MSI student is first Wikipedian at Ford Library

Michael Barera

U-M School of Information master’s student Michael Barera  became the nation’s first Wikipedian in Residence at a presidential library when he began his internship Friday, January 11, 2013, at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

A Wikipedian in Residence is an individual who works in-house to assist an organization with its Wikipedia presence. The British Museum was the first cultural organization to host a Wikipedian in Residence. Many other museums, libraries, and archives have followed suit. Barera is the first to be embedded in a presidential library.

Barera, who describes himself as a “dedicated Wikipedian,” has been editing and contributing articles and photos to the online, user-edited encyclopedia for the past five years. In 2012, during his senior year at Michigan, he joined the U-M Wikipedians, the first Wikipedia student club in the United States.

Club members attended a Wikimedia Foundation seminar last fall designed to encourage Michigan faculty to utilize Wikipedia in their classrooms. Bettina Cousineau, exhibit specialist at the Ford Library and Museum, was at that meeting and immediately saw the potential to increase the Ford’s online presence with the help of the club.

“Our goal is to have our content accessible to everyone, everywhere,” Cousineau said. “Wikipedia is a completely new outreach venue for us. Not everyone can visit our museum and library in person, but everyone can visit us online. With our content and Michael’s technical skills, we are looking forward to getting more of our collections out to the broadest possible audience.”

After the Wikimedia Foundation meeting, Barera started volunteering his technical skills on behalf of the Ford Museum and Library. He created templates and tags, located articles for staff content specialists to fact-check, and served as a liaison between the student club, the Wikipedia community, and the staff at the library and museum. “He was a natural choice for us when this internship became available,” Cousineau says.

“This position is perfect for me,” says Barera. “It combines my academic passions for history, archives, open source advocacy, and technology. I see my role as a facilitator, helping to bridge the gap between those who have the content and those who have the technical skills to make that information accessible to the whole world.”

“The Ford Presidential Library is honored to have the opportunity to partner with Wikipedia in making its rich collections more available to individuals around the world,” said Elaine K. Didier, Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. “We look forward to working closely with our Wikipedian in Residence, Michael Barera of the U-M School of Information, as we jointly define the scope of this exciting project.”

The online project may be tracked here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Gerald_Ford

Posted on Monday, January 14, 2013