Scholars' Association News
Issue 35
July 2015


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Wikipedia Seminar at the Onassis Foundation’s Library

As part of the programme ‘Open Web Platforms for the Letters and the Arts’, in partnership with the contractor consortium Postscriptum Ltd – Mentoring S.A., the Onassis Cultural Centre and the Onassis Foundation’s Scholars Association hosted a 3-day seminar about the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, to mark the digitisation of the Hellenic Library of the Alexandros S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation which is currently under way. The seminar ran on Thursday 14 May, Friday 15 May and Thursday 4 June 2015 in the neoclassical building on Amalias Ave. in Plaka which houses the Library, which is appropriate since the purpose of the seminar was to enrich the encyclopaedia by writing entries related to the library.

The Onassis Foundation’s Hellenic Library includes part of the collection of Konstantinos S. Staikos, housing priceless books which reflect various aspects of the Greek nation: language, intellectual tradition, and Orthodox faith. The collection contains works published by or reflecting the intellectual concerns of Greek scholars from the Diaspora, dating from the early Renaissance to the late Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment. The majority of books were either printed on Greek printing presses in Venice or by publishing firms which printed Greek books for the Greek-speaking audience abroad. The Library houses more than 1,400 titles. Including copies, there are around 2,000 books. It is spread out over 3 consecutive rooms which have been specially laid out with book cases to create 5 separate parts which reflect the 5 sections of the library: Renaissance – Humanism, Modern Greek Letters, Liturgical Books, Theological Treatises and Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment.

To achieve the shared goals of the collector and the Onassis Foundation, which is to enrich and maintain this national treasure, the Onassis Foundation’s Hellenic Library is being digitised to ensure it is accessible to researchers from the entire academic community and to the general public.

10 scholars who responded to the invitation to attend the seminar along with the seminar coordinator Vicky Gerontopoulou were able to learn from the facilitators Sotiris Kilafis and Pavlos Stamos about how Wikipedia and the Wikicommons work, and find out more about their value and benefits through practical applications. Wikipedia (the world’s most visited website) is an international online, multilingual, freely accessible cooperative encyclopaedia which is constantly being added to. It is created by volunteers using the wiki software and is the world’s largest common, open databank. Key elements which help distinguish it and set it apart from other encyclopaedias are (a) it is online, (b) it is open and accessible to all, meaning it can be constantly enriched and is always up to date, and (c) anyone can participate and contribute to it, by creating, correcting and updating entries.

Wikipedia is accompanied by a series of other parallel ventures which perform non-encyclopaedia roles but which can be linked to encyclopaedia entries such as Wikidictionary (a freely accessible online dictionary), Wikibooks (a programme with online books and manuals that is freely accessible), Wikiquote (a programme for collecting sayings and quotes), Wikinews (a freely accessible source of news) and Wikimedia Commons (a common central pool of free photographs, films, maps, diagrams, sounds and other multimedia, which serves all the other ventures).

As part of the seminar the participants were given the necessary instructions by instructors and the technical specifications for writing entries were explained, while they also learned the basic principles governing the creation and editing of Wikipedia content: neutrality (neutral writing style), referencing non-original research and verifiability (verifying information using reliable sources). The scholars attending the seminar then had the opportunity to create Wikipedia accounts and practice what they had learnt by creating new entries for the Greek version of Wikipedia relating to the Onassis Foundation’s library. By writing, correcting and editing the entries for the Library and for publications and printing in general, the scholars became part of this wider group effort to build a global encyclopaedia which anyone can consult as a reader, and which we can all contribute to as writers.

The programme ‘Open Web Platforms for the Letters and the Arts’, is being implemented as part of the Digital Convergence Operational Programme which is co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).

(Archondoula Menti is a linguist, specialised in Language Technology).

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