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Watson Library Collaborates with Wikipedia

From Queen to Empress: victorian fashion

From Queen to Empress: Victorian dress 1837–1877 from the Digital Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries, one of hundreds of digitized items that has been linked to in Wikipedia by Watson

Just over two years ago, I began collaborating with Wikipedia in an attempt not only to enhance the largest encyclopedia in world history (and growing!), but also to drive traffic to the Museum Libraries' Digital Collections. Wikipedia is currently the sixth most popular website in the world, so I thought engaging with Wikipedia might be an effective way for us to reach a broader audience. After two years I can unequivocally assert that it has been a great way to engage with new users, and Wikipedia now drives over fifty percent of the traffic to our Digital Collections.

Considering the overwhelming impact this work with Wikipedia has had, the actual project itself is a remarkably simple one. Basically, all I am doing is adding citations into relevant Wikipedia articles that include links to items in our Digital Collections. As mentioned, though, this relatively simple act has had a profound impact on usage of our Digital Collections. Let me explain the process in a bit more depth, then lay out in more detail the impact it has had.

When I first began adding links, I would just go into a relevant Wikipedia article and insert a brief citation. Almost immediately, a number of different Wikipedia editors picked up on what I was doing and asked a pretty straightforward question: "Who are you?" I told them that I worked at Thomas J. Watson Library and that we wanted to add links to relevant objects in our Digital Collections, and with their patient guidance they were able to help me create a user page and develop a process for approving links I wanted to create. Now I am able to find a relevant item in our Digital Collections, declare the various pages I would like to link to it from, and then have various Wikipedia editors comment on my suggestions, sometimes adding suggestions of their own. (I should mention that I have primarily worked with John Byrne [user name Johnbod], who has been invaluable throughout this entire project—offering thoughtful, timely feedback on all the hundreds of suggestions I have made.)

Wikipedia edit

In the "Vatican Museums" Wikipedia entry, you can now find a citation to one of our digitized works in the "Further reading" section

Once other Wikipedia editors have had a chance to review the item, then I go into the Wikipedia articles and actually add the links. At this point I have added citations to over 1,800 articles.


Pageviews have jumped from 6,000 in March 2012 to 107,000 in March 2014

As mentioned, the impact has been overwhelming. In March 2012, we had just over 6,000 pageviews; by March 2014, we had over 107,000. This represents more than a 1,600 percent increase in pageviews—and it also means that 2014 could be the first year we get over one million pageviews!

Wikipedia pie chart

Over fifty percent of our traffic now comes from Wikipedia

Not only is the number of people using our Digital Collections way up, but over half of that traffic is now coming from Wikipedia. In 2013, over fifty-seven percent of traffic came from Wikipedia, which is an increase from literally zero percent a mere three years earlier.

Clearly the impact Wikipedia has had on usage of our Digital Collections has been dramatic. Connecting our resources with one of the world's most popular reference sources has proven invaluable for us, but we believe it has enriched Wikipedia as well. Including links to full-text resources allows people to go beyond the general introduction an encyclopedic entry can provide and to explore in more depth whatever subject it is they are researching. 

So, for instance, people who are researching Korean art on Wikipedia will now see our five-hundred-plus-page catalogue Arts of Korea (1998), cited and linked to in the "Further reading" section of the "Korean art" Wikipedia article. This allows people to go beyond the general introduction provided on Wikipedia and to really delve into the subject.

Arts of Korea

Cover of Arts of Korea

For more information about what I have been doing with Wikipedia, you can see this GLAM-Wiki case study I co-authored with John Byrne, as well as this case study we published on the Museums Association website. Additionally, this interview with METRO's Wikipedian-in-residence, Dorothy Howard, gives more background on this project.

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