Wikipedian in Residence

It's safe to say that most of us use Wikipedia a lot. Whenever I am researching something of first impression (other than legal research), I will Google the topic and rejoice when I see a Wikipedia entry on point. These entries offer basic introductory information, and they are generally a great starting place for research -- especially when the author of the Wikipedia post cites to reputable resources.

Many research experts warn of Wikipedia entries for academic research purposes. The entries are crowd-sourced, and anyone can post, so you have to be leery of the information. But others have found "Wikipedia is about as good a source of accurate information as Britannica, the venerable standard-bearer of facts about the world around us, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature."

Wikipedia will become even more reliable as academic institutions continue to supports its mission through academic Wikipedians in Residence.

John Overholt, Houghton's Curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, posted a job listing for a Wikipedian in Residence—someone who can serve as a kind of liaison between Wikipedia and the academic, cultural, and intellectual institutions whose source material its entries rely on. In this case, Harvard.

"The Wikipedian in Residence will help to 'expand coverage on Wikipedia of topics relevant to Houghton collections.' He or she will add sources for existing Wikipedia pages and create new pages 'on notable topics.' The person will also 'provide appropriate formatting and metadata (and OCR cleanup in the case of texts) to upload public domain content to Wikimedia and Wikisource, and facilitate the use of such materials by other Wikipedia users.'"

"This won't be the first Wikipedia in Residence attempting to narrow the divide between the intellectual resources of the campus of those of the web. The British Museum has had such a person; so has the British Library. So has the Palace of Versailles in France and the Museu Picasso in Spain and the Federal Archives of Switzerland. Here in the States, Wikipedians in Residence have helped seed the crowd-sourced encyclopedia with material from the Smithsonian Institution, the Gerald Ford Presidential Library, and the National Archives and Records Administration."

This is a great endeavor, and Wikipedia users will increasingly be able to rely on the information with the comfort that the entries are created by an expert liaison from academic institutions.

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