Friday, January 17, 2014

Adventures in Wikipedia: In search of Glasgow Architects

Last term, our Library and Archives team received Wikipedia training from Wikimedia UK volunteer Graeme Arnott and NLS Wikimedian-in-Residence Ally Crockford as part of a new library initiative looking into how Wikipedia could be used as a tool by students in their studies.


This term, we will endeavour to share with you the results of our adventures in Wikipedia and hopefully shed some light on different aspects of the world's largest open-source encyclopaedia. This week, we'd like to share with you our Architecture Librarian David Buri's discoveries, when he started looking into Scottish Architects on Wikipedia:

"Wikipedia’s listing of ‘Scottish architects’ featured 82 names, only 15 of whom had any sort of connection with Glasgow. I based this finding on Gomme and Walker’s book ‘Architecture of Glasgow’, which is a highly respected work. The vast majority of the 82 architects were Edinburgh-based, and only 3 were women.

To redress the geographical balance a bit, I have added the names of 9 further architects associated with Glasgow to the Wikipedia list, all of whom already had Wikipedia pages, and made links to these pages. There are, however, a further 53 names on Gomme and Walker’s list who do not appear on the Wikipedia list of Scottish architects, and who also do not have Wikipedia pages. It would be great to work through these names in the long term, particularly as some nationally-important figures are missing.

My next challenge is to improve the Wikipedia article on one of my favourite Glaswegian architects, James Miller!"

David's discovery made us realise a few unexpected things about Wikipedia. First of all, the fact that these lists like Scottish Architects, Scottish Artists, etc... don't get automatically generated by Wikipedia as you might think, but in fact are written up by people/wikipedians just like the rest of the content of Wikipedia. The implications of that are that lists of that type can often be incomplete, because the person who was writing it chose to only add the names of the people they know about, or were only able to find so many names, or maybe even see this list as a work in progress which they'll keep adding to as new names come up. The second thing it made us realise, is that just because someone's name isn't on the list, doesn't mean they're not featured on Wikipedia, so don't just limit your searches there. Since then, we've also discovered that some of the architects are listed under their architecture firms instead of having their own entry, so it's important to widen your search parameters.


David has now expanded the start article for James Miller, which will soon be reclassified to a higher grading (more on article gradings in a future blog post). We'll also be giving students attending Robyne Calvert's Inside Out: Glasgow Architecture Term 2 FoCI elective the opportunity to upload information they find on some of Glasgow's missing architects up on Wikipedia.

Keep following this blog for more information on our Wikipedia adventures!