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From project to infrastructure – the Schularchive-Wiki project funded by the Fellow Program Free Knowledge

The continuation of the Schularchive-Wiki within the framework of the Fellow-Program Free Knowledge.

I wrote this text to reflect on the Fellow-Programm together with my mentor Maximilian Heimst├Ądt. It was first published at the blog of Wikimedia Germany.

The Project

As part of the Fellow Program Free Knowledge, the project Schularchive (school archives) was funded. This project aims to collect historical sources for school research and make them available to all interested parties and researchers. Such sources are often very difficult to find, often only through personal contacts. Schularchivewants to solve this problem and thus also contribute to better equal opportunities within research.

We see the project Schularchive primarily as an infrastructure on which researchers can document their research sourceand thus build up synergy effects in this research of sources in the sense of Open Science. In addition, we help to make the holdings in state, regional, and school archives more widely known.

At the beginning of the Fellow Program, the platform was already available as a prototype. Within the framework of the Fellow Program Free Knowledge, we carried out various activities. These served primarily to raise awareness of the project and to involve more people:

  • Two workshops (Fall 2020 and Spring 2021)
  • Establishment of a Twitter channel @Schularchive.
  • Importing data from state archives. Contact with the various state archives was also made through the workshops. Currently, only data from the state archives of Baden-W├╝rttemberg are on the platform; in the next few weeks, data from Bavaria will also be added, after which other archives will be requested.
  • The link to data from Wikidata was further expanded. In the meantime, a lot of data such as pictures, foundation and web pages of schools are taken over from Wikidata. The link to other sources such as the German National Library is currently being pursued further as part of a student project.

Results

After half a year on Twitter, we have about 60 followers. This is not very many, but also not too bad, since the community is relatively small. However, the project is already very well known within the community of historical educational research and through the workshops we were able to establish contacts with state archives and school archivists. In addition, we presented the project at various academic conferences. The workshops, on the other hand, proved to be very useful for imparting knowledge, getting feedback, but also as an advertisement for the project to attract new interested people. The goal of establishing more contacts with schools proved difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In principle, we would also like to see a deeper integration and further development of the platform in the historical education research community. During the workshops, useful suggestions always came up, which we gladly took up. It would also be nice to build up the community permanently. At the same time, it became clear to us that this would be difficult, since most of the potential contributors are also involved in other projects. A good possibility is therefore to market Schularchive more as a tool for Open Science in research projects in order to get more people on the platform.

Future Plans

After the end of the Fellow Program Free Knowledge, we would like to write a proposal to further advance the project. In addition, through networking, we were also able to convince various other research teams to use our platform for their research, so that indirect funding is also possible through it. This two-pronged approach makes sense, as not all research proposals are approved and in the case of infrastructures, often only large projects are funded. However, the community of historical education research is not that large. At the same time, we do not think it makes much sense to make such an infrastructure the responsibility of a few people within the institutions. This is because there is also the risk that a lot of knowledge will be lost when people change or that the platform will die completely. It is also important to us that the connection to the community remains firmly established, which is ensured by the Library for Research on the History of Education of the DIPF and the department “Historical Educational Research” of the Ruhr University Bochum.

Lessons Learned

The project showed us that three points in particular are very important in order to perpetuate open science projects:

  1. Sustainability Try to locate the infrastructure within an institution that has an interest in the project. In addition, funding through other projects is useful.
  2. Involvement in subject community Involve your project in the subject community and enable easy participation, for example by providing OER on your project.
  3. Create publicity Make your project more known, we used Twitter, workshops and social contacts for this, but there are many more. This will make you more known and show that the project is important. You will also find people who want to participate and maybe even raise money for you.