First Wikipedian in Residence interns at presidential library

January 17, 2013
Glenda Bullock, (734) 654-7313,

Michael Barera. Image credit: U-M School of InformationMichael Barera. Image credit: U-M School of InformationANN ARBOR—The nation’s first Wikipedian in residence at a presidential library has set up shop at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at the University of Michigan, where he will work to make collections available for virtual visitors.

As a Wikipedian in residence, U-M School of Information master’s student Michael Barera will enhance the library’s presence on the Internet’s largest and most widely visited general reference work. Barera’s internship started last week.

“Our goal is to have our content accessible to everyone, everywhere,” said Bettina Cousineau, exhibit specialist at the Ford Library and Museum. “Wikipedia is a completely new outreach venue for us. Not everyone can visit our museum and library in person, but everyone can visit us online. With our content and Michael’s technical skills, we are looking forward to getting more of our collections out to the broadest possible audience.”

Many other museums, libraries, and archives host similar positions, but Barera is the first to be embedded in a presidential library.

Barera, who describes himself as a “dedicated Wikipedian,” has been editing and contributing articles and photos to the online, user-edited encyclopedia for the past five years. In 2012, during his senior year at Michigan, he joined the U-M Wikipedians, the first Wikipedia student club in the nation.

“This position is perfect for me,” Barera said. “It combines my academic passions for history, archives, open source advocacy, and technology. I see my role as a facilitator, helping to bridge the gap between those who have the content and those who have the technical skills to make that information accessible to the whole world.”

He and Cousineau first met at a Wikimedia Foundation seminar last fall designed to encourage Michigan faculty to utilize Wikipedia in their classrooms. Barera was there with the U-M Wikipedians club and Cousineau saw the potential to increase the Ford’s online presence with its help.

Barera started volunteering his technical skills on behalf of the Ford Museum and Library. He created templates and tags, located articles for staff content specialists to fact-check, and served as a liaison between the student club, the Wikipedia community, and the staff at the library and museum.

“He was a natural choice for us when this internship became available,” Cousineau said.

“The Ford Presidential Library is honored to have the opportunity to partner with Wikipedia in making its rich collections more available to individuals around the world,” said Elaine Didier, director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. “We look forward to working closely with our Wikipedian in residence, Michael Barera of the U-M School of Information, as we jointly define the scope of this exciting project.”

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