By Kathryn Otto
A wiki is a collaborative web site and authoring tool that allows users to easily add, remove, and edit content. Wikipedia is the largest and most well known of these knowledge-sharing tools. Wikis have many benefits, are easy to use, and have many applications.
Some of the benefits of wikis:
- Anyone (registered, or unregistered if it is an unrestricted wiki) can add, edit, or delete content.
- Tracking tools allow you to easily keep up on what has been changed and by whom.
- Earlier versions of a page can be rolled back and viewed when needed.
- Users do not need to know HTML in order to apply styles to text or add and edit content.
Archives and libraries all over the country have begun to create wikis to collaborate and share knowledge. Among their applications are pathfinder or subject guide wikis, book review wikis, conference wikis, staff handbook wikis, and best practices wikis. Archives-related wikis could be created for an archives, for a group of archivists, or for users of archives. The content of a wiki depends on the knowledge and commitment of participants.
- You have probably used Wikipedia for information lots of times, but have you set up an account to either add to existing articles or add new articles yourself? If not, set up an account and add some links and/or photos from your archives to existing articles. You could also write your own article or expand on a “stub” article.
- Is your archives listed in the AHA Archives Wiki ? If so, check out your entry. Is it accurate? In need of updates? If you are not the contact, find out who in your organization is and see if they will let you update the entry. If your archives is not listed, make sure you get added.
An old pro at Wikipedia? Check out PB works (formerly PBwiki), Zoho Wiki , or Wikispaces to create your own wiki. Got a policy manual in need of updating? Brainstorming ideas for a new project? Got drafts that you need many people to read and don’t want to make lots of paper copies (especially if you have to mail them)? Collaboratively working on the program for an archives conference? A wiki is a great way for multiple people to work on a project at the same time.
- What did you find interesting about the wiki concept?
- What types of archives applications might work well using a wiki?
- Especially if you work with History Day students or college students, what do you think about teachers/faculty who ban using Wikipedia as a source for student research?
- Talk about the specific task(s) you did.
- Watch this quick and easy CommonCraft video: “Wikis in Plain English.”
- EDUCAUSE article on “7 Things You Should Know About Wikis.”
- The Interactive Archivist article on “Wikis.”
- The Interactive Archivist case study on “Using Wikipedia to Highlight Digital Collections at the University of Washington,” by Ann Lally.
- Wikipedia article about PB works.
- Some archives-related wikis:
- College of William and Mary, Special Collections Research Center wiki.
- Montana History Topics (National History Day).
- Our Archives (U.S. National Archives wiki for researchers).
- Placeography, “a website about any place anywhere that anyone can edit.
- RAO’s National History Day Toolkit.
- Reference and Processing Collaboration Group’s Data Drive Archives wiki.
- University of Minnesota Libraries Staff wiki:
- Archives and Special Collections section.
- Finding Aids in EAD section.
- Also check out their Wiki Development Laboratory.
- “Your Archives” for users of The National Archives (UK) to contribute their knowledge of the archival resources held by The National Archives.
- Archives 2.0 for a list of more wikis sponsored by archives or historical societies, history or resource wikis that archives contribute to, and wikis created by archivists for professional networking (obviously not a complete listing, but useful to be able to find so many in one place).