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Expert Q&A :: Using Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia for history

For our Expert Q&A on Thursday, July 11 we had The State Library of New South Wales‘s Mylee Joseph and Wikipedian-in-Residence Gillian White from Wikimedia Australia join us to discuss how Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons can help your research. Thanks again to Mylee and Gillian for giving us all the benefit of their time and expertise.

Please find the transcript of the Q&A and links below.

Mylee Joseph, Leader of the Innovation Project at the State Library of NSW, joins us to discuss how and why the State Library of NSW is using Wikipedia to help the community discover resources in the Library’s collections and to tell the stories of life in New South Wales and Australia. As part of the project, the State Library hosted the first Wikipedian in Residence in an Australian cultural institution, Gillian White.

Summary of links from the Q&A:

  • Australian Copyright Council Factsheet re: Photographers: click here
  • State Library of NSW [SLNSW] Wikipedia Project page: click here
  • SLNSW Digital Excellence Program: click here
  • SLNSW photograph contributions to Wikimedia Commons: click here
  • Wikimedia Australia: click here
  • Wikimedia Commons: State Library of NSW Images :: click here
  • Wikimedia Foundation: click here
  • Wikipedia: Abuse filter :: click here
  • Wikipedia: List of newspapers in NSW :: click here
  • Wikipedia: List of non English language newspapers in NSW :: click here
  • Wikipedia: Recent changes patrol :: click here
  • Wikiproject Evaluation: click here
  • Wikiproject: Monuments – click here
  • Wikiproject: Australia-related wikiprojects: click here
  • Wikiproject: Wikiproject Australia – click here
Click on image to view more images in the collection
Click on image to view more images in the collection


Transcript of Expert Q&A – Wikimedia and the State Library of NSW

Our Wikipedia Expert Q&A with The State Library of New South Wales‘s Mylee Joseph and Wikipedian-in-Residence Gillian White starts in 15 minutes at 8:30pm AEST. Join us with your questions on the using Wikipedia. Please ask your questions below, and Gillian or Mylee will answer in a following comment.

Comment: IHM: Welcome everyone, thank you for joining us. Please welcome Gillian and Mylee to tonight’s Q&A!
A. IHM: Tip :: Keep refreshing your browser to see the answers as they appear and remember to look through the entire list of comments, as Facebook may order your questions and answers out of sequence.
A. SLNSW: Hi everyone, Mylee here. I’m one of the team here at the State Library
A. Wikimedia Australia: Hello everyone! Gillian

Q. From Brad: How accurate is the information on using wikipedia for study purposes like for university? Can anyone change the information like about how the states were formed and no one would realise the information is correct unless someone else finds it and corrects it?
A. Wikimedia: If you are writing any report or uni paper you always need to think about your sources. In Wikipedia, the references (footnotes) are where you will find the original source of the information. Wikipedia aims to use reliable sources for its claims. If it is a significant article with good references, it is likely to be correct and there many people watching such articles. If you are relying on a specific point to make an argument in a uni paper, go to source cited and check that. Gillian
A. Brad: Thanks. I always look at the sources used on the wiki page and that leads me to other places to find more information. Its usually a great place to start from.
A. Wikimedia: The articles are in a constant state of change and usually improvement – you can tell that some articles for instance have only just been started and others are very stable and have been worked on over a long period of time and undergone a lot of scrutiny.
A. Toby: One useful tab when you’re checking an article is “View History” up the top. That way you can compare versions or look at old versions to see if there was recent vandalism.
A. Brad: That was something I never knew about before. Thanks Toby.
A. Wikimedia: Use the articles to provoke your thinking on the topic. It is a great way to get ideas about aspects you didn’t know before or find sources you hadn’t considered. The internal links also lead you to related ideas as well as explain basic things from another field of study that you need to understand your own.

Q. From Jonathan: My question is more in regards to using repository images – ie. State Library of NSW. What is the policy on publishing images on a personal blog, where the copyright has expired, and the image is fully acknowledged? Do we need to request permission?
A. SLNSW: Good question about using photographs in blog posts. There’s some really good information about Australian copyright law from the Australian Copyright Council Factsheet G011v16 The status of the photograph does vary so it’s a good idea to check the factsheet.

Q. From Linda: Really dopey question – I occasionally view Wikipedia – is that what we are talking about – State Library people putting content on there, or something else? The Public Record Office Victoria had a Wikki at one stage, and I could not make head or tail of what it was.
A. Wikimedia: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia built over many iterations by volunteers using a “wiki”. It uses a software called Mediawiki to allow this. Corporations and Archives like PROV are also now using this kind of software to allow their employees to contribute to the organisation’s documentation. A “wiki” is just a means to an end. Gillian
A. Toby: SLNSW is going straight for the big-time and using Wikipedia directly. One article they wrote from start to finish was
A. IHM: It’s a great post isn’t it Toby, especially given that this year is the 200th anniversary of the crossing of the Blue Mountains!
A. Toby: Yep, we had it on the front page of Wikipedia on the anniversary of the day they successfully returned. About 8000 people read it that day.
A. SLNSW: Linda – yes State Library staff are adding information to Wikipedia articles, we’re interested in making it easier to find the stories about people, places and events in NSW history.
A. Carmel: This is similar to what PROV was doing, I added a couple of mine in the one of the women’s petition.
A. SLNSW: We decided that rather than having our own wiki it made a lot of sense to add NSW stories and information to the fifth most popular website in the world (Wikipedia) because we wanted to make it very easy for people to find.
A. SLNSW: Here is a story that we thought was important to tell, so Library staff wrote an article about Governor Davey’s proclamation
A. SLNSW: Your readers might also be interested in all the newspapers published in NSW in languages other than English
A. SLNSW: We also have Miles Franklin’s tea cup in our collection so we added an image of it to the article about her … apparently she often encouraged people drink from the waratah cup and write in her waratah book

Q. From Chris: Hi all, as a blogger, I do have a problem from time to time with so called readers posting comments on my blogs, that are blatant advertising… I can deal with them. What I wonder, is does this happen to Wikipedia and if so, how do you deal with it?
A. Liam: Wikipedian here (actually – former Wikipedian in Residence at the British Museum): We have a series of both manual and automated methods. There are a variety of quite complex filters set up to spot the obvious (and not so obvious) vandalism and spam. I.e. there’s a list of commonly used vandalism words and whenever they are added by a new or anonymous editor that “raises a flag” in the system. There are also people who have the system inform them whenever any change has been made to an article they care about – called “watchlisting”. I do this, for example, on the articles I originally created. Finally, there is a feed of new edits that can be watched for likely vandalism which is called “recent change patrol”. Useful further info is at and
A. Wikimedia: People do try sometimes to put self promotion on the articles which of course, is against WP policy and also not helpful to readers. We just delete it (very quick to do) or rewrite it when we come upon it. For instance today I was editing a “list” article in which someone had repeated their organisation’s item many times. It wasn’t wrong but it made the article messy and repetitive and unbalanced, so I just removed the repetition. I think people do respect that it is an encyclopedia though and there are policies that are easily citable.
A. Chris: Thanks for the replies. Not too far from what I, and probably many do… I have various readers who let me know almost as soon as something ‘sus’ is posted. You wonder why they go to the trouble when they get quickly deleted.
A. Toby: If you figure out that something is sus… please help us by deleting it!
A. Chris: My pleasure… 🙂

Q. From Kerry: How does the state library utilize Wikipedia?
A. SLNSW: We have been adding articles about newspapers published in NSW, did you know there have been about 2,000 different newspaper titles? We think it will make it easier for people researching family history and local stories
A. SLNSW: Sometimes we create the stub article – a good beginning – and then local people add lots of extra information, the article about The Leader from Orange, NSW is a good example,_NSW)
A. NLA: Hope you don’t mind if we sidle up to the conversation here too… Funny you should mention The Leader from Orange, as a 1915 edition was recently the 10 millionth page to be added to the Trove newspaper database: Trove uses the descriptions of individual newspapers from Wikipedia to populate its resource pages.

Q. From Michelle: Australian genealogy: Can you publish images that the copyright has expired on your blog without requesting permission as long as you acknowledge?
A. SLNSW: I’d always recommend that you check the copyright status of an image, if you are confident that it is out of copyright then giving attribution (credit) to the photographer is all that should be required. Some useful guidelines here from the Australian Copyright Council
A. SLNSW: If you use images from Wikimedia Commons (part of Wikipedia) you can easily find the text to use to add the attribution here are some of our images that we’d love to see people using

Q. From Linda: Is it just me – or are others unable to bring up the replies to questions/comments here. On most of them, I can see there are 2 or 3 replies, but cannot get it to expand by clicking???
A. IHM: There does appear to be a problem with facebook tonight Linda  – if you hit refresh or like the comment with the replies, then you can read them 🙂
A. Toby: It’s working for me – sometimes slowly.
A. Ros: Not working for me, dratted gremlins …
A. Ros: Hmm working now
A. Linda: Better now

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