The Laurel Museum is opening its doors this Saturday, Nov. 16, from 10:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. for anyone interested in bringing Laurel's history to one of the web's premier sites.
The event, called the Laurel History Edit-a-Thon, is sponsored by the Laurel Historical Society and will allow volunteers to edit various Laurel history pages of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
The Edit-a-Thon is part of Wikipedia Loves Libraries, an initiative started by the online encyclopedia in 2011 that is returning in 2013. The goal of these meetings is to improve access to various physical libraries and archives, such as the one at the Laurel Museum, to make this content accessible on the web.
At Saturday's event, Dominic McDevitt-Parks, the Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for Wikimedia DC, will briefly train volunteers on how to edit Wikipedia entries. Wikimedia DC is the local chapter of a handful of groups across the country that organize Edit-a-Thons and Scan-a-Thons, where volunteers come together to work on Wikipedia articles and media.
Along with editing the Wikipedia articles pertaining to Laurel's history, participants are encouraged to work on Laurel sections of Wikimedia Commons, which lets editors upload photos, videos and other media to improve access.
During the event, contributors will get a look into the Laurel Museum's archives and John Calder Brennan Library where the Historical Society has collected a wide variety of images and clippings from local newspapers, what Baker calls "the community's best research resource" into the history of the Laurel area.
Lindsey Baker, director of the Laurel Historical Society, which manages the museum, hopes partnering with the online encyclopedia will bring more visitors to the museum's archives.
According to Baker, the Historical Society so far has had little involvement as an organization with the task of editing Laurel's various Wikipedia articles, something she hopes to change. Both McDevitt-Parks and Baker said they want to bring information available at the museum's archives online to improve access to the museum's information about Laurel.
These programs were designed as "a new kind of outreach to libraries and historical sites doing work allied to what Wikipedia is doing," according to McDevitt-Parks. The Laurel event is one of the first in a small town historical institution, while others have been held at the Smithsonian and National Archives in Washington.
"There's a lot more potential for a bigger impact at these small town libraries," said McDevitt-Parks, adding items and documents in the Laurel collection could use more exposure.
The Laurel Historical Society is located at 817 Main St. Volunteers for Saturday are requested to bring a laptop in order to edit articles for the event, and lunch will be provided. For more information, contact 301-725-7975 or info@laurelhistoricalsociety.
Adam Barry is a journalism student at the University of Maryland.