Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Wikipedia and Copyright

I have never done an in-depth reading of Wikipedia. I do what most people probably do: skim page for the one piece of information I need and then pretend that I got it from a “more reputable source,” denying that I ever visited Wikipedia. I put “more reputable source” in quotations because many of the articles found on Wikipedia are very well edited and monitored. Of course, Jimmy Wales champions the reliability of Wikipedia because it is his organization and he is, as he puts it, its monarch, but it is also apparent by the open forum editing process that each article undergoes.

I looked at the Talk and View History tabs on several different history-related Wikipedia articles with varying levels of controversy. Discussions in the Talk tab were usually very detailed and constructive, with some exceptions. They all varied in length and content, but something that I found in many of them was a discussion of bias and objectivity. It is important for creative commons to be objective in order to provide information that is as close to the truth as possible.

The View History tab allows viewers to see past iterations of both the Talk page and the article itself. I was surprised to see that most of the articles had been revised within the last month. I thought that this could have been because the topics I looked up were major historical events, so I searched for a more obscure topic. That article had still been revised only a few months ago. It showed that creative commons can be very well maintained.

It is unclear what role copyright will play in our Civil War Letters project. The letters and the transcripts are likely the only aspects of our project that will be subject to copyright procedures because they are really the only materials we have to work with. We will have to discuss copyright procedures with the NPS because they are responsible for the letters. After we have that discussion, we will incorporate any copyright requirements into our project.

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