23 Things for Archivists

Thing 21: Wikis

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Blog Prompts

  • 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.


  1. […] Video Slideshows Thing 18: Video Sharing Thing 19: Online Timelines Thing 20: Social Bookmarking Thing 21: Wikis Thing 22: Google Docs Thing 23: Online Surveys LikeBe the first to like this post.▶ […]

  2. […] are Thing 8 on the libraries list and Thing 21 on the archives […]

  3. […] I’ve probably collaborated directly with the author of this Thing. Kathryn Otto and I are both members of the University of Wisconsin Records Officers Council, which […]

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