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Over the past decade, the Wikimedia community has been a devoted partner to cultural institutions, enabling their digital collections to reach billions of people through Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia. Now, we have an even more significant opportunity in Wikidata - a sort of ‘Wikipedia of data’ that can bridge curatorial contexts, lexicons and languages. Weaving a connective web of linked open data across digital siloes, we can help individual institutions, and platforms like Europeana, to collaborate on building the integrated library, archive and museum of humanity.

It’s already an audacious goal to connect the world’s institutional collections. But connecting alone isn’t enough: it merely replicates pre-digital knowledge structures, without interrogating what is missing. That is why I believe we must explore what it means to integrate digital culture with social action - intentionally expanding the cultural record. The Wikimedia movement is an ally to anyone seeking to close these knowledge gaps, and we are inspired by the powerful examples of collaboration that we already see.

We see this in our community’s work with professional ethnographers to document folk traditions of the Carpathian Mountains, or their joint campaign with Europeana to curate and enrich collections to mark the centenary of World War One. We see it in our Argentinian community’s collaboration with Parque De La Memoria to document the 30,000 people illegally detained or disappeared during the nation’s rule by military junta. We see it in our Indian communities’ work with libraries and universities to digitise works in Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and other widely-spoken but digitally underrepresented languages. We see it in our Brazilian community’s effort to digitally reconstruct the tragically lost Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro.

This is the future of digital culture: individuals, institutions and open knowledge advocates working together to build an inclusive, resilient digital commons.

Discover more perspectives on the future of digital culture from our ten cultural innovators

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