Africa and Wikipedia

The women during the year festival in Mogode, Kapsiki, North Cameroon. Photo: Wouter van Beek, Wikimedia Commons.During last December and January I had the pleasant task of introducing the staff of the African Study Centre to the options for outreach that Wikipedia provides us for free. The use of this internet encyclopedia that everyone can edit has soared in recent years. Because of its enormous readership, Wikipedia is the platform to contribute to if we want to inform the world about, say, research concerning Africa. My job title at the ASC was Wikipedian in special Residence (WisR), a project pioneered by Jos Damen, our librarian, in which twelve Dutch scientific libraries are serviced by two temporary well-versed wikipedians. During my stay at the ASC more than thirty persons attended informative and writing sessions on Wikipedia. Naturally, the model of Wikipedia seems at first strange to academic researchers. However, a lot of valuable text was produced. ASC-members in general provided many valuable corrections and additions to Wikipedia, e.g., to Kapsiki and created new pages, Patrick Chabal (English Wikipedia), Akika, Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Idrissou Mora-Kpaï, Erika Sulzmann (German Wikipedia) to name a few.

A second goal of the project, next to education, was to contribute images and other files of encyclopedic value to Wikimedia Commons, the image databank which offers its contents free to the world, provided the authorships are acknowledged. Some ASC-people provided unique photographs and 24 maps of Africa from the ASC collection were digitised and can in part be released now to Wikimedia Commons, others awaiting legal permission.

To me the project is a success if the staff enjoyed working with Wikipedia as much as i did. Besides, I learned a lot about Africa. Hopefully, the staff will find time to return to Wikipedia and contribute their unique knowledge and insights about Africa for the benefit of a world readership.
(Photo: The women during the year festival in Mogode, Kapsiki, North Cameroon. Wouter van Beek, Wikimedia Commons.)

Hans Muller, ASC Wikipedian in special residence, 12/2013-1/2014