strengths of a local newsroom.”

“Public libraries have always been a place where communities could participate in the preservation of their shared stories and this collaboration will ensure that this remains true in the digital age,” said Shaneé Yvette Murrain, DPLA’s community manager. “Charlotte Mecklenberg Library is one of the best libraries in the country and we’re excited to partner with them and WFAE to do what libraries do best – ensure that information is free and accessible to all.”

To learn more about the DPLA-Wikimedia collaboration, see this recent blog post. To learn more about the DPLA, WFAE and Charlotte Mecklenberg Library collaboration, see this recent article from Nieman Lab.

DPLA executive director John Bracken and other DPLA leaders will provide updates on these and other projects at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting on January 26th, details here.