Crisis & GLAM: an invitation to re-think open culture impact in threatened territories and communities
By Patricia Díaz Rubio
In August 2022 I had the chance to co-host the panel “Crisis&GLAM” in #Wikimania2022 — the conference that celebrates the Wikimedia movement and the community that makes it possible- along with colleagues from other wiki initiatives like Avoin GLAM (Finland), Wikimovimento Brasil, Wiki World Heritage, and Wikimedia Ukraine.
The objective of this global panel was to discuss how the Wikimedia movement can help to protect, preserve and prevent #knowledge from disappearing when a disaster or a crisis strikes; yet, the result was way more inspiring, learning how Wikimedia initiatives translate into community engagement and empowering process, how the narratives that circulate within Wikimedia projects and pages of content can be powerful tools of resistance, and how Wikimedia and the open ethos have a major role in cultural heritage protection.
We started the panel learning from community strategies that Wikimedians from Brasil launched to re-collect digital copies/pieces of cultural assets that were lost after the fire of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro in 2018. Éder Porto, a member of Wikimovimento Brasil, was very effective in remembering us that every piece of knowledge has a deadline and that digitization and documentation are the main tools to prevent and extend that tragic end.
We then continued listening to the experience of Nassima Chahboun, a Moroccan architect and chair and co-founder of Wiki World Heritage User Group. She’s also involved in #WHindanger, a project that tries to protect and preserve threatened UNESCO World Heritage Sites -which are in zones of conflict- by documenting them through Wikimedia. She explained how activating local communities is essential in the documentation process but also very important to prevent an uncontextualized or even colonial perspective on cultural heritage values.
“We are trying to change the perception of these cultural heritage sites and these countries. Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen or Libya are usually seen through the prism of politics rather than through the diversity and richness of their cultures” — Nassima Chahboun
We ended the panel with the experience of Hanna Osadchuk and Vyacheslav Mamon from Wikimedia Ukraine. They explained to us how their local community has redefined or reinterpreted Wikimedia projects as a tool to document, communicate, and preserve #knowledge and #information in a middle of a terrible war, where the narratives that circulate on the media, including Wikipedia, are an important way to resist the military and cultural invasion.
“Symbolic support matters a lot. Voice your position, choose the correct names and terms: use Kyiv instead of Kiev, Odesa instead of Odessa, or even create silly dances in TikTok” — Hanna Osadchuk
Their experience enlightened us on how relevant open culture and open policies and practices can be during a conflict or a crisis situation. Wikimedia Ukraine has been raising its voice in favor of freedom of panorama, an exception that allows taking photographs and video footage of buildings or artwork which are permanently located in public places. In a war context, this simple policy becomes an urgent and almost humanitarian need to document and preserve threatened cultural heritage.
I want to thank Susanna Ånäs from Avoin GLAM for inviting me to this urgent session, and Éder, Nassima, Hanna, and Vyacheslav for the reflections and very personal struggles they shared. Since I joined the Wikimedia movement in 2018 I was wondering how to connect and engage this enormous network of communities and resources and experiences in the protection and diffusion of threatened cultural heritage — which exists a lot in my country where earthquakes and other socio-natural disasters strike quite often. Now I see not only that there is a lot to do -as political and environmental crises are more recurrent than ever- but also I’m really inspired by the amazing capacity of the Wikimedia movement to act, react and connect efforts around the world.
For those who couldn’t be there, you can watch the session here: