There are two generally-accepted beliefs about Wikipedia. The first is one of exposure: that it's always there in the first page of search results on anything that the online encyclopedia features. The second is one of trust: that there is a shared belief that it is the "font of all knowledge" - that, to most, it is a place where truth and knowledge exist, and that false information is teased out by its community.
The combination of these two points clearly make Wikipedia a viable and useful tool for the recording and documentation of factual information, something that many public institutions do very well. It was, therefore, perhaps only a matter of time that public organisations such as museums and libraries stepped up their interest in wikis and in Wikipedia as a way to open up their often huge body of knowledge and research to a wider audience. Wikipedia has dubbed this body GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) and there is now a GLAM Steering Committee at Wikimedia UK, supported by board member Ashley van Haeften, known as Fae. The importance of Wikipedia to cultural organisations cannot, according to Fae, be underestimated: "The cultural institutions I have talked to over the past year are highly aware that if they are serious about public outreach and access, then Wikipedia cannot be ignored. The value it offers such institutions sometimes comes as a surprise."
For these organisations, Fae sees some basic advantages. Perhaps one of the most powerful from the organisation's perspective is that articles of public interest will be maintained at no cost to the organisation itself, and that its main website remains the key source due to links back from the Wiki article. Given that both the institution's website and the Wikipedia entry are likely to appear on the first page of search results, this will be a help rather than a hindrance, on the presupposition that the institutional Wikipedia page will be kept up-to-date and is a reasonable reflection of it and its activities. Fae sees these benefits to be of particular relevance to curators, suggesting that Wikipedia can also act as a source of reference and background information for exhibitions and collections – something that may exist as a concise version of the institution's own web content, and therefore complimentary rather than in competition.
Although there are opportunities for institutions in using Wikipedia, it is Wikipedia which can act as something of a battering ram for opening up latent information and knowledge to the public. Fae's work with the Derby Museum is a case in point; articles were published about the museum's artefacts to Wikipedia, in over 100 languages. This exercise was perhaps unique to Wikipedia and maybe only a handful of other websites: an entirely voluntary, collective effort to build outreach and access that by any other approach would have been too time-consuming and expensive, if not practically impossible.
The Derby Museum's curator also allowed the voluntary group to add QR codes to an exhibition, enabling links to related Wikipedia pages. While this is a well-understood application of QR technology, the subtlety makes it rather unique: because of the number of languages that the group was working with, the visitor's phone would display a Wikipedia page from the QR code, in the language that the phone was set to. This body of diverse and rich content has, in Fae's view, given exposure to the museum to an audience that may never be able to physically visit the museum, while enriching the experience for those that do.