Last fall I attended the Ontario Museum Association’s annual conference. Dr. Guy Berthiaume of Library Archives Canada gave the opening keynote address. He mentioned using Wikipedia as a free tool to assist organizations in finding new users. While he spoke I had a light bulb idea, “why don’t we make a page for our own archive, The Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies?” This page would be especially useful to us, as we are operating within the much larger and more well-known organization of Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG).
CCHHS? What Does that Mean Again?
During the conference, I spoke to other delegates about CCHHS and realized that the majority of people knew very little about our archive. (To learn more about CCHHS please see my previous post, Behind the Scenes Archival Work: Organizing an Artificial Collection) Several people did not know that RBG even had an archive. Others thought we collected scientific documents dealing with events like climate change. I can understand their confusion. The word horticulture is an extremely broad term and it encompasses many things. After working at the Centre for several months, I still find new categories that fit within this term. To make it even more confusing, RBG hosts many different kinds of events that deal with plants and the wider society. For example, an exhibit about frogs is currently on display. A wide variety of courses and programmes are also offered on topics like horticultural therapy, tea, and growing bonsai trees, to name a few. Considering these topics, it would be only natural for visitors to think that because RBG holds these events, CCHHS must have documents related to these topics in its holdings. It doesn't, or at least not right now. After these discussions, I knew that a Wikipedia page would be a great way to let the public know what CCHHS is, what it collects, and the kinds of documents it has in its holdings. I immediately discussed my idea with David Galbraith, Head of the Science Department. He was excited by my idea and told me to get started. I was also excited because this would be my first time submitting an article to Wikipedia.
Turning an Idea into a Tangible Thing
On Wikipedia, there is a great page that lists Canadian archives. The first thing that I did was add our archive to this list. While viewing this page I noticed that the majority of archives do not have their own Wikipedia entries. I clicked on institutions that did have pages to see how they structured their content and to see how they talked about their collections. I really liked how the Jewish Public Library Archives arranged their page because they broke their collection down into categories: rare books, ephemera, periodicals, etc. I decided to use their page as a model. In the meantime, David taught Erin Aults and I about how to do basic coding to make the Wikipedia page. At first, I found this to be a little overwhelming but with trial and error I figured out how to put the page together.
To make a good Wikipedia page you need sources. I went through our archive looking for any kind of source written about us. This step is important because I wanted the page to get approved by Wikipedia editors during the first review; rather than be marked as a stub (letting visitors know that the article does not have enough proper source information to support what it is saying) or to not get approved at all. Thankfully, this hard work led to the page being approved.
The Final Product
The page turned out great! To learn more about what CCHHS is and the awesome things it has in its collection please check out the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies Hopefully this discussion encourages you to make a Wikipedia page for your own institution. Happy editing!