Planting our forget-me-nots in Wikipedia

Planting our forget-me-nots in Wikipedia

Spring cleaning at Te Papa this year means getting out our longest feather duster, as we freshen up information about Aotearoa’s native forget-me-nots (Myosotis) on Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. Here, Digital Channels Outreach Manager Lucy Schrader runs through the process.

Close up photo of Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br. flowering bright yellow flowers
Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br., collected 14 December 2014, Canterbury, Mount Torlesse, Kowhai River, confluence with Foggy Stream, on both sides of old 4WD track in dry river bed, New Zealand. Field Collection 2014-2015. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP103829)

Sharing Te Papa’s forget-me-not data and images

Last week Te Wiki Tiaki Ao Tūroa | Conservation Week asked us to take a moment to act for nature, and we’re doing that by helping people find good info and images of these 50 or so species, many of which are threatened.

Te Papa’s Kairauhī Mātai Tipu | Curator Botany Heidi Meudt is an expert on native New Zealand forget-me-nots. This year she’s on a mission to create and update Wikipedia articles for all species and subspecies, including Myosotis bryonoma, Myosotis rakiura, and many more.

Images are a very important part of Wikipedia pages, and images that have been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons are used for this purpose. But we noticed that there are not many images of New Zealand forget-me-nots in Wikimedia Commons! So, accompanying Heidi’s expertise, we’ve selected 340 of Te Papa’s Creative Commons-licensed photos of native Myosotis specimens – herbarium specimens, field photographs, and even some microscopic pollen images – to load onto Wikimedia Commons. They’ll be available for Heidi to include in her articles, and for anyone else to use on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

Close up of the bright yellow flowers of the Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br.
Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br., collected 14 December 2014, Canterbury, Mount Torlesse, Kowhai River, confluence with Foggy Stream, on both sides of old 4WD track in dry river bed, New Zealand. Field Collection 2014-2015. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP103829)
Specimen sheet for Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br. – a sheet with the specimen attached to it, along with an identification card
Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br., collected 14 December 2014, Canterbury, Mount Torlesse, Kowhai River, confluence with Foggy Stream, on both sides of old 4WD track in dry river bed, New Zealand. Field Collection 2014-2015. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP103829)
View of the pollen of Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br. as seen through a scanning electron microscope. They look a little like chickpeas
Myosotis australis subsp. australis R.Br., collected 14 December 2014, Canterbury, Mount Torlesse, Kowhai River, confluence with Foggy Stream, on both sides of old 4WD track in dry river bed, New Zealand. Field Collection 2014-2015. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP103829)

As Te Papa’s new Kaitūhono Hora Raraunga | Digital Channels Outreach Manager, I’ve teamed up with Heidi and Collections Data Manager Gareth Watkins to extend Heidi’s work into a pilot programme, whereby we share Te Papa’s data and images with the wider world on different Wikimedia platforms – in this case Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata.

Heidi, Lucy, and Gareth sit at a desk looking at a laptop computer
Heidi, Lucy, and Gareth hard at work, 2022. Photo by Daniel Crichton-Rouse. Te Papa

Why Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is where people go for their introduction to pretty much any and every topic. It’s one of the most popular websites and is often on the first page of search page results. If Te Papa can add or enhance the site with reliable, well-sourced information and images, it’s another key way we can make sure that those searching for something in Te Papa’s collections will find it.

On Wikipedia, a student can find a lead for their project on native species, a researcher can find images for their conference talk, and a community can find what’s good to plant in their native plant regeneration area. The information on Wikipedia has a way of extending out further, too – in blogs people write, links shared that prompt discussion, and the enhancement of websites like iNaturalist.

Getting Te Papa’s images onto Wikimedia Commons

Even with just a few hundred images, uploading them one at a time would be pretty dull, so we’ve been working on a way to systematically pull the data we want from our collections database, EMu, and process it into a shape Wikimedia can handle. Then we’ll upload the images and associated data together into Wikimedia Commons using OpenRefine, which is currently trialling new bulk loading functionality.

Because most of Te Papa’s images of scientific specimens are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), they can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. We’re concentrating on a small set of forget-me-not specimens so we can focus on sharing detailed information from EMu, which we’re integrating with Wikidata. We’ll then look to repeat the same process with other collections.

Stitching it all together in Wikidata

Wikidata’s structured data is still relatively new, building on a project started in 2017. You can think of Wikidata like the central storage for the underlying information that is used by Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and others. The humanities side of the tools, processes, and templates supporting it is much more mature than the natural history side. Our pilot project fills that gap a bit with a (still draft) detailed specimen template, and a process for linking up key pieces of information on the specimen (e.g. species name, collector, location) with their corresponding items in Wikidata.

A screenshot showing datamapping
Some of Lucy’s datamapping, 2022. Screenshot by Lucy Schrader. Te Papa

Working cooperatively in the Wiki world

Getting out onto platforms like Wikipedia is part of Te Papa’s digital strategy of moving beyond the museum’s wall, and we want both the results and the work itself to be community oriented.

So far we’ve received so much help from experienced participants like the team at Auckland Museum, long-term Wikipedians and citizen scientists, and the squillions of people who have helped build digital tools and given guidance.

It’s only right to share what we learn and create too, so you can expect more blog posts like this one and we’re putting it all up on the Wikipedia:GLAM page for Te Papa, where you can also see Te Papa’s evolving workplan and who is involved.

So whether you’re interested in threatened forget-me-nots, the logistics of getting images into Wikimedia Commons, or how we’re working together on this project, don’t hesitate to drop a message on the talk page, comment here, or email lucy.schrader@tepapa.govt.nz!

1 Comment

  1. Ngā mihi maioha. Thank you for caring and sharing ❤

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