Wikipedia and Archeion

24 Sep 2014 9:34 AM | Danielle Robichaud


Michael Szajewski’s article on the use of Wikipedia to promote archival content suggests that archivists can improve the use of their materials by adding information to Wikipedia articles. He notes that Wikipedia is the sixth most visited site on the Web and that it is widely used by researchers as a starting point for more in-depth research. This makes it a logical place for archives to insert pointers to their resources, to encourage use.

By placing links into Wikipedia articles, Ontario archivists could help to raise awareness of their materials. If we use a standardized format for the links, we could help to promote the materials, the archives which created the description, and the Archives Association of Ontario (as the publisher of Archeion).

This article takes a look at Archeion’s current relationship with Wikipedia and suggests a format for links to Archeion that can be used by archivist editors.

Current situation in relation to Archeion links from Wikipedia

In the year to January 25, 2014, there were 87 referrals to Archeion from 10 Wikipedia articles. This represents 0.15% of all users of Archeion. 95% of the visitors arriving from Wikipedia had not used Archeion before and on average, they visited five pages on Archeion after their arrival.

The original style of the links from Wikipedia are summarized in the table below.

 Wikipedia article  Section  Style of link  Archeion page
Ashburn,_ Ontario References Archeion, Fonds CONG-21 - Burn's Presbyterian Church (Ashburn, Ont.) fonds, accessed March 17, 2012 burns-presbyterian-church-ashburn-ont-fonds;rad
Elizabethtown-Kitley External links Kitley Twp Archival Records township-of-kitley-fonds;rad
Fort_Frontenac_Library References ^Origins of the Canadian Army Staff College/Fort Frontenac Library Retrieved 2011-12-19
H._C._Colles References ^ Archeion
Iva_Campbell_Fallis References ^a b"Fonds 1999-029 - Senator Iva Campbell Fallis fonds". senator-iva-campbell-fallis-fonds;rad
John_Bayne_Maclean References "Maclean Hunter Limited fonds". Archeion. Retrieved 2011-12-19 maclean-hunter-limited-fonds;rad
John_Carnegie_(politician) References "Carnege, John, 1837-1910 - Archeion". Retrieved 2013-11-20 carnegie-john-1837-1910
Kashruth_Council_of_Canada References "Ontario Jewish Archives". Archeion. Retrieved 6 March 2012. canadian-jewish-congress-ontario-region-fonds;rad
List_of_Orthodox_churches_in_Toronto References ^ b Donlands United Church (Toronto, Ont.). Archeion (Ontario's Archival Information Network). Retrieved: 2013-06-02 donlands-united-church-toronto-ont;isaar
Windsor_Police_Service References;rad windsor-police-services-board-and-windsor-police-services-fonds;rad


There was an unsurprising lack of consistency in the format of the citations to Archeion in these links. Seven of the ten mentioned Archeion, but only one of the links named the archives-holding institution and none of them referred to the Archives Association of Ontario. Seven linked to archival descriptions, the remaining three to Archeion authority records for institutions or individuals.

Nine of the ten links were found in the ‘References’ section of the Wikipedia article, meaning that the information in the Archeion page was used to back up claims made in the main body of the article. The exception is the Elizabethtown-Kitley article, where the link to Archeion was found in ‘External links’.

A search for ‘Archeion’ within the Wikipedia site brought back 44 results. 24 of these referred to the current Archeion site and 12 of them  were broken links to the old ARCHEION pages. These have now been edited to point to the current site. An analysis of these links showed, once again, that there was little consistency in citation style or in the article section used to make the link, although in these older links the Archives Association of Ontario was mentioned three times in the citations.

Wikipedia guidelines

Anyone can create an account on Wikipedia and edit its pages. However, it should be noted that the encyclopedia has fairly strictly-enforced guidelines on adding external links, and in the past some archives and libraries have overstepped these, causing editors to object to mass insertion of links by individuals who are relatively new to Wikipedia and whose activity is bordering on spamming the site without adding (in the editors’ view) useful information.

It is important that the addition of links back to Archeion should not infringe Wikipedia’s guidelines on this. There is a helpful article by Dirk Beestra which addresses these concerns and offers advice to archivists and which should be read by anyone thinking of adding links to Wikipedia. Specifically, Beestra recommends going further than simply adding isolated links in the ‘External links’ section of an article: he encourages archivists to improve the articles themselves and to link to their resources as ‘References’ from the body of the article instead. (Fundamentally, he wants archivists to fully engage as Wikipedia editors, and not to just exploit the site for the purpose of increasing traffic to theirs.)

The Wikipedia Spam guideline notes that "Adding external links to an article or user page for the purpose of promoting a website or a product is not allowed, and is considered to be spam. Although the specific links may be allowed under some circumstances, repeatedly adding links will in most cases result in all of them being removed."

Attitudes in the Wikipedia community towards the involvement of cultural heritage institutions might be softening somewhat, if a recent article by Jake Orlowitz and Patrick Earley is to be believed. This states that “the Wikipedia Library is exploring more ambitious ways to connect Wikipedia and libraries. These include:

  • integrating with catalogs, databases, archives, and journals;
  • involving reference librarians in answering queries from Wikipedia editors;
  • providing ways for end users to contact librarians from within Wikipedia;
  • encouraging libraries to host editathons and teaching session about Wikipedia and digital literacy;”


Adding links and information about archives to Wikipedia is an effective way of promoting archival collections. Formatting references in a consistent way would help to promote the institution which holds the archival material, Archeion, and the AAO itself. In the next section I propose a template for a consistent way of formatting citations to Archeion records in Wikipedia.

Adding a Reference

The best practice for adding links to descriptions of archival materials is to edit the main body of a Wikipedia article with information taken from the archival description or authority record, and link back to the Archeion entry in the form of a Reference.

The recommended format in Wikipedia markup for such references is as follows:

<ref>{{cite web |author=Archives of Ontario |url=;rad |title=Alexander Malcolm Nicholson fonds |website=Archeion |publisher=Archives Association of Ontario |accessdate=2014-01-25}}</ref>

An entry like this will create a footnote in the References section of a Wikipedia article which appears like this:

Explanation of the citation sections

<ref> Inserts a footnote number in the text and puts the citation in the ‘References’ section of the article

{{cite web tells Wikipedia this is a citation for a web page

| divider mark between elements of the citation

url= Archeion web address for the archival description

title= title of fonds or collection

author= name of repository holding the fonds (i.e. the author of the description)

website= name of website (Archeion in this example)

publisher= Archives Association of Ontario

accessdate= date you went to the page (in yyyy-mm-dd format)

}}</ref> marks the end of the citation

Adding an External link

It is also possible to add links to the External links section of Wikipedia, but this option should be used with caution to avoid infringing Wikipedia’s guidelines on spamming. Wikipedia’s own page of guidelines on the type of content to be included in external links is here:

If an External links section for a page doesn’t already exist, you can make one by typing

==External links== (at the end of the page.)

The format for making a link within this section is as follows:

==External links==

*{{cite web |author=Archives of Ontario |url=|title=W.J. Loudon fonds |website=Archeion |publisher=Archives Association of Ontario |accessdate=2014-01-25}}

This text will appear on the Wikipedia page as:


Existing links to Archeion have now been updated to reflect the recommendations in this article. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about these guidelines, and also to find out how many people in our community are already active Wikipedians. If you would be interested in learning how to edit Wikipedia and improve access to Ontario’s archival materials via the site, please let me know ( it might be possible to arrange a Wikipedia ‘editathon’ style event in the future.

Amanda Hill

Archeion Coordinator

Address: 411 Richmond Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, ON M5A 3S5

Phone: 647-343-3334 | Email:


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