March 22-25, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Papers: Museums and Wikipedia

Jonathan Bowen, London South Bank University, UK and Jim Angus, National Institutes of Health, USA


Wikipedia ( is an on-line and multilingual encyclopaedia that can be interactively updated by any user. It has become an increasingly popular and comprehensive source of up-to-date information. All museums should consider ensuring that they have an entry for informational and (indirectly) promotional purposes. As a minimum, the entry should include location information, a brief overview, correct categorization within Wikipedia and a link to the museum's Web site. A more comprehensive entry could include further, more detailed information on the museum's history, collections, organization, one or more photographs, etc. It should be noted that Wikipedia entries are intended to provide an independent and informational view, so direct promotional material should be avoided and used only on the museum's own Web site. An entry on Wikipedia can help by improving search engine rankings (especially Google), directing Web users to a museum Web site, etc.

Our demonstration at MW2006 is intended to give advice to museums on how to create an initial Wikipedia entry if there is none for the museum in question and how to improve the entry if one exists already. A tour of the English-language Wikipedia museums section ( can also be provided. It may even be possible to create and update entries during the demonstration itself.

Keywords: On-line encyclopaedia, Web searching, Museum directory, Information dissemination, Wikipedia

1. Introduction

Wikipedia ( has been an increasingly important phenomenon on the Web in the last year or two. It provides an on-line and multilingual encyclopaedia in a large number of languages. The English version is the largest with over 931,000 entries as of January 2006 and is still growing rapidly. It is likely that there will be more than a million entries before the end of the year. The next largest is the German version with over 344,000 entries, and then the French version with over 228,000 articles. Eight languages have over 100,000 entries, and a further 28 have over 10,000 articles. There are many other languages with smaller numbers of entries. With modern Web technology, the alphabet of the language is no longer a significant limitation.

In the rest of this section, we give a general introduction to Wikipedia for those not familiar with using, and in particular updating, this resource. In Sections 2 and 3, we consider how a museum could create and/or update an entry on Wikipedia. It is worthwhile for all museums to have a Wikipedia entry, which can vary in length and comprehensiveness depending on the size and importance of the museum concerned. In Section 4, we consider the more general structuring issues of museum information on Wikipedia using its hierarchical structure. This may be of interest to more advanced users who would like to become involved with Wikipedia more generally (and altruistically!). Finally we conclude with some observations, issues and possible future directions.

An important aspect of Wikipedia is that users can update entries at any time interactively on the Web. This is much as Tim Berners-Lee originally envisaged the World Wide Web (Berners-Lee, 1999). He thought that users would both provide information for others and read information from others. Indeed, the Web protocols for reading and writing Web pages are almost equally simple, security permitting. In practice, most Web users are passive readers, although newer technologies like blogs, and indeed ‘Wikis’, that make adding information to the Web easy even for non-experts in the underlying technology, are changing that a little.

A Wiki ( is a Web site where it is easy for users to create and update the content interactively via a Web interface (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001). This lends itself especially to collaborative efforts with a virtual community maintaining a Web site (Beler et al., 2004). Wikipedia is one of the foremost examples of a successful Wiki. Other related Wikis include Wikidictionary (, a free on-line dictionary, Wikibooks (, an open content textbook collection, Wikiquote (, a free on-line compendium of quotations, Wikimedia Commons (, a repository for free images, sound, video and media in general, for used in any Wikimedia project, etc. There is a Wikimedia Foundation (, founded by Jimmy Wales (, that oversees the various Wikimedia projects, all of which use similar Wikimedia software, MediaWiki, freely available under the GNU General Public License.

There is a large virtual community contributing to the various Wiki Web sites, and Wikipedia in particular. Most have never met each other in real life and are never likely to do so, although there is now Wikisym (, the International Symposium on Wikis, with a proceedings published by the ACM (Wikisym, 2005) and also the Wikimania conference (Wikimania, 2005).

One may think that having a Web site in which anyone can update the content would result in vandalism of the site, making it useless and unusable. Indeed, such behaviour does exist, as in real life. However, there is now a sufficiently large and dedicated Wikipedia community that vandalistic changes, especially to well-used pages, are very quickly restored to the last reasonable version. A history is kept of changes, available on-line, and it is easy to monitor this, see which users have made changes, and revert undesired changed. This is actually far easier than erasing graffiti, for example. Thus, although potentially very chaotic initially, there is actually much order in the way Wikipedia works, and it is self-correcting to a certain extent.

Naturally, there may be differences of opinion on the content, but there are mechanisms and procedures in place on Wikipedia to deal with this as well. Entries may be deemed inappropriate, incorrect, not categorized, incomplete, etc. All these issues are dealt with in various ways by more experienced Wikipedia users, who can obtain fuller facilities at various levels of power for updating the Web site, once they have gained the knowledge needed and the confidence of existing ’Wikipedians’ with administrative rights. There are votes on changes where a user (with experience) feels that it is necessary. Wikipedia is a constantly evolving resource and as more information is added, the overall structure needs to be adapted.

Wikipedia entries, like any Web page, can include hyperlinks to further resources. These may be in the form of standard URL links to other Web sites or links to further articles within Wikipedia. Thus Wikipedia articles are interlinked in a similar haphazard manner to the Web and links may lead to a non-existent page just as a Web page can. However, such links are indicated in a different colour and users may create a new page on that subject matter by following the link if they wish. It is also possible to see what pages link to the current article being viewed through a ‘What links here’ link; this can result in interesting serendipitous discoveries of connections between different subjects covered by Wikipedia.

Of course, with the ambiguous nature of names, it is possible that a particular item may well have more than one meaning. There are disambiguation techniques used on Wikipedia to deal with this problem. There may be a page with links to the various possible meanings, or a page covering the main meaning could link to alternative meanings (often named with an appended additional disambiguation word or phrase, typically in brackets by convention).

It may be that more than one phrase is appropriate for a particular entry. In this case, it is possible to redirect one or more additional terms to the main entry so that a link to any of them will result in viewing the same article. More practical details on this will be given in Section 2.

As well as the Web-like hyperlinks between articles, there is an important additional structuring mechanism on Wikipedia, namely categories. This provides a hierarchical structure to articles within Wikipedia, helping the user in the traversal of the large amount of material that is available. Although it is not obligatory, it is well worth including one or more categories for any article created on Wikipedia. This helps to ensure that it will be found within the increasingly large number of articles competing for the attention of the user. Categories can include further categories as well as articles, so a large treelike hierarchy exists on Wikipedia. Actually there is no automatic mechanism to prevent loops in the hierarchy, but this in not considered good practice. If introduced, such problems are likely to be rectified by an experienced Wikipedia before too long, especially if introduced in a popular subject area.

There is a gradual process of ‘narrowing’ categories on Wikipedia at it expands. An article could be included in a number of categories, some of which could be ‘super-categories’ of others in the overall hierarchy. There may also be more appropriate sub-categories below any particular category. In both cases, it is likely to be re-categorized at one or more lower-level categories by an experienced Wikipedia user at some later date, and particularly if a new and appropriate sub-category is created subsequently.

The creator of a Wikipedia article should not become too protective of it. Once it is on Wikipedia, if it is an article of interest to others, it is likely to be updated and expanded. It is of course possible to monitor an article on Wikipedia (through a ’my watchlist’ link) and, indeed, if an article contains incorrect factual information, any user is encouraged to correct it.

Articles often start as small entries, dubbed ‘stubs’ on Wikipedia. Indeed this is a recognized mechanism that has developed to indicate that an article is an initial article in one or more broad areas of interest. These articles are then included in appropriate stub categories. Some Wikipedians monitor the stub categories in which they have expertise; they check and update such articles with further information until it is felt warranted that the stub status for the article can be removed. Such a process has evolved through the use of Wikipedia and works well in practice. It is recommended that any new article be made a stub in one or more categories unless it is very complete from the start. Further details can be found in Section 2.

An important aspect of Wikipedia articles is that they should be factual and independent, avoiding presenting any subject matter from a particular point of view. Of course, this can become difficult in more contentious subjective matters such as politics, but overall it is a laudable aim that works well in most cases. If it breaks down and two or more users start to change a particular page back and forth from different viewpoints, it is possible for Wikipedia administrators to lock the page concerned and prevent further updates for a period. All Wikipedia entries have a ‘talk’ page where meta-level discussion on the page content can be conducted, and a ‘history’ page, where changes by users can be monitored.

It is not necessary to register with Wikipedia to update pages. If only one or two pages are to be updated, registering serves no great benefit. The user is identified by IP address in any case in the record of any changes made. However, after registration, which is a free and easy process, the user has a specific name, Web area within the Wikipedia Web site, history log of articles updated, etc. It is possible to communicate via a personal ‘talk’ page or other users’ talk pages, and the presence of a new message is indicated by a banner on Wikipedia pages when viewed. It is certainly worth registering if any more than very occasional updates are anticipated.

This introduction has been intended to give a general feel to the reader of how Wikipedia works. In the next section we will consider how a museum could create or update its own entry on Wikipedia.

2. Adding an Individual Museum to Wikipedia

Museums are listed under the Museums category on the English Wikipedia ( See Figure 1 for a view of this page.

Fig 1. View of the Museums category on Wikipedia (

Fig 1. View of the Museums category on Wikipedia (

All museums should have some sort of entry on Wikipedia. For a small museum this could be rather brief with a link to the museum’s own Web site, assuming it has one. For a larger museum, this could include more detailed information on the collections, a brief history of the museum, one or more pictures, etc. Although Wikipedia information should be independent in content, it is possible for any museum to create or update its own entry on Wikipedia. This should be written in an informational rather than a marketing style. If the latter is used, the entry is likely to be marked as inappropriate by another Wikipedia user, or even deleted by a Wikipedia administrator in extreme cases. In creating an entry, it should be remembered above all that Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, so any entry should aim for an encyclopaedic style, with information that will not date too quickly. For example, ’This week we have a two for one offer on our blockbuster exhibition’ would not be appropriate. On the other hand, ‘The museum holds a number of temporary exhibitions each year’ would be suitable.

If an entry for a museum on Wikipedia is being considered, the first thing to do is to check if one already exists. There is a search box on Wikipedia to do this. If the museum has more that one name used (e.g., a formal one and a popular one), each should be tried since it is possible that any (or indeed all!) may have been used.

Assuming there is no existing entry, it is a good idea to at least create an initial stub entry, as discussed in the previous section. Figure 2 gives an outline of a possible generic stub entry for a museum. First the name of the museum should be typed into the Wikipedia search box and the Go button should be pressed. It is best to avoid ’The’ at the start of the name unless this is essential since this affects the automatic alphabetic ordering of Wikipedia (see later). It is always possible to add an entry that includes ‘The’ and that redirects to the appropriate entry (again, see also later). Assuming there is no existing entry, the following should be displayed:

No page with that title exists.
You can create this article or request it.

The ‘create this article’ link should be selected and then the text in Figure 2 should be copied and pasted into the edit box as a starting point. Next this text should be customized for the particular museum in question by adding the correct name, actual information, links, categories, etc.

'''Example Museum''' is a [[X museum]] in [[Location]], [[Country]].

More information (e.g., collections, history, etc.).

== See also ==
* [[Another Museum]]
* [[Related topic]]

== External links ==
* [ Museum website]
* [http://www... Another related Web site]


[[Category:Museums in Country]]
[[Category:X museums]]

Fig. 2: Example starting text for a museum Wikipedia entry

‘Example Museum’ should be replaced by the actual name of the museum, which should normally be same as the name of the Wikipedia article itself. If appropriate, ‘The’ may be added before the name. Be careful with capitalization of both the article name and the name added here since this is significant to Wikipedia. Note that the triple quotation marks ('''''') indicate that the text should be displayed in bold and it is normal to indicate the article name in such a manner. If there are other names used for the museum, these could be included in bold text as well, with another redirection page from the alternative name to this page (see later). For italic text, if required to emphasize other names, for example, the text should be surrounded by double quotation marks ('''').

‘X museum’ should be replaced by the type of museum (e.g., science museum). ‘Location’ and ‘country’ should be replaced appropriately depending on the geographic location of the museum. The double pair of square brackets [[]] indicates links to other article entries with those names within Wikipedia.

Some brief information should be added as a short paragraph or two initially, e.g., on the museum’s collections, history, etc. If there are no other related Wikipedia entries to be included, the See also section can be omitted. Otherwise, edit the entries appropriately with titles of other Wikipedia articles (e.g., perhaps covering related museums or other resources). The ‘External links’ section should at least include a link to the museum’s own Web site.

Note that the double-equal signs == … == indicate section headings. The sections mentioned above have standard names that are included in many Wikipedia articles. However, further freeform section headings can be included as appropriate, especially for longer articles. Triple-equal signs === … === can be used for subsections within longer sections. Section headings should not be capitalized in general, apart from the initial word. A star (‘*’) at the beginning of a line indicates a bullet-point item in a list. A hash sign (‘#’) can be used if numbered items are required.

{{museum-stub}}’ indicates that this is an initial stub entry for the museum (as mentioned in the previous section). This will include the entry in a category of stub articles on museums. It will draw attention to the entry to other experienced Wikipedia users with an interest in museums so the article is more likely to be checked for Wikipedia conformance, etc. Further stub macros (of the form {{*-stub}}) are possible. For example, {{art-stub}} would be suitable for art museums and {{science-stub}} would be suitable for science museums. However, if unsure of the stubs that are available, the museum stub as shown in Figure 2 is sufficient.

Under the category information [[Category:]], the appropriate country (or within the United States, the appropriate state) should be used to replace ‘Country’. For the countries that are already included on Wikipedia in the museums section, see the ‘Museums by country’ ( category. For a list of states for US museums, see the ‘Museums in the United States’ category. Similarly, the United Kingdom is split into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is also a ‘Museums by city’ ( category that may be appropriate for museums in large well-known cities.

Art museums and galleries are a slightly special case. A category of the following form is recommended:

[[Category:Art museums and galleries in Country]]

Normally the ‘Museums in …’ category should then be omitted. However, in the US, museums are divided by state but art museums are only categorized by the entire country (as of January 2006). Thus the following could be appropriate:

[[Category:Art museums and galleries in the United States]]
[[Category:Museums in State]]

‘State’ should be replaced by the name of the appropriate US state. Note that Wikipedia is in a constant state of flux and categories are subdivided as they become overfull. This process depends largely on the interests and efforts of active and experienced Wikipedians.

In the ‘X museums’ category within Figure 2, ‘X’ should be replaced with an appropriate museum type (e.g., ‘Science’). For an existing list of museum categories, see the main museum category ( on Wikipedia ( If there is more that one category that is appropriate, repeat the [[Category: X museums]] line. Note that some museum type categories are gradually being split up by country (for example, ‘National museums’ and ‘People museums’). It is worth checking suitable categories by browsing them first, before adding them to a museum entry.

The ‘Location’ category should be as local a geographical position as possible, as categorized by Wikipedia. Finding a suitable category for this is perhaps the most difficult. It will depend largely on the country concerned and how well it is categorized on Wikipedia. There could be a category for the city or town where the museum is located and there could be one for the region. It may be that there is a specific suitable specialized subcategory for the region. In the United Kingdom, for example, each county (as of January 2006 at least) has a category of the form ‘Visitor attractions in X’ where ‘X’ is the name of a county. For most UK museums, it would be appropriate to include this category. If in doubt, it is worth inspecting the categories at the bottom of articles concerning the location of the museum and seeing if these or related categories are suitable for inclusion in the museum entry.

It may be that further specialist categories are appropriate, especially in the context of existing categories concerning history. A suitable category may be found under ‘history by topic’ ( For example, a computing museum could include the category ‘History of computing’.

If all else fails, a minimal single category for a museum could be [[Category:Museums]]. If this is used, it is very likely that another more experienced Wikipedian (perhaps even one of the authors) will re-categorize the entry more narrowly and precisely, possibly adding further appropriate categories too. This is part of the natural process of the development, refinement and ordering of Wikipedia entries.

The alphabetical ordering of articles (and indeed categories) within category listings can be controlled if required. For example, if a museum is named ‘The X Museum’, a category of [Category:Museums in Y|X Museum]] would place the entry under ‘X’ rather than ‘T’ (for ‘The’) when viewing the category. This is a useful facility for such cases.

In adding categories, if a new country, museum type, location or other category is needed because it has not yet been created, it is possible to create this if desired. See Section 4 on adding categories to Wikipedia. However, for novice Wikipedia users, it is better to avoid creating new categories until more experience is gained.

Once the initial museum entry is considered satisfactory, under the ‘New entry’ box, some brief explanatory text such as ‘New museum entry’ such be added. This will be stored as metadata in the history information on updates to the entry. It is best to un-tick the ‘This is a minor edit’ box for a new entry. This is mainly used to indicate small typographical corrections and changes, for example. The ‘Watch this paper’ tick box is especially useful if registered with Wikipedia, since subsequent changes to the page are then flagged in the user area under ‘my watchlist’.

When saving a Wikipedia page, it is safest to select the ‘Show preview’ button first. This allows a draft of the page to be viewed with the edit box still available for further editing before actually saving the page on Wikipedia. This is especially useful for checking that all the links are valid. Valid links within Wikipedia are shown in blue whereas links to non-existent pages (or categories at the bottom of the entry) are shown in red. Sometimes it is appropriate to leave links to non-existent pages if it is intended to provide these later or if it is felt that they are appropriate titles for pages that someone else could add to Wikipedia. However, more normally it is best to correct these. The problem may be a typographical error or it may be that a different name should be used. It is best to search Wikipedia in a separate window for the appropriate page or category. If nothing can be found, the link/category could be removed or (if it is felt strongly that it should exist) left in place as a dangling link. For novice users, it is best and safest to adopt the former approach.

Once major problems have been eradicated, the ‘Save page’ button can be selected. The entry is then immediate available on Wikipedia for use by anyone accessing its resources. The inclusion of suitable categories makes it more likely that the entry will be found by people browsing the site. It may be that one or more errors or omissions are spotted almost immediate. Fortunately these are easy to correct and updating an existing Wikipedia museum entry is covered in the next section.

Finally, if a museum has additional names that may be used (for example, ‘The’ is normally prepended to the title), it is recommended that one or more ‘redirect’ Wikipedia entries be created. Start by searching for the entry as covered earlier, by typing the full alternative name into the search box and selecting the ‘Go’ button. In the edit box, the following text should be inserted:

#REDIRECT [[Museum name]]

‘Museum name’ should be replaced with the name of the main entry for the museum that has been created. Be careful that this is typed accurately, including correct capitalization. In the ‘Edit summary’ add something like ‘Redirection page’. For safety, the ‘Show preview’ button should be selected to check that the ‘redirect’ link display is in blue and pointing at the museum entry. Following the link and then selecting the browser’s ‘back’ button can be done to be absolutely sure if necessary. Then ‘Save page’ should be selected. It is good practice for this alternative name to be included in the main museum entry in bold text (surrounded by triple quotation marks), as previously described.

3. Updating an Individual Museum entry on Wikipedia

It may be that an entry already exists for a particular museum on Wikipedia, especially if it is a well-known museum. This has very likely been created by one or more people not directly associated with the museum, but with an interest in the museum because of its location or subject matter. In this case, the content should be checked for accuracy. In particular, it should be ensured that there is a link to the museum’s official Web site in an ‘External links’ section at the end of the article. Also checking that the categories are appropriate, as detailed in the previous section, is recommended. To edit the page, simply select the ‘edit this page’ link at the top of the article and edit the source in the edit box as required (using the guidelines in the previous section as appropriate). It should be remembered that the advice in the previous section is not followed by all Wikipedia contributors, so existing entries could be somewhat different in style. However, from experience, it is recommended that the basic guidance given earlier be followed for an appropriate Wikipedia museum entry.

A more comprehensive museum entry on Wikipedia could include more detailed information on the museum’s history, its collections, its organization, etc. As it expands, additional sections and subsections should be included for structuring. Also, links to related Wikipedia articles should be included where appropriate. For words and phrases in the plural, it is possible to include a links such as ‘[[science museum]]s’. Wikipedia will automatically make the link cover the entire phrase (and also automatically capitalize the first letter). Thus, in this example, the link would be to the entry on ‘Science museum’. It is also possible to include a link to a resource that is not the same is the linking text. For example [[X|Y]] would create a link to an article called ‘X’ from the phrase ‘Y’.

It may be appropriate and worthwhile to include one or more photographs on a museum entry. It should be noted that all images on Wikipedia must be copyright-free (as indeed must all text on Wikipedia), so they should be selected with care and understanding of their copyright status before uploading. There is an ‘Upload file’ entry on the left-hand Wikipedia menu. On selecting this, information on the required status of uploaded images is provided. Normally they should either be public domain or released under the GNU Free Documentation License ( (GFDL).

A ‘Source filename’ (the name of the image file on the local machine to be uploaded) should be selected, normally using the ‘Browse…’ button. The recommended format for single images is JPEG ( The ‘Destination filename’ should be some reasonably descriptive name (which will need to be unique with respect to all existing Wikipedia images). The ‘Summary’ information should include brief information on the photograph (or image), the name of the photographer (or artist), the date, etc. Then ‘Licensing’ should be selected and ‘GFDL’ is recommended if possible. The file should then be uploaded by selecting the ‘Upload file’ button.

Once in place, the image can be included in Wikipedia pages. For example, the following could be included at the top of a museum entry:

[[Image:Example Museum.jpg|thumb|right|100px|View of the museum.]]

‘Example Museum’ should be replaced by the actual name of the desired image. The use of ‘thumb’ indicates a small thumbnail-sized image frame’ can be used for larger images). The position will be to the right of the page (the normal default for ‘thumb’ images), but left is also possible. The image will be a hundred pixels wide (indicated by ‘100px’). This can be replaced as required or omitted for the default size (which can be personalized by registered users, for example). The ‘View of the museum’ is the caption that will be included beneath the image and can be replaced as desired, including Wikipedia links if appropriate. Multiple images can be included on a Wikipedia page if desired, but it is good to space these out as much as possible to avoid formatting problems.

Images and other media that are to be made freely available on-line may also be stored on Wikimedia Commons (, as mentioned earlier. These are also accessible for use on Wikipedia and other on-line projects. If there are no images of a particular museum available, it is worth considering adding at least a small selection that can be used freely on-line. Copyright can be a contentious issue, but providing some images freely for promotional and informational use is well worthwhile in general (Numerico & Bowen, 2005).

Of course, there are further formatting options that can be used on Wikipedia pages, including tables, the use of macros for common definitions (e.g., as used by stubs), etc. Further exploration of these features is beyond the scope of this paper. A good way of exploring advanced features on Wikipedia is to find a Wikipedia entry that already uses the feature. Then ‘edit pages’ can be selected and the source text for the page in the edit box can be examined and indeed copied/adapted for another page (even if it is not intended to update the original page ultimately).

As mentioned earlier, there are Wikipedias in other languages as well as English. For non-English speaking countries or for museums of international interest, it is worth having entries in more than one language. An expert in the language concerned should be used of course. The entries in different languages can be interlinked. For example a matching category for ‘Museums’ can be found in over twenty different languages and an entry on the term ‘Museum’ ( is available in over thirty languages (as of January 2006). Some alternative language entry links can be seen in the menu on the left of the Wikipedia page in Figure 1.

To create a link to a matching entry in another Wikipedia language, code of the form ‘[[en:Museum]]’ should be added at the end of any foreign-language page (with ‘Museum’ replaced by the actual name of the museum in English). For a link to a French version, use code of the form ‘[[fr:Musée]]’; for a Spanish version ‘[[es:Museo]]’, etc. The name after the colon should be replaced by the actual name of the museum in the appropriate language. There should naturally be a suitable entry of that name on the appropriate Wikipedia in that language.

Finally, in addition to museums and galleries, it is even more worthwhile for museum organizations to have a Wikipedia entry, especially if national or international in scope. There is a ‘Museum organizations’ ( category that is suitable for use in this case. There is also a ‘Museology’ ( category where more general museum-related terms could be included.

4. Adding Museum Categories on Wikipedia

If a suitable category is not available for a new Wikipedia entry (such as a museum), then it may be worth creating such a category. However, this is not recommended for novice Wikipedia users in general since categories are more important than individual articles for the overall structure of Wikipedia. Inappropriate categories are likely to be renamed or even deleted through a voting process. This is a relatively fast process, taking only a week or two to complete, and it is easy to miss changes (and deletions) if Wikipedia is not monitored regularly. Perhaps an exception and a less contentious example of creating a new category is if a suitable country category is not available for a museum.

As of January 2006, there are over sixty countries included in the Wikipedia ‘Museums by country’ ( category. If a suitable entry is not available for a particular country, first a museum entry with a ‘Museums in X’ category should be created, where ‘X’ is the missing country. On saving this entry, the category should be highlighted in red at the bottom of the museum entry. On following this link, the new category entry can be edited as for an article entry. The initial category entry could look like the following:

[[Museum]]s in [[X]].

[[Category:Museums by country|X]]
[[Category:Y culture]]
[[Category:Buildings and structures in X]]
[[Category:Tourism in X]]

Here, ‘X’ should be replaced with the country in question and ‘Y’ with the adjective for the nationality of the country (e.g., ‘United States’ and ‘American’, although these not unsurprisingly already exist). This will place the category itself in other suitable categories and in a suitably alphabetized order. The result should be previewed and it should be checked that all the categories exist (i.e., they are all displayed in blue rather than red at the bottom of the page). If some are invalid, they should be deleted (or added as well if expert enough). The first category should exist, but if none of the others do, simply include the following country category (with ‘X’ replaced by the name of the country):


Once all the categories included exist (i.e., they preview in blue rather than red), the new category can be safely saved.

As another example, for adding a new ‘museums by city’ category, the following could be a starting point:

[[Museum]]s in [[City]], [[Country]].

[[Category:Museums in Country|City]]
[[Category:Culture in City]]
[[Category:Buildings and structures in City]]
[[Category:Museums by city|City]]
[[Category:Visitor attractions in City]]

In this case, ‘City’ should be replaced by the name of the city throughout and ‘Country’ by the relevant country in the first and second lines. Again, as for ‘museums by country’, any non-existent categories should be deleted from the entry (or created if an expert). As before, [[Category:Country]] should be included (with ‘Country’ suitably replaced) if there are no other appropriate categories available.

The guidance here is just a starting point for creating categories on Wikipedia. As a user becomes more expert with Wikipedia, it is possible to add more linking between categories. However, it is worth giving some thought to the creation of completely new categories. These are monitored more closely than individual articles and are more likely to be deleted if not well considered. In particular, if there is no explanatory article closely related to a new category (and linked prominently from it) and also no other similar categories exist such as ‘Museums in X’), a new category could easily be short-lived.

5. Conclusion

This paper is intended to give practical guidance in the use of the Wikipedia on-line encyclopaedia by museums, particular in creating new entries for museums by those who are not necessarily expert in the conventions of Wikipedia. It also gives some guidance in the categorization of museums, an important aspect in the structuring of Wikipedia. There is a virtual community (Beler et al., 2004) built around Wikipedia that is not immediately obvious to the casual user, but it is worthwhile to have some understanding of this for those that wish to contribute to Wikipedia in a serious manner.

Wikipedia is increasingly useful as an information resource in its own right for museum personnel undertaking research for exhibitions, etc. Indeed, museum curators typically also have deep knowledge about specific areas and could usefully contribute articles to Wikipedia or at least correct and augment existing articles. As altruistic institutions, that fits well with the museum ethos and is to be encouraged.

Above all, it should be remembered that Wikipedia entries are intended to give an independent and informational view. Therefore any direct promotional material should be rigorously avoided and only included on the museum’s own Web site. If required, it may be appropriate to include some additional links to stable Web resources provided by a museum (e.g., access to its collections database, additional and specially created Web sites, etc.).

A significant advantage of creating a Wikipedia entry for a museum with a link to the museum Web site is a likely improvement in search engine rankings (especially on Google). Wikipedia is highly rated by search engines such as Google, so the Wikipedia entry is liable to appear high in search engine listings, especially if a user searches for a museum by name. Anything that improves search rankings for museums is worthwhile (Numerico et al., 2005), particularly when it can be achieved at minimal cost and effort, as with Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia Web site is well designed from the aspect of accessibility by the disabled (Bowen, 2005). For example, it works well with text-conversion software (, aiding blind and partially sighted people especially. Personalization in general is increasingly important in the provision of Web-based information (Bowen & Filippini-Fantoni, 2004). Once registered on Wikipedia, it is possible to personalize various aspects under the ‘my preferences’ link at the top of the page. The user profile, display ‘skin’, math formatting, image file settings, date/time display, editing options, recent changes display, search facilities and various other miscellaneous options can all be personalized.

Research into Wiki technology and usage continues apace (Meta-Wiki, 2006; Voss, 2005) and interest in this area is rapidly gathering momentum (Wikimania, 2005; Wikisym, 2005). This is a significant and fast-moving aspect of Web development that museums should consider carefully. As well as simple use of existing Wiki resources like Wikipedia, it is relatively easy to add Wiki software to an existing sophisticated Web site. The technology could be used by museums to enhance their own communities, allowing them to contribute to a museum’s Web site interactively. Of course, like Wikipedia itself, this requires some monitoring but it could be used for novel applications.

For example, it would be relatively easy to let users create their own on-line galleries using Wiki facilities, perhaps interlinked with more protected areas, also using Wiki technology, maintained by museum curators. The technology makes Web maintenance and interaction easier for both museum professionals and museum visitors. It is especially well suited for museums and related organizations with a significant virtual presence (or those wishing to build one). The authors recommend that all museums monitor this area for the future, if they are not already doing so, and at least ensure that they have a reliable and up-to-date entry on Wikipedia with a link to (and perhaps from) their own Web site.


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Cite as:

Bowen J. and Angus J., Museums and Wikipedia, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2006: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 1, 2006 at