Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

SI student is first Wikipedian in Residence at presidential library

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 last week at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at U-M.

  Michael Barera (left) undergoes orientation with Elizabeth Druga, archives technician at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, during his first day as the library's Wikipedian in Residence. Track the online Gerald Ford WikiProject. (Photo courtesy of the Ford Presidential Library)

A Wikipedian in Residence 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 edited and contributed articles and photos to the online, user-edited encyclopedia for the past five years. In 2012, during his senior year at the university, 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 U-M 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 says. "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 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," says Elaine K. Didier, director of the Ford Library and Museum. "We look forward to working closely with our Wikipedia ambassador, Michael Barera of the U-M School of Information, as we jointly define the scope of this exciting project."