Mike Dickison is to become New Zealand's first travelling Wikipedian.

The curator of natural history at the Whanganui Regional Museum has been awarded a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the free online and crowd-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia, to take on the role for a year.

Dickison will leave Whanganui and the museum at the end of June to tour the country as a Wikipedian at large.

He will be spending time at museums, research organisations and public institutions helping with Wikipedia strategy, running training and edit-a-thons, and helping out beginning editors.


The grant pays him a salary for a year along with travel and conference expenses.

Dickison has been an advocate for Wikipedia ever since his time at the University of Canterbury when "students were using it and lecturers were telling them not to".

"I think people are coming around now. Ten years ago it was a wee bit more rough and ready," Dickison said.

"For many subjects it's the best source of information by far and it's very hard for other institutions to keep up. A lot of pairs of eyes are working simultaneously on it."

When he moved to Whanganui in 2013 he realised Wikipedia had a lack of useful or current information about the area and set up Wiki Wednesdays to encourage people to become Wikipedia editors and bring local pages up to scratch.

"People find out about Whanganui from the internet and the first place the internet sends you is Wikipedia," Dickison said. "Wikipedia is actually this town's face on the world."

Dickison said New Zealand was recognised by Wikimedia as an emerging Wikipedia community and, with an educated population and good internet, it just needed people to be more active on the site.

"All the pieces are in place (but) there's a lot of work to do here to try to get up to speed. The content from New Zealand is pretty dire."


There was momentum building in the museum sector to use Wikipedia more, he said, and part of his role would be helping organisations release content to Wikicommons, an online repository of free content, and Wikipedia.

"[Releasing] some of their collection, images, objects and text for better public use. People are sitting on these things.

"A lot of it is just trying to hook up the subject experts with the volunteers who do a lot of the writing."

Dickison will also use his time to try to build a community of Wikipedia editors in New Zealand.

"It's really important for editors to be able to talk to other editors, particularly when they are just starting out," he said.