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Reports from GLAM Camp

MITH’s strategic mission, as stated on the About MITH page, is to be the “University’s [of Maryland’s] primary intellectual hub for scholars and practitioners of digital humanities, electronic literature, and cyberculture” [sic]. Put another way, a local center for all things related to digital knowledge in the humanities. This means that we go out and spread out expertise in development of our own scholarly digital tools, the world of Digital Humanities, and our passion to support that world’s importance. In the past, I have been an example of this by attending events in the European Union, Canada, and closer to home in the District of Columbia.

The mission of Galleries, Libraries, Museums and Archives CAMP (better known as GLAMCamp) clearly overlaps with the mission of MITH. GLAM is an international initiative to produce case studies and outreach for cultural heritage institutions to open up their data and make it more accessible to the online public. A list of their more recent projects can be found here. Within the scope of their mission are organizing public outreach events such as attending Wikimania, setting up GLAM conferences, and setting up and hosting GLAMCamps.

Friday, February 10th through Sunday, February 12th I attended the first DC-based GLAMCamp at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) building in Penn Quarter. Behind the solemn doors and security blockades, we hacked, hashed out a GLAM/US Portal for all library and museum researchers, and networked in a space not more than 40 feet from the U.S. Constitution. Asaf Bartov, one of the colleagues from Interedition and the Small-Grants coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation, invited me to this event to provide my Javascript interface expertise. What I eventually found at the event was a diverse group of dedicated Wikipedia contributors, educators, and general enthusiasts.

The proceedings of the conference were dutifully recorded in a wiki-embedded series of Etherpads and wikis. It is impressive how much is recorded and transcribed into these items. While a larger group was in the main conference area working on documentation for GLAM researchers to take part in wikis, I was in the “Techie Cave” slogging away with Asaf. Inspired by work done by Australian Digital Library to generate Wiki Citations automatically, we decided to work on a generalized Wiki Citation Engine to be used in any browser. What we ended up with is a rough prototype for generating citations using a Ruby Server and my Javascript: https://github.com/jdickie/GLAMCamp. Despite the roughness, the participants were no less enthusiastic about the project when we presented at the closing on Sunday. Alongside our demonstration was a presentation on workflows for Bulk Uploading data into Wikipedia from GLAMs; a draft for a publication to hand out to GLAMs and get them informed and involved in the movement; and a GLAM/US portal wiki page for enticing more participants in the movement. Three days therefore became a very productive time within the confines of NARA.

What can the University of Maryland and MITH benefit from such events as these? First, we broaden our knowledge base and network. The more institutions know about us, the more people we have supporting our mission, and, likewise, the more we are supporting others’ missions. Second, MITH is not just a center for research – it is a development office for scholarly tools. Things such as workflow scenarios for Bulk Uploading to Wikimedia Commons and a citation engine for Wiki citations are things that scholars as well as GLAMs are interested to see available. Often it becomes necessary to work outside of the office and with other like minds to achieve this kind of development. Already, we are discussing presenting the proceedings and ideas from GLAM to the McKeldin Library administrators.

Looking ahead, GLAM promises to be an exciting opportunity for MITH as well as the research world.