Karen Sayers, archivist, writes one of Special Collections’ lockdown projects aims to improve our presence on Wikipedia and Wikidata and develop staff skills on Wikimedia.  I have also been exploring the potential of Wikimedia to promote Special Collections’ resources and support digital scholarship. Special Collections already had an article on Wikipedia for our designated Cookery Collection and a few for our creators, including the antiques dealer Roger Warner. There were 300 ‘archives at’ statements in Wikidata pointing to our catalogue records.

I have researched and uploaded an article on one of Special Collections’ rare manuscripts the Epitome margaritae eloquentiae.  In the process I learned more about creating infoboxes and uploading images to Wikimedia Commons.   I also added more ‘archives at’ statements to Wikidata pointing researchers to our catalogue records so there are now 375, improving access to our resources.

Researching external projects using Wikidata has been fascinating.  Contributing information to Wikidata benefits galleries, libraries, archives and museums by enabling them to promote collections to researchers and support open knowledge.  The National Library of Wales, for example, has uploaded the metadata from the Peniarth Manuscripts to Wikidata to create linked open data searchable through the web.  Excitingly the project has revealed connections between the manuscripts and works at Jesus College, Oxford University.

Political poster from BC MS Mattison/15/1. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Matt Dunne, Collections Assistant says, as part of the project I have created a new article on Alf Mattison, whose collection of books and personal papers we hold in Special Collections in BC MS Mattison.  Mattison was an important figure in the development of trade union and Labour politics in Leeds but lacked a Wikipedia entry, unlike a lot of his contemporaries. He was a notable collector of books and pamphlets on British Socialism, corresponded with well-known Socialists and, as a keen historian, saw the importance of documenting his experiences for future generations. The Wikipedia article means more researchers should find out about him and make use of his archive. 

When I was ready to create an article for Mattison I looked for multiple biographical sources to piece together his life. As we were working remotely these had to be online resources, but I was able to use information from pages in Special Collections and Leeds Local History Library and online articles. Once I had the information, I structured the article into usable subheadings and made sure each point was referenced. Finally, I linked between mine and other articles to make sure it could be found easily. 

Political poster from BC MS Mattison/15/1. Image credit Leeds University Library.

When the article was published, I had messages from other users discussing edits, which will help me with future articles. As someone new to Wikipedia it was great to learn the technicalities of publishing an article, and the interactions with other editors have been very useful. I’ve got a good idea of the research and writing style needed for an article and am looking forward to publishing more. 

Laura Hilton-Smith, Collections Assistant, has edited the Wikipedia page for Dorothy Una Ratcliffe the founder of our Romany Collection.  Laura writes, improving the page about Dorothy Una Ratcliffe means that more information about her life, writing and collecting is now easily accessible. In the process of doing this I’ve learnt a lot about contributing to Wikipedia and about one of the key figures of our collections.  Working on the Wikipedia project has been very rewarding.