Friends' Newsletter/2019/Issue 03

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Kilchurn Castle at sunrise WM newsletter1.jpg

Welcome to the Winter newsletter!

It's the last newsletter of the year, and perhaps even the last newsletter before our website gets an overhaul and we move the newsletter to a Wordpress site which will hopefully be more visually appealing. This is also the last newsletter which has been put together by our outgoing communications co-ordinator, John Lubbock, who is leaving Wikimedia UK at the end of January. John has made a really significant contribution to the work of the organisation, particularly in terms of our social media presence and online content. He has also forged connections with human rights charities and minority language groups that we would not otherwise have a relationship with, and has been a valuable link to the UK editing community. My thanks go to John for all his ideas, hard work and commitment over the past four years.

We also say a (hopefully temporary) goodbye to Dr Martin Poulter, who finished his residency at the Bodleian Libraries Oxford, and to our Programme Evaluation Assistant Karla Marte, who goes on maternity leave at the end of December.

As always, our programmes continue to grow, with further developments in our new collaboration with the Khalili Collections, and ongoing discussions with other institutions which we hope will bear fruit next year. We have delivered dozens of events across the UK this autumn, such as a workshop on female artists at the Paul Mellon Centre, in collaboration with Art + Feminism and Art UK. You can check out our video of the event here.

We wish all of our community a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hope to see you at some of our events next year!

Wiki Loves Monuments 2019

2nd prize went to this image of Bass Rock, showing the lighthouse in its landscape setting, by Ellievking1

We're delighted to share the winning images from the UK section of the international photographic competition Wiki Loves Monuments, which are on our blog here. The winning photograph was of Kilchurn Castle in Scotland. Used at the top of this newsletter, MHoser's photo was chosen impressed the judges with its "wonderful colour-palette that the photographer has captured with the early-morning light, and the real skill and care that is evident in the composition". Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who took part – your efforts help make Wikipedia a better and more colourful place.

These extraordinary photographs have all been shared to Wikimedia Commons under an open licence, and illustrate a wide range of listed buildings and scheduled monuments across the UK; from Newport’s transporter bridge to the lighthouse on Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. Over 10,000 images of UK monuments were entered for Wiki Love Monuments this year, with the top nine images selected by our expert judging panel now going forward to the international competition.

This is now the 6th time we have run the competition and every year hundreds of people take part, sharing photos of UK heritage sites with a global audience. For the third year in a row, participants submitted more than 10,000 photos – a tremendous effort. We saw some old hands return to take part in the competition as well as some new faces; in fact nearly three fifths of people taking part were making their first contributions to Wikimedia projects.

As well as the overall winners there were prizes for the best photograph from each of England, Scotland, and Wales as well as a special prize for the best photograph of an interior. We are looking forward to the future of the competition, and hope you can take part. In the meantime, take a closer look at the winning photos and share them with any friends or family who like photography. We want them to take part too!

Wikimedia UK partners with the Khalili Collections

Wikimedia UK has begun a partnership with the world's biggest private collection of Islamic art. The Khalili Collections contain around 35,000 objects spread over a number of thematic cultural collections, including Japanese art, Swedish textiles and laquerware. Images of many of the objects will be uploaded to commons, and the collections will be releasing extracts of their metadata and descriptions of the objects to help populate Wikimedia projects. We also filmed an interview with Professor Nasser Khalili which you can see below.

You can read more about this project on our blog, and we are having ongoing discussions with the Khalili Collections about how to work together in future.

Wikimedia UK Gender Gap video to be published

Wikimedia UK communications coordinator John Lubbock has been working on a longer film about the work of the chapter and volunteer community to reduce the Gender Gap in content and contributors on Wikimedia projects. Longtime Wikimedia UK volunteer User:RockDrum has been lending invaluable assistance with editing and designing the video, which is being released in the coming days.

The Gender Gap issue has been of continuing concern over the past year or two, with more and more articles being written about the problem, and female editors like Dr Jess Wade continuing to report unfair treatment on Wikipedia. In one recent incident, many of Dr Wade's articles about women in STEM subjects were flagged as non-notable by an abusive anonymous editor, leading to articles like the one linked to above. That article was originally titled to suggest that Dr Wade was 'embroiled in a sexism row with Wikipedia'. When Dr Wade complained about the way this was being reported, the Telegraph changed the heading. However, this shows that the media is generally not very good at reporting on issues like this on Wikipedia, and we hope that our video will go some way to showing what our community has been doing to address the issue, and show that the problem is much wider than just Wikipedia.

Sexism pervades our society, if not every society on the planet, and the work to address it will be long and tough. We encourage Wikipedians to take part in this work by writing Wikipedia articles about women, and we encourage the wider press to cover women and their work in the same depth they cover the work of men.

Bodleian Libraries residency comes to an end

13th century Arabic astrolabe; one of the images shared by the History of Science Museum

Dr Martin Poulter's residency at the University of Oxford, which began in April 2015, recently finished. He has published a final report detailing all his achievements in using Wikidata as a search and discovery tool for items held by Oxford's various institutions. Data shared as part of the project included:

  • 3,409 items of Eastern art from the Ashmolean Museum’s Jameel Centre database
  • 2,106 botanical works by the illustrator Ferdinand Bauer
  • 2,003 manuscripts and paintings from the Bodleian Libraries
  • 319 astrolabes from the History of Science Museum and other museums
  • 43 drawings in the Pitt Rivers Museum

Wikidata allowed Martin to join up these collections with each other and with other sources of information, including biographical links about artists and creators, alternate forms of names and names in alternative languages, authority-file identifiers such as VIAF (the Virtual International Authority File) and EMLO (Early Modern Letters Online) Location, co-ordinate locations of places, freely usable images, and taxonomic information for plant species. Although this was a pilot project, these data are now a permanent part of Wikidata and can be viewed through the various Wikidata-driven tools, such as Reasonator​ (an online application that summarises what Wikidata knows about an entity), Crotos​ (an online application for browsing art works from hundreds of collections) and Sum of All Paintings​ (an overview of paintings that are known to Wikidata).

In a recent webinar (video), (slides on Google docs) Martin uses some of this work to show how Wikidata and Wikisource can be used to describe the internal structure of a book. In particular, it can represent the individual paintings in Bauer's books or the individual entries of a reference work.


Chess pieces, three bishops (H.NS 24, H.NS 25, H.NS 26), of walrus ivory, found in an underground chamber in the parish of Uig, Lewis in 1831: Scandinavian, late 12th century

Dr Sara Thomas held a Wikipedia editathon with the British Geological Survey at the 46th IAH Congress 2019 to transfer information from the Africa Groundwater Atlas to Wikipedia "making hydrogeology information for Africa more visible and accessible to a wider audience". This followed the successful licensing of select text and images from the Africa Groundwater Atlas to a wiki-compatible license. There are still articles left to be translated, and any assistance would be gratefully received.

In August, Dr Thomas worked with Code the City to hold an editathon on the subject of the 'Silver Screen in the Silver City', looking at the history of cinema in Aberdeen. Work was carried out on Wikipedia, Wikidata, and Wikimedia Commons, and is a precursor to more work being done in the North of Scotland in the future.

Dr Thomas and Dr tara Beall (Dumfries Historic Buildings Trust) have continued to collaborate on the Dumfries Stonecarving Project, working with a number of local photography and other volunteer groups to create openly licensed images of Dumfries' rich stonecarving heritage, and use the archival work produced by the project to create and improve articles such as Dumfries and Dumfries Academy. A number of articles were created in draft, and with ongoing engagement with volunteers, will be moved to mainspace soon. A Facebook live broadcast of the editathon training on 29th & 30th July have received over 1700 as of November 2019.

Work continues with the National Library and National Museum of Scotland to engage with the Wikimedia Projects, in particular, a "Culture to Commons" training session was held in October with a follow up at the National Library of Scotland in November. This work represents a continuation, and expansion of the established partnership between Wikimedia UK and the National Library of Scotland, which saw the latter host two Wikimedians in Residence, including Scotland's first ever Resident, back in 2013. Images uploaded during the first event include some of the Lewis Chessmen.

Jacob Wainwright sitting next to the coffin of David Livingstone on board ship

An editathon was held with the David Livingstone Birthplace Project in October as part of Black History Month, which focussed on the hidden histories of the African individuals who accompanied, guided, and supported David Livingstone in his travels through Southern Africa in the 19th century. Articles updated during the event included that for James Chuma and Abdulla Susi, who accompanied Livingstone. During the editathon, participants were delighted to find images from the openly-licensed Wellcome Collection which could be added to articles on the worklist, including one of Jacob Wainwright sitting next to Livingstone's coffin. The David Livinstone trust published a nice blog about the event which you can read here.

A new cohort of Wikimedia UK volunteers will head to Glasgow at the end of November for our next iteration of training for trainers. This cohort will mainly work to support the increasing demand for work in Scotland, but we will also be joined by some participants from elsewhere internationally.

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland residency

Dr Doug Rocks-Mcqueen has continued his work in this residency, building on the Society's enthusiasm for open, and aimed at effecting a new Society-wide policy on open knowledge.

Doug has also been working with our Scottish Programme Coordinator Sara to appoint a Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities intern, who will work over the next year or so to improve the quality and quantity of images available on Wikimedia Commons pertaining to Archaeology.

University of Edinburgh Residency

The residency is approaching the four year mark, as of January 2020, with a current running total of 192 training sessions and 83 editathons delivered; 1027 students, 474 staff and 315 members of the public trained; 612 articles created, and 2349 improved. During 2019 the residency became permanent, Women in Red editathons have continued to be a regular monthly feature, and the Residency has become a fixture in University life, working with numerous departments across campus.

Resident Ewan McAndrew has created a number of resources which benefit the wider open education community, including videos, case studies and lesson plans, which can be found on the University's on-wiki project page.

The table below shows the Wikipedia assignments being run each academic year at the University of Edinburgh, with new course programmes involving Wikipedia components in 2019/2020 including: Korean Studies MSc, Digital Education MSc and the Global Health Challenges Pg online course programme. Events have also been held to improve the quality of content on: Feminist Writers; Scotland's connections with Spain, Portugal and Latin America; Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths for Ada Lovelace Day; True Crime in American Popular Culture; and the diversity of the University of Edinburgh's global alumni.

A new booklet of case studies of Wikimedia in Education has been developed, showcasing exemplars from across the United Kingdom, and this will be published early in the new year in digital and physical formats.

Research has also been published on the Wikipedia editathon as a learning environment.and on the Wikipedia assignment in Translation Studies MSc

Course programme 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019 2019/2020
1 World Christianity MSc n/a Yes Yes Research leave New Wiki course submitted to Board of Studies
2 Reproductive Biology Hons. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
3 Translation Studies MSc n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes
4 Data Science for Design MSc n/a n/a Yes Yes Yes
5 Digital Sociology MSc n/a n/a Yes Yes Yes
6 Global Health MSc n/a n/a n/a Yes Yes
7 Global Health Challenges Pg (online) n/a n/a n/a n/a Yes
8 Korean Studies MSc n/a n/a n/a n/a Yes
9 Digital Education MSc n/a n/a n/a n/a Yes
10 Intellectual Humility MOOC n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes

Data visualisation & the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft

Emma Carroll, the Data and Visualisation intern (aka 'Witchfinder General') at the University of Edinburgh
Emma Carroll, the Data and Visualisation intern (aka the 'Witchfinder General') at the University of Edinburgh

The data visualisation internship at the University of Edinburgh drew to a close, with the creation of a new website hosting the information held in the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, as transferred to Wikidata, and including the geolocation work done by intern Emma Carroll. The work has attracted a huge amount of national and international press coverage, including pieces in the Scotsman and the New York Times, and has shown how powerful surfacing historical datasets as linked open data in Wikidata can be; both in terms of aiding students' data literacy and in opening up the data set for further research and inquiry.

Ewan placed an interview with the "Witchfinder General" student intern Emma Carroll onto Media Hopper, which you can see here.

It's now part of a four video playlist on the internship with the seminar presentation, her ALT conference lightning talk and the OpenRefine beginners tutorial she recorded.

Data Science for Design MSc end of project presentation - laser cut wooden board of Scotland visualising data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft.

The internship has provided an excellent model for future work, and indeed, the University is already advertising for a new intern to help lead Women in Red events, commencing in January 2020. More student work on the database has been done by Data Science for Design MSc students, pictured.


Wales Manager Robin Owain held two editathons in Clwyd in October, based on female witches, with 8 editors, and produced 24 articles. A collaboration with University of Wales Dictionary was initiated, and discussions are taking place on releasing a large database of leximes for Wikidata. The Llen Natur partnership continues, and over 200 articles on Bryophytes have now been completed and another database of standardised names of fungi has been released, with around 450 species. A seond, but smaller collaboration with Sain Records was started, and their "50 "Years" exibition will be placed on Commons. Wales contributed 6,236 photos to Wiki Loves Monuments, this year, which compares well to other countries such as Austria: 3,971 and Slovakia: 1,047.

As a result of Natural Resources Wales' open licencing of videos on YouTube, the number of video views of their work on Wikipedia articles (all languages) over the last 9 months was 4,297,012. 6 photographs released by Cadw were viewed 989,514 over the same period. Robin was also involved in discussions with the University of Wales Dictionary that resulted in some of their content being released on an Open License.

Youth Strategy Salon

In September, Wikimedia UK hosted a Youth Strategy Salon in Anglesey funded by the Wikimedia Foundation with students who took part in the Wici Môn programme to reflect on their experiences of learning to edit Wikipedia, and discuss the future of open knowledge. You can see the video about the event here.

Youth strategy salon video

The Salon was a joint partnership between Menter Iaith Môn and Wikimedia UK. Wales has a population of 3 million and the Welsh language is spoken by around 600,000 fluent speakers. WiciMon was set up by Menter Iaith Mon and Wikimedia UK in Spring 2017 and received grants by Horizon, Wikimedia UK and the Welsh Government. In 2018 the Wikipedia Community Challenge was accepted by the examination board of Wales, WJEC, and the first tranche of students, led and trained by Aaron Morris (WiciMon Coordinator) participated in the Summer of 2019.The Salon not only celebrated their successful completion of the Challenge, but also placed Wikipedia into a wider context of the Wikimedia projects, future technology and the Wikimedia movement’s global strategy to 2030. Each student had been trained to edit Wikipedia by Aaron, and how to train others. The Salon was a chance for everyone to reflect on what worked well and what was not so successful, what problems they had, and suggested solutions, as well as attempting to look into the crystal ball of Wikipedia in 2030. Where are we now, where do we want to go and how do we get there?

The day comprised of two presentations and six activities. With the exception of the presentation from Daria Cybulska (Wikimedia UK Director of Programmes and Evaluation), which was in English, this was a Welsh language event. Daria outlined the challenge set by the Wikimedia movement strategy and presented the 2030 video. Professor Emeritus Deri Tomos from Bangor University also congratulated the pupils for their achievement, and gave an inspirational, heart warming talk about why he is editing the Welsh Wikipedia. These presentations were followed by a range of more interactive, discursive activities with the students.

National Library of Wales

It's been a busy few months at the National Library of Wales. Jason Evans, the National Wikimedian for Wales, attended took part in the Celtic Knot conferences in Cornwall and was at Wikimania in Sweden. At the Hackathon he worked on adding thousands of Welsh language labels to Wikidata and spoke during the main conference about plans to share thousands of the library's bibliographic records to Wikidata. Jason also attended a 'Wikidata for National Libraries' summit organised by Liam Wyatt at Europeana, which was held in Stockholm following Wikimania.

Several Grant applications were approved over the summer and work is now beginning on the WiciLlén project. The project is lead by the National Library of Wales in partnership with Menter Iaith Món with the broad aim of improving access to information about Welsh literature through the medium of Welsh. Simon Cobb has been commissioned to assist with the release of 50,000 bibliographic records from the Library as bilingual Wikidata and Aaron Morris will lead a series of classroom workshops with different age groups, whilst Jason will hold a series of Edit-a-thons and a Hackathon. At least 500 new articles will be created using data, translation and volunteer contributions.

Translate-a-thon held at the National Library of Wales for the WiciLlén project

The first event of the project was a successful translate-a-thon. The event was hosted by the Library and attended by Welsh professional translation studies students from Aberystwyth University. Jason has also help the course leader develop a core assignment for the Translation course which will see students translating English Wikipedia articles into Welsh.

Work on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography timeline is nearly complete. The timeline will be a hugely powerful search and discovery tool for the new Dictionary of Welsh Biography website and will clearly demonstrate the value of sharing and round-tripping Wikidata. The latest test version of the timeline will be demonstrated by Jason at the Museums and Tech conference at the British Library and in more depth at WikidataCon 2019.

The National Library has also just received confirmation that its proposed Wikipedia education pilot project has received all the requested funding from the Welsh Governments Welsh language education unit. This will be a really exciting project, looking at how we can identify the content most relevant to to the Welsh curriculum and develop a clear template for presenting that information on Welsh Wicipedia. In partnership with Aaron Morris the project will also see the creation of a series of short educational videos to enrich articles and number of test events with School children to develop a lesson plan for A-level students to help create content suitable for primary school pupils.

As usual the National Library continues to share digital images to Commons. Most recent uploads include examples of newly digitised images of medieval manuscripts from the Peniarth Collection. Jason has also written about his work to display the NLW's images using the Crotos tool.

"What do we want the modern graduate to be?" Feedback on the Wikimedia residency from staff and students at the University of Edinburgh. (9:40)

Back to school

The academic year started in September, with universities across the country welcoming more than 2 million new and returning students. Working with the higher education sector has long been an important part of Wikimedia UK's activities and it gives students the confidence to use Wikipedia as a source of information and contribute to its ever growing pages. We have a host of partners across the UK, and one of the great using Wikimedia in the classroom is that it can be adapted to almost any topic, from competition law to translation studies.

As mentioned above, we have Wikimedians in Residence at the Universities of Edinburgh and Coventry. Part of their work involves helping students learn about how Wikipedia works, and aiding course leaders to integrate Wikipedia into a classroom setting. Beyond our residencies, we had courses starting at five different universities.

At Middlesex University, Stefan Lutschinger has been getting undergraduate students to explore digital cultures and share that through Wikipedia. The University of Stirling and University College London are both getting students to prepare a WikiBooks – a collaboratively written open-access text book. Dr. Greg Singh's Stirling students are writing about Ethical Debates in Connected Culture while Dr. James Everest and Dr. Lauren Bird are having UCL's students write about Issues in Interdisciplinarity. Both books are still being written, and you can read the efforts of previous groups on WikiBooks (Debates in Digital Culture 2019 and Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2018-19). Thank you to volunteer Andrew Davidson for helping the UCL students as they started editing!

Courses at Sheffield and Kent are linked by a medieval theme. We've been supporting Dr. Charles West's work through three interations, and we've seen ann interesting shift from a module with an aspect of Wikipedia editing (a common way of doing it) to a module which looks at Wikipedia and its role in shaping our understanding of the Middle Ages. If you're interested, he is inviting feedback on his blog. The UK's courses have been joined by one at the University of Kent, led by Dr. Ed Roberts. His students have been updating Wikipedia articles about the Carolingian Empire and reflecting on the process of editing. This was partly inspired by Dr. West's work at Sheffield.

Dr. Steve Cook, who has been running a Science Communication module at Imperial College London for eight years, gave an interview about how his experiences with Wikipedia. He sees editing as a way for students to give back since they use Wikipedia. The full interview is well worth reading.

And finally, next year OER20: Open Education Conference will be taking place in London on 1st and 2nd April. We hope to have Wikimedia amongst the topics discussed at the conference so maybe we'll see you there.

Other News

Banner Repeater

Wikimedia UK video about Wikibase

Programmes Coordinator Stuart Prior has held two workshops with Banner Repeater, a library of artists' publishing books, to develop a digital archive for their content using Wikibase. Wikibase is the software which Wikidata runs on, and Wikimedia UK is currently in talks with a number of organisations to encourage them to set up their own instances of Wikibase so that they can host their data in a format where it can interact with the data held on Wikidata.

Ornithoptera alexandrae ventral male

Natural History Museum uploads

Programmes Coordinator Richard Nevell has been working with staff at the Natural History Museum to upload some images from their butterflies collection. You can see these images on Commons here.

Train the Trainers

Train the Trainers group shot

A training course for trainers was also organised at the University of Glasgow Library in November. 12 people attended including people from Sweden and the Netherlands. Two people who work in education said they learned more in the event than they learned during their PGCE. Dr Sara Thomas did a lot of pre-event work with the participants and hopes that this will increase our geographic presence in Scotland and the North of England.

New Wikimedia UK website

Wikimedia UK staff have been working with our IT contractor Jo Brook to fix certain aspects of the chapter's website, and to eventually move some of the content onto a redesigned wordpress site. This should allow us to display our work in a more accessible and attractive way, and will allow staff to keep the content up to date more easily. We hope to launch the new site some time in the new year.

Supporting the Turkish Wikimedia community

Communications Coordinator John Lubbock has published over 1600 of his photos of Turkey on Wikimedia Commons to illustrate articles about Turkey. Work is ongoing to produce a data set of heritage sites in Turkey to improve the data currently on Wikidata. With better data about heritage sites in Turkey, the Turkish Wikimedia community will hopefully be able to run a Wiki Loves Monuments competition next year.

Digital Humanities seminar

Programmes Coordinator Richard Nevell took part in an online seminar on digital humanities, copyright and how Wikimedia works. You can watch Richard's portion of the seminar here for a summary of Wikimedia projects within the general realm of digital humanities.

General Election night Wikipedia editathon

A group of Wikipedia editors gathered at Newspeak House in East London on December 12 to update Wikipedia pages for new MPs, constituencies and articles related to UK politics. Journalists from Swiss radio and Fortune Magazine covered the event, with the write up in Fortune being a particularly good summary of the event. You can read their article here, and you can see our photos of the event here.