A key part of ACOR’s mission is to “promote archaeological research, cultural heritage preservation, and knowledge-sharing through lectures, digital resources, publications, workshops, and training programs.” Over the past year, we have expanded our knowledge-sharing activities online through engagement with the world’s largest open-access knowledge repository: Wikipedia.
Articles on wikipedia.org—about any number of subjects, and in several hundred languages—are compiled by volunteers. Quite literally anyone with a device and an internet connection has the ability to edit existing articles (by adding information or formal citations, for example) and can even create new ones. Over the past year, ACOR had opportunities to engage a community of volunteer “Wikimedians” keen to contribute to open knowledge about cultural heritage in Jordan. In collaboration with colleagues at the Jordan Open Source Association and Wikimedia Levant, we held three dedicated “edit-a-thon” events, including workshops in October 2019, February 2020, and in virtual form this June. ACOR also hosted two “Wikimedians in Residence” as formal community volunteers who were based out of the ACOR Library from January to June 2020.
Though our Wiki involvement began before the outbreak of COVID-19, pandemic conditions further underscored the importance of provisioning academic resources online. ACOR’s community of Wikimedians, both novices participating for the very first time through one of our edit-a-thon events and seasoned ACOR Library and Wikipedia users offering rich and diverse editing experiences, are bonded by a common passion for Jordanian culture and history. These writers, translators, researchers, and editors have contributed to more than 75 articles thus far in 2020, adding a total of 36,000 words—far beyond our original team’s goal of adding 20,000 words for the entire calendar year! And these numbers continue to rise today.
Below are five stories from participating Wikimedians, each explaining how they got involved, what they’ve achieved, and what they’ve learned about themselves—and Jordanian heritage—in the process.
“I pursued Wikimedia editing with ACOR as a means to produce topical translations from Arabic to English and stay sharp in my capacity for in-depth research. Following my time as a Wikimedian in Residence, I now count translation as one of my hobbies. The experience has inspired me to pick up written translation as a side job while I attend graduate school in the United States. I value the part I got to play in the overall goal of the Wikipedia community, namely producing neutral, encyclopedic knowledge, and liberating it to the realm of open access. I was also grateful for the chance to learn about archaeology from the experts, and I enjoyed the opportunity to plan edit-a-thons and to develop anthropological knowledge. I hope to use this experience as a springboard to continue sharing Wiki skills with my community. I am excited to continue the tricky work of nuanced translation that I was exposed to at ACOR.”–Neal Feldman, Wikimedian in Residence at ACOR, spring 2020; master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Arizona; fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad
“I hold a deep belief that it is the right of all people around the world to have free, unrestricted access to knowledge. That has been my main motivation for participation in Wikipedia, ‘the global encyclopedia.’ In order to build aware, cultured, strong societies, we need to increase the number of readers, learners, and writers. [On Wikipedia,] [t]his goes beyond the process of writing itself; it requires selecting reliable, trust-worthy resources with which to feed our minds and ways of thinking. During my internship, I saw such qualities in ACOR’s varied resources, which included photographs, newsletters, articles, and academic reports. I think these are useful and suitable for people at various levels, from expert researchers to local communities seeking specific information or images. My experience as a Wikimedian at ACOR will be memorable for me and has had an impact on my personal and professional development; it enriched my knowledge and expanded my horizons.”–Areen Abu Rumman, Wikimedian in Residence at ACOR, spring 2020; bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Hashemite University
“I can safely say the Open Jordanian Heritage edit-a-thon was the highlight of my COVID-19 quarantine! Beyond my personal fascination with the topic of my Wiki article (the Nabataean temple complex of Khirbet edh Dharih), I’ve always wanted to figure out how to write and edit a Wikipedia page, but I’ve never had the time. I think another motivation was the idea that I could create content—it’s a very empowering feeling, and with [Black Lives Matter] protests going in the U.S. in the background, and overall calls for re-examining the past, decolonizing history, telling marginalized histories, and so on, this seemed like perfect timing. As a teacher, I teach history and world religions at an [International Baccalaureate] school in Amman, and I would really like to apply what I learned from this initiative and get my students to write for Wikipedia themselves. The IB program promotes inquiry learning, and so we teach students how to learn, how to find answers to their questions. A Wikipedia article is a great way to share one’s research and encompasses research and writing skills that I can teach and assess. In the future, I would like to hold a school-based edit-a-thon covering subjects students are exploring in the curriculum related to Jordan and the region. We do a unit on Arab women in grade 10, for example, which could be a chance to fill out Wikipedia articles on Arab feminists, past and present!”–Kariman Mango, K–12 history teacher at the Ahliyya School for Girls
“It was inspiring to be part of this edit-a-thon, knowing that I was working along with a team of people around the world who are intent on providing accurate, accessible information about Jordan’s multi-layered heritage. Access to knowledge is an important issue in our information age, and I am excited by the growing movement to provide everyone with the ability to learn about Jordan in both English and Arabic. Participating in the edit-a-thon was also a chance to learn for myself—translating Wikipedia articles from Arabic to English introduced me to a whole new set of Jordanian heritage sites. With a tremendous history like that of Jordan, one could spend a lifetime working on content for Wikipedia!”–Ruth Folmar, research intern at ACOR, summer 2020; bachelor’s degree in history and Middle Eastern languages and culture
“I had just completed my first year as an undergraduate when I read an article about medical students in a California university who were tasked to edit Wikipedia and graded on their efforts. I was struck by how simple the assignment was and the positive impact it could have, considering that Wikipedia is a primary place people seek out information, even medical information. I wrote an email to my course director proposing a similar assignment for incoming first-year students in my department, and he welcomed the idea, so I put together a course assignment. I sought support from Wikimedia UK, the local branch of the Wikimedia Foundation (analogous to Wikimedia Levant here in Jordan); I was new to the Wiki world at the time, and I knew I was standing on the shoulders of giants! [Because I grew] up in a family of booksellers, access to knowledge had been the easiest thing—I spoiled my bookshelves with textbooks (mostly Larousse), never facing a roadblock. It was only at university that I came up against paywalls and obstacles to overcome. As I was devising the Wikipedia assignment for first-years, I also started volunteering and training to produce articles more generally. Suddenly I found myself taking part in the wonderful world of open knowledge advocacy and meeting all kinds of Wikipedians, from a photographer who had uploaded over 70,000 photographs of Mexico’s natural and built landscapes    to “Wikimedians or Wikipedians in Residence” (WiRs). As [I am] a textbook lover, WiRs are my heroes, since they work with GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) on knowledge exchange. When Abbad [Diraneyya] and I started the Open Jordanian Heritage initiative, our aim was to increase the online visibility of archeological and cultural heritage of Jordan. Wikipedia and its sister projects are an ideal space for such an initiative, and we are proud to have supported the first Wikipedian in Residence program at ACOR. This initiative has many directions in which to grow, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.”–Raya Sharbain, program coordinator at the Jordan Open Source Association; master’s degree in human-computer interaction from University College London, funded by Chevening UK
To learn more about ACOR Public Programs and our library and archival resources, please visit www.acorjordan.org. You can also follow progress of the Open Jordanian Heritage initiative and related projects via the Jordan Open Source Association and Wikimedia Levant. If you are interested in joining our community of Wikipedia editors, drop us a line at acorjordan.org/contact-us.
As a non-profit, ACOR programs are made possible by the generosity of our donors. Should you wish to help us maintain and expand programming such as this, please consider donating today at www.acorjordan.org/donate.