Software Development

Get a primer on fact checking and digital literacy from this Wikipedian in residence

At the Science History Institute, a monthly program on Wikipedia editing arms people with digital skills. Plus, what does a Wikipedian in residence do all day?

Wikipedia-ing at the Science History Institute.

(Courtesy photo)

Mary Mark Ockerbloom will agree that her job title is a really fun one. After all, not every institution has a Wikipedian in residence.

Ockerbloom, a researcher who republishes books by female authors in her spare time, is the Wikipedian in residence at the Science History Institute. There, she leads a monthly meeting called WikiSalon that aims to help people understand the massive repository of human knowledge — and how they can help shape it.

“The goal of WikiSalon is to help people better understand and use Wikipedia,” Ockerbloom said in an email. “It’s a monthly program, free to anyone who wishes to attend. People can bring along a computer and stay for the whole two hours, or just drop by with a question.”

But wait, what does a Wikipedian in residence actually do?

“My job has three parts: The first task is to use resources from the Science History Institute and elsewhere to improve science and history of science content by writing and improving articles on Wikipedia,” the Wikipedian said. “The second task is to release images from the Institute’s collections on Wikimedia Commons, where they can be freely reused. The third task is outreach, to help other people and organizations work with Wikipedia.”

Depending on the audience’s interests, the purpose of the monthly meetups led by Ockerbloom will range from learning how to identify reputable information and sources on the site, to the process of contributing directly to Wikipedia by adding their own content and media resources.

“Wikipedia is a great resource for talking about general literacy skills like assessing arguments and checking sources,” Ockerbloom said.

Despite the organization’s name, the Wikipedian says people are welcome to bring any of their passion topics to the WikiSalons — not just science. Attendees also get early word on upcoming Wikipedia-themed events, like the yearly art-and-feminism edit-a-thons, and discuss the ways in which Wikipedia can be used to present information about other underrepresented communities.


If interested, there’s no need to RSVP to their upcoming May 11 session. Just show up and bring your laptop.

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