I was checking out our website statistics the other day. One of the things I’m able to find through the stats is which websites link to ours. I was surprised to find a number of links to our site through Wikipedia, which means that Wikipedia’s contributors are using our website as a source.
I was aware that someone had linked to one of our Jefferson Highway (JH) articles through Wikipedia, so that was nothing new. At the time we published our JH articles, very few researchers had taken an in-depth look at the highway and if they had, they hadn’t put their results on the web. Because we were early to the game (in terms of the web), our links on the topic ended up being the only ones around for a while.
The surprise came in that contributors to Wikipedia had linked to us through the Morrison County, Minnesota, page and through the Little Falls, Minnesota, page. When I looked over both of these Wikipedia pages, I was puzzled by the fact that I didn’t see the name of our historical society mentioned. It wasn’t until I printed one of the pages out that I saw a couple of our articles had been used as resources and they were referenced through the citation numbers within the text. If you aren’t familiar with Wikipedia, the citation numbers are links that you can click to get to the original source. While the name of the source does not appear on the screen, when you print out a page, the full source url will print out next to the citation number.
Before I discovered this little secret, I was taken aback by the history content on the Morrison County page. I recognized the words and structure as my own, yet I had not contributed this to Wikipedia. When I compared our general history page to what I found on Wikipedia, they were virtually identical. The only indication that the Wikipedia entry was taken from our site is the citation number, so you’ve got to look sharp.
On Wikipedia, you have the ability to look at when and how a page was edited. I discovered that the history portion of the Morrison County page was added in February 2007, a mere two months after we relaunched our site in its current updated version. How’s that for fast?
As for the Little Falls page, once again our link comes in the form of a citation – number 1 on the page, which appears in the second paragraph on the page. The link is to our Executive Director’s article, “Community Building.”
Because the Morrison County Historical Society name was not obvious on these pages, which might cause people to miss us in looking for further resources, I decided to sign up for Wikipedia in order to add our name to the appropriate pages under the section for External Links. I added us to the Morrison County page, but am holding off a bit on the Little Falls page. If I’m going to add our link to one of the city pages for Morrison County, I’m going to do it for all, ’cause that’s how we roll.
My other goal on Wikipedia was to add links to our Zebulon Pike articles on the Pike page, which didn’t have much in the way of his Mississippi River expedition. This I’ve done. I’ll probably keep my eye on Wikipedia and add links to MCHS where I feel they’ll be useful. As for writing for Wikipedia, I don’t really have much time for that. After all, we’re continually writing history and adding it to our website. Linking through Wikipedia is much easier than rewriting everything.