Connecting Wikipedia and the Archive
Building a Public History of HIV/AIDS in New York City
In this essay, I illustrate a particular instance of how the construction of knowledge can be democratized in a way that simultaneously preserves shared ideas of trust and reliability, via effective collaborations of students, scholars and archivists. The described project that was started in 2015, was collaboratively designed by archivists and historians with the La Guardia & Wagner Archives (“the Archives”) and LaGuardia Community College’s faculty and librarians, and involves beginning college students in the production of a needed public history of the outbreak and impact of HIV/AIDS in New York City. This works demonstrates how community college students can become junior scholars working with primary source archival collections in a manner similar to researchers working on projects as part of institutional fellowships. Utilization of a Wikipedia as a non-commercial, public, open access information source also succeeds in raising web traffic, visibility and accessibility for unique and valuable archival collections. Collaborations across disciplines and departments and partnerships between people can allow for libraries and archives to take on new roles as new conductors of the inclusive creation of public histories.