Ever since the National Archives and Record Administration launched the Open Government Plan in 2010, it has increasingly been uploading content to Wikipedia to digitize and gain a wider reach for its holdings. But all this time, uploading its digitized holdings to the Wikimedia Commons was a side project. Now, as mentioned in the 2014 Open Government Plan published earlier this month, the project is a core part of the NARA, according to The Signpost.
Dominic McDevitt-Parks, digital content specialist at the NARA who was also the Wikipedian-in-residence, said the purpose of uploading files from the “record-keeper” of the federal government to Wikimedia is to provide a broader reach to the public.
In 2012, the NARA experimented and uploaded 100,000 digital images to Wikimedia Commons. This then allowed Wikipedia editors to use these files to be incorporated into projects and articles.
“The 4,000 Wikipedia articles featuring our records received more than one billion page views in Fiscal Year 2013. Over the next two years we will work to increase the number of National Archives records available on Wikimedia Commons, which furthers our strategic goal to ‘Make Access Happen’ and expands re-use of our records by the public,” according to the Open Government Plan 2014.
By providing access to their holdings, the NARA is also better represented through Wikipedia, as its content is reaching more viewers. And any item from the NARA catalog that gets digitized will now be uploaded to Wikimedia.
Anyone can upload files through Wikimedia Commons, but McDevitt-Parks said there was no easy drag-and-drop feature to upload bulk files, which was the first hurdle the NARA had to contend with.
They’ve been working on a more robust upload script using the Wikimedia Commons API, which they plan to finish by the end of the year.
He said there are no worries about any type of strain to the Wikimedia Commons servers in terms of the amount they’re uploading, and he said the NARA has yet to have any discussions about overloading Wikimedia.
These uploads range from mundane federal agency records to World War II photos and presidential portraits.
The Wikimedia D.C. Chapter is responsible for several projects, many of which are with the NARA and Library of Congress. Chapters are independent organizations and are not directly affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation.
James Hare, president of the Wikimedia D.C. Chapter, said several Wikipedia volunteers have been working with the NARA on this project to digitize their collections.
“The outreach to the Wikimedia community has always been a priority for them … especially since 2011 when our relationship started to turn into something,” Hare said.
As the NARA is only one of many institutions around the world uploading files to Wikimedia, Hare said the Wikimedia Foundation has terabytes of storage and should be able to handle the uploads without issues. As fundraising efforts continue, space will always be available.
“There is a mandate within the federal government to make data available for the public and to release information on what the government does, and working with Wikipedia and WMDC in particular is a great way of doing that because rather than putting your information on an obscure portal somewhere you have to put it somewhere where people are actually reading it,” Hare said.