Lori Byrd Phillips, Digital Marketing Coordinator, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Lori Byrd Phillips is the Digital Marketing Coordinator and Wikipedian-in-Residence at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She is also highly involved in the GLAM-Wiki initiative, an international group of Wikipedians who assist cultural institutions in collaborating with Wikipedia in order to share multimedia content and cultural expertise.

Lori talked with us about open authority, Wikipedia and the benefits of openness.

Open Authority

In her thesis The Temple and the Bazaar: Wikipedia as a Platform for Open Authority in Museums, she proposes the working model of Open Authority and defines it as the coming together of curatorial expertise with contributions from broad audiences.  It provides the opportunity for the institution to contribute information they possess to an open dialogue on the Web, and be an active participant and not on the sidelines, while at the same time validating and clarifying user generated content.  Millennials are used to sharing everything online, therefore to establish a dialogue with them it would be counterproductive to hide or not share information; they have a better understanding of what can be done with shared information.  We also discuss how the Rijksstudio at the Rijksmuseum is a great example of the Open Authority model where the museum shares its collection with the audience and invites them to let others know how they are using the information.  This way they establish a dialogue between the public and the institution, where the temple then becomes a bazaar for all.


The GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) Wiki is an opportunity for cultural institutions to share their resources with a larger community through a collaborative effort with Wikipedians. Through structured projects that draw from the museum’s knowledge and resources, together with Wikipedians, museums can reach a wider audience and have an active voice in the content available through the Web.


QR code for QRpedia
QR code for QRpedia

QRpedia is an example of how The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in adopting the Open Authority model and taking it a step further.  Through a Quick Response code, gallery visitors can access an extended article in Wikipedia about the object on display in the language of their mobile device.  When there is a limited word count the institution has to adhere to, QRpedia codes are an excellent tool to provide added content to an exhibition and also have that information available to a wider audience through Wikipedia.

What is the next big thing?

QRcodes are only one way museums are connecting with the visitors.  Lori let us in on the upcoming trends for museum technology and visitor engagement: augmented reality and location-based apps.  What other technology would like to see used in the future?

As Lori said when discussing the Open Authority model and the engagement dynamics it creates between the museum and the public: “It’s not that the museum is always right or that the crowd is always right, it’s that we can make it even better together.”

Listen to interview


  1. Jennifer Kingsley says:

    I appreciate the collaborative model Lori Byrd Phillips proposes, which seems modeled on wikipedia’s approach as she describes it. I was surprised to learn how regulated a community wikipedians actually are. This interview debunked a lot of my assumptions. I do wonder about QR codes – how much traffic are they engendering to the museum content? QR codes made such a splash at first, but I haven’t been hearing so much about them lately. Do most of the museum’s visitors understand how they work?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. You can read more on the results of QRpedia in this case study: https://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/GLAM/Case_studies/The_Children's_Museum_of_Indianapolis/QRpedia
    The main results of the case study is that visitors go through the effort when they’re told what they’ll be getting, and Wikipedia is a well-known resource that they see as a value and worth scanning for. Visitors are using the codes consistently; I believe people aren’t talking about their use as much because they’re not the new thing anymore. But they’re pervasive enough in everyday life that people know how to use them, which is a good reason to not give up on QR quite yet.

  3. Jennifer Ferrin says:

    I really like how a lot of my misconceptions about wikipedia were extinguished after this interview. Also, I loved hearing more about how QR codes can be used in museums. At one museum I worked at we tried to use QR codes on a self-guided map of the grounds so when a visitor came across a building they could read the QR code and get more detailed information about it. It was somewhat successful, but it was difficult to keep up by a small historic house and as far as I know we only have it available during the summertime when we receive the most visitors. After hearing this interview, I have realized that QR codes can be used for so much more than I had previously thought. I thought it was so neat that the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis uses the QR code as a supplement to the information at the museum. It gives the visitors the option to learn more or not, which is always in the visitors best interest since a museum does not want to force information on people that might not be interested in that particular topic. Overall, another great interview with another wonderful guest!

  4. Rachel Pierson says:

    The concept that these open forums are becoming the new role of the curator rather than the death of the curator as Phillips said shed so much light on current trends for me and I completely agree!
    I really appreciated the insight into the progress of wikis and QR codes as well. My vision of wikipedia remains from my undergrad days when we’d get a syllabus that would note that “wikipedia is not a scholarly resource” so I’m really happy to hear that this, in reality, is changing even if it’s not entirely reflected in academia yet.
    Soli – I really appreciated the input about location apps, and I think that they have a great deal of potential. Perhaps not as accessible as QR codes to some museums, these may be excellent collaborative tools and I could see this potentially being an investment of the small town I live in to use as you have experience in London with their app.

Comments are closed.