Adding Authority Archival Information to Wikipedia: An Interview at The Frick Collection

METRO Wikipedian-in-Residence Dorothy Howard interviews Shannon Morelli, Associate Archivist, and Sally Brazil, Chief, Archives and Records Management at The Frick Archives and Frick Art Reference Library on their use of Wikiepdia.

Tell us a little about your experience with Wikipedia. When did you first get started editing? Has your work in libraries/archives related to your Wikipedia interests?

20120206_Barbara_Field_by_Boutet_de_Monvel.jpgSB: The Archives Department at The Frick Collection began to work with Wikipedia in 2013. While an archivist on staff attempted to add and to edit a few entries originally, those entries were largely deleted by Wikipedia editors for a variety of reasons. The Archives Department organized a meeting with Dorothy to provide training and editing advice to members of The Frick Collection staff, in particular staff of the Frick Art Reference Library.

After the meeting, Shannon undertook to create a GLAM/Wiki page for The Frick Collection and staff indicated desired entries to create and to edit as time permitted. The institution’s Wikipedia interests are scholarly. We seek to create or edit entries on topics where we have primary source material or where we can offer editorial suggestions, in particular on topics concerned with art history and Frick family entries.

What topics do you most edit on Wikipedia for the Frick Art Reference Library?

SM: The main entry topics to date for the library have been: artists, art galleries, the Gilded Age and related subjects, Henry Clay Frick and his family, and people associated with the Frick Collection.

Tell us a about the dynamics of your Wikipedia work at FARL. How do you choose which topics to edit?

20140206_Westmoreland_train_car.jpgSB, SM: Our GLAM/Wiki page lists the topics we wish to create or to edit. That list can expand but it is focused for the most part on the subjects noted above.

The initial list was created at an interdepartmental meeting of staff members who were interested in contributing to Wikipedia. The list of topics documents the interests of the Archives, and Book and Photoarchive Departments of the Frick Art Reference Library.

We have roughly ten institutional editors slated to work on our goals who will add to the lists of articles to edit or create as more subjects emerge. More recently, Photoarchive staff member, Ellen Prokop, has started working on adding public domain images from our Photoarchive to Wikimedia Commons, then illustrating relevant articles with the images.

What are your goals in editing Wikipedia at FARL?

SB: We hope to increase the knowledge of our holdings for the benefit of researchers. We also hope to expand or edit entries that relate specifically to the mission of the library and The Frick Collection. In addition to exposing our library collections to researchers on Wikipedia, we want to share our knowledge and resources with the Wikipedia community.

What is your advice to researchers, students, and teachers that are wary of using Wikipedia as a reliable source?

SM: While it is a great starting point for research, Wikipedia shouldn’t be the sole source of information for a research project. Wikipedia often notes at the top of an entry that additional research may be required and that a particular entry is based on limited sources and may not be thorough. Following the links to any primary and secondary resources is encouraged and may help to determine the validity of the claims in an entry. As more cultural heritage organizations participate in creating and editing articles, the reliability or respectability of Wikipedia will grow.

What types of projects do you foresee being helpful for Wikipedia and other cultural heritage organizations?

SM: Perhaps outreach projects to get more cultural heritage organizations involved in the editing process would be helpful. Edit-a-thons also can be a very useful way to collaborate on certain topics to add a critical mass of content very quickly.


Sally Brazil is Chief, Archives and Records Management at The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library where she has worked since 1997. She holds a M.S. in Library Science from Columbia University, a M.A. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from New York University and a B.A. in Human Language from Stanford University.

Shannon Yule Morelli is an Associate Archivist at The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library, focusing on collection processing, electronic records management, digital projects, and social media. She holds a MLIS from Dominican University in River Forest, IL, and a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Kansas.

Note: Pictures shown have been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by the FARL staff as part of their Wikipedia project.