Annual Report 2021/Story: Connecting Wikidata to the GLAM institutions' databases
In this Story we share our experience from assisting GLAMs in developing a long-term strategy to include Wikidata as a natural part of their data ecosystems. We have been providing them with the skills and tools they need to independently work to utilize Wikidata as a central tool for authority data and connect their different collections.
Over many years, Wikimedia Sverige has been supporting GLAMs in their efforts to share and showcase their collections on the Wikimedia platforms. A common scenario is us uploading files to Wikimedia Commons and data to Wikidata. But our resources are limited, and at the same time, GLAM professionals are more aware of the benefits of developing in-house Wikimedia expertise in their own institutions. That's why we're happy to assist two highly influential Swedish GLAM institutions in taking the steps to become active Wikimedians and develop long-term strategies to work with Wikidata.
Over the last year, Nationalmuseum and the National Historical Museums have been working to better align their authority databases with the Linked Open Data landscape. One part of this endeavor is adding their respective identifiers to the Wikidata items of the people whose works are in the museums' collection. Once that's done, the Wikidata ID's are being fed back to the museums' own systems.
With the help of a consultant, Albin Larsson, we prototyped several interactive visualizations that demonstrate the richness of data on Wikidata and make it clear why engaging with this platform is worthwhile for anyone interested in museum collections.
Having watched the growth of Wikidata from a new, small platform, with all the doubt about its purpose and possible influence, to an authority hub for cultural heritage and other institutions, participating in this project has been nothing but exciting. It will achieve two outcomes. First of all, obviously, more data from the museums has been, and will be shared on the Wikimedia platforms. But secondly, and even more importantly, it allows the GLAMs' project team to acquire and hone all the skills they need to understand and work with Wikidata – how the Wikimedia platforms are structured and interconnected, how to build SPARQL queries to retrieve interesting data and how to use OpenRefine to clean up and upload large datasets.
This means that they are able to share this knowledge with other GLAMs both in Sweden and abroad, further spreading the message of Wikimedia and Linked Open Data. In particular, the visualizations made a big impression on other GLAM experts, as they convey the value of Wikidata without requiring any previous experience working with it. The message of Wikimedia and Linked Open Data carries so much more weight when conveyed by those who themselves have crossed the threshold from being passive consumers of Wikimedia content to contributing to it actively. It's not as hard as it seems!
The next step in this process is looking at other tools that make it easier for data owners to structure their content and link it to other global datasets. Wikibase is an obvious candidate, as the development of Wikibase Cloud, which we are keeping a close eye on, holds a lot of promise for organizations that need a simple yet efficient platform to host their data on.