Wiki-based archival description and storage/Wikis

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The key to making wiki-based archiving work is to use Wikimedia sites wherever possible, and to use your own wiki websites when not. This means that whenever an item is for general access and appropriately licenced, it's digital representation should be uploaded to Commons (and, for textual works, also to Wikisource). If it is not appropriate to upload there and does not require any privacy controls, upload it to your own public wiki. And then, for closed-access material, you will have one or more invitation-only wikis, to which you can add private material. Notably, each item should only be documented on a single wiki, and referenced from all other places where required.

The set of wikis will form a network across which your archive will be fully documented. Links between pages and between wikis are easy to create, and files uploaded to some wikis can be used on others (more about this below).

This wikibook is aimed (as mentioned in the introduction) at smaller archives and it is for these that the participation in the Wikimedia movement is of most value. Smaller archives often don't have many resources in particular areas (money, time, expertise, etc.) and one area they can get caught out in is the provision of a high-quality dependable and permanent presence on the internet. Using Wikimedia wikis takes care of this: you don't need to worry about security, disaster recovery, availability etc. and can just focus on your content.

Of course, there is lots of material that you won't want to upload to the Wikimedia sites, and for this you'll have your own wikis. These will run MediaWiki and

Each item, series, file, storage location, etc. has a wiki page, and therefore a URL that can be used as a globally unique identifier.

Wikimedia sites[edit]

Wikimedia Commons[edit]

Wikimedia Commons is the most important project in the whole system. It is where all photos, documents, scans, audio recordings, movies, books and other files are stored and described. Everything on Commons must a) be freely licenced; b) be open for viewing by anyone (including its metadata); and c) work towards the goal of sharing the sum of all knowledge with all of humanity.

We don't provide a full overview of how to use Commons here; for that, please read the documentation at Commons:Help:Contents (and then come back and add anything here that you think is missing!).

Wikisource[edit]

Wikipedia[edit]

Wikipedia is at the end of the archiving process, because it is where the knowledge from the archive is distilled and turned into neat and well-researched articles about the topics of the archive. For example, if you're working on a set of letters

Your own wikis[edit]

For material that can not be added to Wikimedia sites, you should set up your own wikis. These will also be run on MediaWiki and so will be able to be tied in seemlessly with the Wikimedia ones, and skills and techniques will be common to the whole archive system.

You can either host your own wikis (if you have people with interested in learning how) or use one of the MediaWiki hosting services that are listed on mw:Hosting.

Public wiki[edit]

Your archive should have a single public wiki of its own, preferably on its own domain name (e.g. http://curedalesarchive.org). This wiki will form the main entry point into your archive, and link to material that's stored on all others. (There will also probably be ancillary overview pages for your archive on Commons and Wikisource.)

Your public wiki should be added to the WikiApiary, for greater discoverability. You might also like to sign up to their notification service that will tell you about possible issues with your wiki.

Upload full XML exports and an archive of your images directory to the Internet Archive (or at least tell the WikiTeam about your wiki, and their bot will do this for you). This means that even in the far distant future when your site has been retired researchers will still be able to resurrect your content.

Private wikis[edit]

A separate wiki should be created for each distinct group of permissions required for your material. Often, only one private wiki is required, and it is best to not exceed three or four in most cases.

Interwiki links and file usage[edit]