Sneak preview: Science Museum Object Wiki

A couple of months ago I posted a blog about museums and wikis, where I mentioned that we were considering launching a wiki at the Science Museum to gather information and memories about some of the objects in our collection. Well I'm pleased to say that the project got green-lit, and I managed to a get it set up and running.

I spent a while looking at different wiki software packages, of which there are a huge number. Wikipedia's 'Comparison of wiki software' was quite a good place to start, and WikiMatrix allows you to compare the features between two or three specific packages. However, the choice seemed to all boil down to tons of fairly primitive PHP-based wikis, some of which hadn't been developed upon for years. TWiki was an interesting candidate, as it allows for structured data to be incorporated, rather than just free text, but that didn't really fit the project. ScrewTurn seemed to stand out as the most promising ASP.NET based wiki, but I couldn't find a huge number of examples of wikis online that use it, and those that did seem to have massive customised it.

So in the end, I made the sensible decision of sticking with the industry-standard MediaWiki, the software that runs Wikipedia. This meant using a external hosting server, but I found a good solution for that too. MediaWiki does have a few quirks, mostly arising from it being design for Wikipedia, but in its favour is a huge community of people writing extensions for it, and an ever growing amount of quality documentation. This has already proved to be hugely beneficial.

The exhibition that we're initially linking the wiki with is called Dan Dare & the Birth of Hi-Tech Britain. It opens on Tuesday 29th April (roughly), which is when the wiki will be formally launched. However, as a sneak preview, and a kind of 'soft launch', I offer you a link to it now: objectwiki.sciencemuseum.org.uk.

It's still at an early stage, and there'll be plenty more content going on it over the coming weeks, as well as other tweaks, help page content, and so on. So you'll be able to see it develop and evolve as time goes on.

I'll be writing more about the wiki and our thoughts behind it as things develop. I'll also be keeping a close eye on Rhiannon Looseley's blog. She runs the British Postal Museum & Archive wiki, and is researching museums wikis for her MA in Museum Studies, which should be mighty interesting.

For the time being, feel free to browse through our wiki, register, and even make edits (so long as they're useful). I would, of course, value any comments with initial thoughts or feedback.