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WikiPatrika/2012-05/Featured Interviews

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GLAM: A journey where two passions meet

Woman with sitar, a work from the Crafts Museum.

- Dr. Ruchira Ghose (Director General, National Crafts Museum, New Delhi.)

It was one day in December last year that I found in my mailbox a mail from Noopur Raval about Wikipedia and the GLAM project. I was very excited. From the description of the project and its results in other Museums it seemed to be just what the Crafts Museum needed – increased visibility, digitizing of the museum collection, building human resources through staff training and participation. And all being offered free by Wikipedia volunteers – seemed too good to be true. I wrote back immediately to suggest a meeting. After several discussions with Noopur and her young colleagues, who were really impressive in their commitment to the initiative and their bright intelligence, I was convinced this would be a most valuable project for the Crafts Museum. So a proposal was prepared and, with fingers crossed, the file submitted to the Ministry. After a couple of weeks we had the happy news that the proposal had been accepted and even a small budget allocated for incidental expenses.

  • GLAM - the process:
Generating content

The project has now begun. In the few sessions we have had it is already evident that it is going to be a huge success. There are of course the tangible outputs, like the many entries about craft objects, techniques and traditions that will now find their way through Wikipedia to the whole world and give the Crafts Museum an international presence it always deserved but never had. With this exposure, the enormous skills and knowledge embedded in crafts, the narratives that surround them - all these too will be communicated to the whole world. The compilation of information about specific craft objects and traditions will be very useful in our digitization project, that has become such an essential part in the efficient functioning of a museum.

Bringing the staff together

For now what has been of immediate benefit to the Crafts Museum is the effect the initiative is having on staff motivation and morale. Wikipedia’s focus in India on all the Indic languages has to be saluted. Hindi is the first language of almost all the museum staff and it is the option of working in Hindi that has made their participation possible. Several staff were invited to the GLAM project and they have all come to it with great energy and enthusiasm each time. It is a whole new world. Suddenly their knowledge – whether related to the history of the museum or of craft traditions or rituals with which they are familiar – is being noted and recorded. And of course the engagement with technology is compelling; they are excited to open a Wikipedia account and learn how to write an entry or amend one. Not only are staff skills being upgraded and outputs increased but the improvement in the general work environment in the Museum is palpable.

  • Take aways for Museums:

The Wikipedia Project has two features which I feel touch all who are involved in it – it is democratic and it is free. Wikipedia has been very successful in attracting some of the brightest and best amongst the young generation. What is remarkable is that they are so passionate about the initiative they are happy to give generously of their time and expertise, without financial reward. Perhaps this is related to the spread of the idea of The Commons - that information should be free and accessible to all - an idea that is fast gaining ground. I feel these features have, if not overtly then subliminally, a powerful impact on people and attitudes, through respect, expanding beyond all expectations the scope of what is possible.