United States Archivist David Ferriero opened the Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit today at Simmons College in Boston, MA. Ferriero discusses Openness, the archive’s new Wikipedian in Residence (go Dominic!), and the new plans and relationships budding for the National Archives.

Wikipedia and the Archive mutually benefit one another in a profound way. The Archive has infrastructure and a wealth of primary sources, Wikipedia is popular and can promote (remix?) the Archive’s collections in a way that connects a huge population to the vast resources that, currently, no one realistically browses.

However, the idea that Wikipedia’s popularity is what implies the benefit of its relationship to the Archive concerns me. I have been playing with a new thought experiment lately. What if tomorrow Wikipedia dropped to the 500th most popular website or lower? Would it not still be a wealth of material? But would it get the high-profile type of support from an agency or group like the National Archive?

Speaking directly on the issue, Ferriero points to general skepticism of Wikipedia as the root to why this collaboration had yet to form until now. This is critical for the Wikipedia Ambassadors to note. The opportunity to clarify the legitimate use and import of Wikipedia is here for you.

Ferriero cites “birth order” as reason to be open and to share. He is the third son. (Hand-me-downs? Borrowing? A family commons?)