A GLAM-Wiki initiative is an opportunity to fulfill the mission of university museums, the director of the University of São Paulo Museum of Veterinary Anatomy, Maurício Cândido da Silva, says. In a exclusive interview to the GLAM Newsletter, Silva said there was a "convergence of interests" between the museum and Wikimedians, that is, to provide reliable information to wide audiences.
Answers were sent by email in Portuguese on September 21.
What was your motivation to participate in a Wikimedia initiative?
There were two main reasons. First, to broaden the dissemination of the collection and, consequently, of the museum itself with the use of our set of high resolution photographs. Second, to carry out the inventory and creation of a database of the museum collections. The initiative has been pushing the implementation of the documentation of all the collection of the museum. It has been a strategy based on mutualism.
What were your concerns and expectations about this initiative?
The greatest fear was the possibility of misuse of the images of the museum collection —for instance, that someone would take advantage of the free image for his own commercial benefits. This fear has ceased to exist as we got to know more on the educational value of the initiative. The most important expectation is to expand the supply of reliable information to the general public, as this is the main role of a university museums like ours. In addition, we also expect that this will lead to the internationalization of actions of the Museum of Veterinary Anatomy, given the wide reach of Wikimedia projects. In general, with this partnership, we seek to expand dissemination actions of the museum.
Could you please describe the early phases of discussing the initiative?
Due to the convergence of interests (scientific dissemination), the discussions between the museum and Wikimedians were more operational than conceptual. The fact that the editors that led the partnership were members of the same university that we are part of made the theoretical and technical discussions much easier. The availability of the photographic collection of the museum, of very high quality, produced by Prof. Wagner Souza e Silva, also contributed to the good progress of the discussions. The initiative was not part of the planning of the museum, but the fit was perfect, as there were compatible goals between the different parties involved.
Was the relicensing of the collection an issue? How was it solved?
Relicensing was not a problem. The museum and the author of the images shared the same view about the importance of free and unrestricted access to information produced by the public university. As there was a consensus on how credits would be presented and we were able to provide inputs on how the description would be shown, there was no problem.
How was the process of uploading the collection?
The upload was carried out in the context of the collaboration between the Museum of Veterinary Anatomy and NeuroMat in 2016. Through this formal collaboration, there was a student worker with funding to upload the museum images onto Wikimedia Commons. The collection, of around one thousand items, was divided into sets of 30 items, in order to dilute the identification of the pieces across time, because it was not possible to stop the other activities of the museum to do just that. To fill the information on a worksheet that informs the upload is the responsibility of the museum team, as well as the selection, description and translation into English of the images. In turn, the NeuroMat team uploads the images to Wikimedia Commons, and Wikimedians have been working on using these images on Wikipedia.
To what extent has this wiki initiative involved people from the museum, university, general community?
This initiative has had the direct involvement of a professor, a specialist and several researchers in detailing the information of each copy of the museum collection for uploading. Two events in our process are worth mentioning. First, at the beginning of the work a workshop was held at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science and Prof Francisco Blazquez set up an activity with his students, which demonstrated the great educational potential of this initiative. Second, results obtained, as shown with the first reports, were quite remarkable, both in terms of the prizes obtained as a function of the quality of the images and the number of views of the images around the world.
What is your general assessment of this initiative?
Very positive! The quantitative data are surprising (5 million views per month so far !!!!). This initiative brought a lot of repercussion to the Museum, being praised in meetings at the university. The museum was put into evidence and also reaffirmed its strategy in scientific dissemination, using technological and digital tools. We have not yet finalized the work of uploading our collection, but effects are already remarkable. It should be noted that this initiative is also understood as an innovation strategy of the Museum.
What are good reasons to undertake this kind of initiatives from the perspective of a cultural institution? Are there reasons not to do it?
The importance of sharing information with a reliable source of information is one good reason. In fact, I understand this initiative as part of the mission of a university Museum. Wikipedia is widely read and its policy of being an open source was also a stimulus. I consider it very important for a museum to have its collections accessible on the internet. It should be noted that this initiative is not incompatible with the physical existence of the objects and the Museum itself. The experience of going to the museum is irreplaceable. In this sense, I see this initiative as a potential for increasing the public of the museum, a stimulus for people to visit our museums. There is no reason not to participate in this kind of initiatives.