Week 4: Look at the Inner Workings of Wikipedia

This week we were asked to look at the “Talk” section of Wikipedia and take a gander over at Flickr Commons.

Let’s tackle the Wikipedia thing first. Long ago and far away, when I was in high school I worked at the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum and thought I knew quite a bit about the United States Life-Saving Service, which is a bit obscure. I waltzed over to Wikipedia and discovered a confusing pile of information, which I could edit if I went through this massive blog styled format. I’m not scared of HTML, but this didn’t look like anything I’d seen before. It seemed as though there was already TONS of information on the subject and since my references would be to books, not websites, I left thinking the internet had this thing handled. Sidebar: the Life-Saving Museum is now revamped as the Nantucket Shipwreck Museum, because shipwrecks sound sexier than Life-Saving. I feel plenty of varied emotions about this subject, so we’ll just leave that alone for today.

After discussing Wikipedia with my fellow Digital Historians last Wednesday I felt as though I could give editing another go. Heck, I sat near someone who was an editor. He was a real person! Not just some faceless robot! Now, which subject to dive into? Well I just read a lot of primary source documentation on Maria Mitchell, fellow Nantucket native and first American Female Astronomer. I grew up visiting her family home and attending Maria Mitchell Summer Camp. She’s an incredibly interesting person. Come to find out, they (someone on the talk page) thinks she needs a “Personal Life” section created. I’ve added a few things and posted comments in the “Talk” section. Sadly, the internet fairies have not responded to anything yet. I expected to be eaten alive by editors, especially after watching John Udell discuss the changes to the Heavy Metal Umlaut.

I only added a few things to test the waters, but plan to add more. Mitchell was a known knitter, so that will be added next. I posted a help question in the “Talk” section because my footnotes did not format correctly. I copied and pasted them from elsewhere in the document and they didn’t end up working. I will keep you posted as things develop.

As for Flickr Commons, I went around looking for interesting photos and greatly appreciate that different libraries and museums have put their images in this section. Some museums hang on to their images with an iron fist in the hopes of generating money through their use in films or books. I searched for “Cat” and wasn’t disappointed. It may seem crazy, but I really enjoy using photos of cats and dogs to help children connect with history. Yes, photos of people work well, but they’re posed differently, dressed differently and just look foreign to modern kids. Cats and dogs still look exactly the same! Since most students at my job have a cat/dog/fish/lizard/hamster pet of some kind they connect more readily with images of animals. In closing, Flickr Commons found me a gem right away:

Tea on the verandah of a Mount Nutt home, Bowen, Queensland, ca. 1900-1910

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