Technology Description

Wikis are collaborative websites that are designed to allow users to add or modify content. Users employ their Web browser to access the content and make changes. Wiki platforms typically feature:

  • Simplified markup schemes for entering data
  • Search capability
  • History, or version control, pages for monitoring changes to content

Wikis are used for gathering and distributing information as well as associated multimedia (pictures, audio, etc.). Editing functionality may be restricted, but many wikis allow anonymous users to change or add information. Wikis are often based on a specific topic and rely heavily on their user community to develop useful content.

There are many Wiki sites available on the Web, and they address a number of subject areas. They include:

Archival Applications

Archivists have primarily used wikis as outreach tools by placing links to their repositories and collections in the path of users. However, the opportunities for using wikis to gather and organize information contributed by knowledgeable users suggest a number of other uses. These include:

  • Publishing and augmenting finding aids
  • Gathering information about creators of archival materials
  • Organizing contextual information related to collections
  • Providing information about the archival repository

Case Studies in Archival Applications

Ann Lally, “Using Wikipedia to Highlight Digital Collections at the University of Washington”


Various institutions are beginning to experiment with wikis. Below is a sampling of some of these projects. For the full list, check our implementation listing at

If you are developing a wiki-based project and would like to appear in the list, send a bookmark in using the tag for:interactivearchivist.


Kittur, Aniket, et al. “Power of the Few vs. Wisdom of the Crowd: Wikipedia and the Rise of the Bourgeoisie.” (accessed July 15, 2009).

LeFever, Lee. “Wikis in Plain English.” Common Craft. (accessed Feb. 5, 2009).

Wikipedia. “History of Wikis.” Wikimedia Foundation. (accessed Feb. 5, 2009).