Training digital volunteers to create place-based heritage articles on Wikipedia

In 2022/23 Inverclyde Community Development Trust recruited volunteers to take part in Digital Heritage Research groups across Inverclyde (Greenock, Port Glasgow and Gourock) to uncover heritage gaps relating to Inverclyde’s history on Wikipedia and/or improve what’s already there. With Wikipedia training from Wikimedia professionals, volunteers had the opportunity to be involved in: research, creating and editing Wikipedia entries and sharing Inverclyde’s stories.

Laptop open with Wikipedia on the screen
Photo by Oberon Copeland on Unsplash

Training digital volunteers to create place-based heritage articles on Wikipedia

This is a ‘how to recruit, manage and support volunteers’ guide produced as part of the Digital Skills for Heritage’s Digital Volunteering programme.

1. Project background

The focus of this project is to deliver digital heritage skills training to local volunteers in order for them to gain digital and heritage research skills and input data about Inverclyde’s heritage into Wikipedia. As a result, our local history will be more accessible on one of the world’s most popular online public resources.

Inverclyde’s rich heritage includes: shipbuilding, ropeworks, sugar production, involvement in the transatlantic trade of enslaved people, natural heritage, built heritage, cemeteries, Highland Mary, Inverkip witches and James Watt. Some of these historical aspects are lightly covered by Wikipedia, but there is plenty more information available to fill in content gaps and flesh out Wikipedia articles (first search results from Inverclyde related searches on Google).

This project addresses these content gaps whilst simultaneously upskilling local digital heritage volunteers.


2. Recruitment

Volunteer recruitment involved: Inverclyde Community Development Trust, Inverclyde Heritage Network, WISHES group, Greenock Burns Club, Youth Connections and Watt Institution.

  • Open call distributed by email: digital promotional leaflet, containing session times and contact info, designed and shared via email and shared with other organisations
  • Approached already established groups/networks/clubs: Creative Writing Group in John Wood Street, Inverclyde Heritage Network, Greenock Burns Club, WISHES group, Youth Connections, Inverclyde Libraries. Leaflet included in newsletters.
  • Approached local librarians and archivists: The Watt Institution
  • Local community/organisation websites: Inverclyde Now, Inverclyde Heritage Network Blog, etc.
  • Social media: Facebook, twitter, Instagram, email campaign



  • Ages 16+ (50+ more representative of local population)
  • Digitally skilled but no previous experience of heritage
  • Local heritage groups and organisations (all skill levels)
  • Local community groups (arts, creative writing, knitting)
  • College students with medium to high level of digital skills, no previous experience of heritage


  • Three volunteers aged between 16-24 (2 of which no previous experience of heritage / research)
  • Seven volunteers aged 50+ (3 of which no previous experience of heritage / research)
  • Digitally skilled but no previous experience of heritage
  • Low level digital skills with no previous experience of heritage
  • Local heritage network members with adept experience of heritage
  • Creative Writing group with no previous experience of heritage


3. Volunteer support

  • Weekly Group research heritage sessions (mixture of digital and in-person delivery). Accessing archives and searching libraries. Training included: searching and saving articles using British Newspaper Archive and searching digital archives and indexes (namely NLS/NRS). In-person visits to use microfilm reader at Watt Institution & McLean Museum & Art Gallery (catalogue accessed digitally and enquiries made in advance). Transcribing precognitions, trial records and confessions from NRS documents.
  • Volunteer research interests for new Wikipedia articles/edits included: Inverkip Witch Hunt (using and NLS), Category A Listed Buildings in Inverclyde (Sir Gabriel Wood’s Mariner’s Asylum), History of Crime & Justice in Inverclyde (primarily 6 Greenock hangings), Notable writers & artists, Healthcare in Inverclyde (namely Ravenscraig Hospital), Greenock Burns Club (mother club), Loch Thom & Greenock Cut (water supply & industry). Minor edits and citations added on general town pages.
  • Three professional training sessions with Wikimedia Trainer (per group). Dr Sara Thomas taught volunteers how to improve content on an online encyclopaedia. Sessions were tailored to volunteer interests and learning styles. Volunteers were training to help edit and create place-based heritage articles. Learning sessions covered: creating user accounts, editing articles, creating new articles, using Wikimedia commons to illustrate Wikipedia, adding citations, using Wikipedia’s “talk” pages and writing for an encyclopaedia (neutral POV).
  • Additional one-to-one digital skills support after group session (using word processors and visual editors)
  • Zoom group with ongoing email support
  • In-person meetings to outline project objectives with volunteers
  • Webuilder / blog sessions for surplus research/material. Further experience with word processing & WYSIWYG editors. Transferrable skills for Wikipedia’s visual editor (good foundation for more difficult tasks, eg. creating a new article from scratch)


4. Digital technology and tools

Types of technology digital volunteers used

  • researched the online British Newspaper Archive
  • accessed the local newspaper archives using microfilm scanner
  • transcribed collections records using Transkribus (example on website)
  • communicated with Heritage Co-ordinator and research group through Zoom and by email
  • blogging through Squarespace
  • increased digital skills with WYSIWYG editors, namely Wikipedia’s visual editor and Squarespace blogs.
  • uploaded photographs using Wikimedia commons



  • British Newspaper Archive £7.17 /mo billed annually (12 months)
  • Squarespace £12 /mo billed annually (Free custom domain for 1st year)
  • Transkribus Tailored costs
  • University of Glasgow Library Alumni Membership (£40 for alumni/General Council Members)
  • Watt Institution Microfilm Archive (free)


5. Project stages

1. Staff Recruitment
Recruitment of Heritage Co-ordinator and Project Manager. Project timeline established, Wikipedia Training secured.

2. Digital Volunteer recruitment and training
Recruitment of place-based volunteers and Wikipedia training organised with Wikimedia project co-ordinator. 3 training sessions per town.

3. Procurement and implementation of technology
Archive subscriptions for Volunteer groups for research meetings in between Wikipedia training sessions.

4. Digital Volunteer management per group
Email group created, shared Google Drive files, Google Sheets Worklist, Squarespace Page Roles, Digital Skills surveys, Research request forms (archive specific). Timetabled in-person Archive Visits & Wikiwalks (requisite planning with Community Tracks team).

5. Evaluation and development of Guidance and Policy Participation
Google Worklist completion, Participation Survey using Survey Monkey (March 2023), in-person and Zoom feedback meetings with Volunteers. Volunteers offered opportunity to write a blog post on their involvement and research contributions (March 2023) Resource research and digital output/legacy examples.


6. Key learnings

Allow for additional digital skills support

Establish pathways to learning sessions with partner/community organisations, and where possible one-to-one support. Participants required more time on certain aspects of digital training. For example, word processing sessions could precede using Wikipedia’s visual editor. Needs could be highlighted by a more in-depth digital skills survey at the start of the project. This could be carried out by Project Coordinator as additional support or built into training sessions.

Offer opportunity for in-person events/training in project timeline

Alongside digital activity, where possible/safe to do so, offer in-person digital skills support to retain engagement especially for 50+ age group. In-person events and training more likely to generate the engagement and retention of volunteers who, with support, will go on to volunteer remotely.

Use of web builders and blogs with page roles for surplus research and archive material

Wikipedia research process typically generates more information than is usable within an article or edit. By developing separate web spaces with a list or resources, volunteers can draw attention to valuable research and resources that would otherwise not be used as citations on Wikipedia. This also provides opportunity for developing additional digital skills and gives volunteers creative control over their research.

Digital delivery and digital archive collections does not rule out the need for/benefits of archive visits

In person group visits increases networking opportunities; connections made with other researchers, archivists and members of the public keen on offering insights. Several resources and citations found from these discussions.

Volunteer research interests may be place-based outside of group locations

For example, a Greenock based volunteer with knowledge and interest on Greenock’s Category A-listed buildings attended Port Glasgow John Wood Street sessions. Allow for flexibility in volunteer research interests, volunteer interest-based approach. A volunteer’s place of residence/work does not preclude them from having expertise on other sites/areas.

Encourage open discussions prior to, during and in-between training sessions

These informal discussions of potential subjects can help organisations establish if volunteers have interests/knowledge in other areas, before focusing on one particular research area. In short, establish grounds of research interest and volunteer background (heritage volunteers with zero heritage background often had unique knowledge on subject areas, for example, due to work/industry background).


7. Key challenges

Vast differences in digital skills in open-to-all training sessions

Some volunteers may require additional training/one-to-one support. Ensure the initial digital skills survey establishes the needs and outcomes of your volunteer cohort.

Archive accessibility

Retrieving primary source material can be time-consuming and unpredictable. This can be mitigated by Heritage/Project Co-ordinator contacting archives in between meetings with volunteers. Establish main points of contact to achieve project support early in project. Prepare archive documents for each archive/industry. Material on searching catalogues, license requests, microfilm search indexes, etc.

Contingency for severe weather postponements

Challenge arose when scheduling outdoor activities in particular WikiWalks, which are heritage walks to take photographs of key locations to upload to Wikimedia Commons.


8. Useful links

The Trust Heritage website
This website is primarily for the heritage branch of Inverclyde Community Development Trust known locally as The Trust.

Wikipedia Google Sheets
Worklist Port Glasgow – Google Sheets
Worklist Gourock/Greenock – Google Sheets

Example articles
Ravenscraig Hospital – Wikipedia
Greenock – Wikipedia
Port Glasgow – Wikipedia
Inverkip – Wikipedia
Slavery in Britain – Wikipedia
French destroyer Maillé Brézé (1931) – Wikipedia
Witch trials in early modern Scotland – Wikipedia
List of Category A listed buildings in Inverclyde – Wikipedia

More help here

Young woman with red hair holding green headphones

Transcribing audio and video archive material

Barnsley Archives hold records relating to all aspects of life in the Borough of Barnsley and its collections include newspapers, books, sound and film. This project sought to engage and upskill remote digital volunteers to help Barnsley Archives and Local Studies interpret, digitally transcribe and publicly share recently acquired sound and film collections.

White mug with missing handle and Wikipedia logo and strapline The Free Encyclopedia

How to run an online Wikipedia editathon

Wikimedia UK is the UK charity for the global Wikimedia movement. Its vision is of a more tolerant, informed and democratic society; committed to open knowledge and free access, not just in the UK but on a global scale. In this resource, Wikimedia UK provides a ‘how to guide’ on Editathons its tried and tested method of teaching people to edit Wikipedia and upload images to Wikimedia Commons. 


Four people sitting on a stage being filmed and with an audience.

Connected Heritage – unlocking the power of collaboration using digital tools

The Digital Skills for Heritage’s Connected Heritage programme was set up to explore how digital tools can help solve some of the challenges organisations experience when collaborating with each other. In this Reflect, Share, Inspire breakout session recording, John Coburn gives an overview of the programme and is joined by Lucy Hinnie from Wikimedia and Cesare Cuzzola from the Queer Heritage and Collections Network, who share their learning and experience of the programme.


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Published: 2023

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Training digital volunteers to create place-based heritage articles on Wikipedia (2023) by Inverclyde Community Development Trust supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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