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Friday, April 29, 2011

National Archives hires Wikipedian

The National Arichives Blog, NARAtions, announced the hiring of their first Wikipedian in Residence (WIR), Dominic McDevitt-Parks. He will be working with the National Archives to chart out a course of projects and cooperative ventures that will help make their records more publicly accessible than ever and increase the understanding between the archival and Wikipedian communities.

Wikipedia celebrated its 10th anniversary on January 15, 2011. According to a Pew Internet Report, 42% of all Americans now look to Wikipedia for information online which translates to 53% of adult Internet users. Today, Wikipedia reports 3,624,975 articles plus millions more in 279 different language editions.

The impact and growth of Wikipedia will have a lasting effect on nearly every aspect of online research. In the genealogical community, you can watch the daily increase in the similar FamilySearch Research Wiki.  As of this morning, there were 59,491 articles on genealogical research online. Although this pales in comparison to the millions of articles on Wikipedia, you have to remember that the Research Wiki is focused entirely on genealogy, a relatively narrow subject focus.

What will be the impact of having all of this combined experience and knowledge readily available? Wikipedia contains the good, the bad and the ugly of all the topics in the world. However, there is no danger that the FamilySearch Research Wiki will devolve into a morass of trivial or even objectionable issues. The structure of the Wiki allows the sponsoring organization to limit the type of article included, while at the same time, in a seeming contradiction, allow great freedom to add valuable resource and reference information.

The National Archives is apparent near the forefront in recognizing the value of the Wiki structure to organize and present information on complex topics. 

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