Being a Wikipedian in Residence means that I get to share the museum's collection with the world by working with the Wikipedia community to place our images and resources in articles.
I recently had the opportunity to share images and videos of unique artifacts from our Natural Science collection, and it took quite a few steps to get them there! Have you ever wondered how the Children's Museum's collections actually get into Wikipedia?
Here's how it all went down:
Members of WikiProject Dinosaur made a request for images of our Prenoceratops (named Frannie) and our model of the Didelphodon, which is important for its jaw bone, or mandible. These Wikipedia editors knew that the Didelphodon and Prenoceratops articles would benefit from new images, noticed that we had these specimens in our collection, and got in contact with me.
After discussing this request with our Natural Science curators, it was decided that we could do one better. Rather than take images of the artifacts in poor lighting within the display, we would share more useful images (and video!) with Wikipedia.
We already had images of the cast of Frannie the Prenoceratops. These images were quickly shared with me and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia's image repository.
On top of this, it was decided that we would create videos panning some of our Dinosphere displays. These videos would illustrate a more accurate representation of the fossils and casts. We worked with some videographers to film the displays, and later I uploaded the videos to Commons.
The final step was to create a new cast of the Didelphodon mandible in order to have new photographs of this important fossil. This artifact is significant because it is the first discovered Didelphodon mandible still containing teeth.
I had the opportunity to watch and learn as Natural Science curator William Ripley created the mandible cast. We even made some new T-Rex teeth with the spare liquid plastic that had been made for the cast! We waited to take photographs until the cast had set and William had a chance to paint the mandible to make it look more realistic. The image is now uploaded to Commons alongside the rest of our Natural Science Collection donations.
Where are they (in Wikipedia) now?
- The Prenoceratops article now includes our Prenoceratops cast as its main image. Frannie is famous!
- Specimens of Tyrannosaurus now includes videos panning the Bucky the T-Rex display.
- The Didelphodon article (in English and Spanish!) now includes our image of the mandible cast, illustrating the first Didelphodon mandible fossil discovered that still contains teeth.
It's always incredible to see how far the museum's collection has spread throughout Wikipedia. So far our 265 images have been used in 70 languages and have been viewed nearly 5 million times. Who knows where these new images and videos will end up next!
Curious about creating casts?
If you want to learn more about how to create a cast of a fossil, catch up on this blast-from-the-past This Week's WOW, where our paleontologists show us how to make a cast of a T-Rex toe claw!