Outstanding Professional advancing Open Access to Cultural Heritage Award

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Outstanding Professional Advancing Open Access to Cultural Heritage Award, in memory of Effie Kapsalis

The “Outstanding Professional Advancing Open Access to Cultural Heritage” Award, in memory of Effie Kapsalis, has been established by members of the Wikimedia community with support from the Wikimedia Foundation, to recognize outstanding cultural heritage professionals and activists that are working closely with the Wikimedia communities to make cultural heritage freely available online.

Each year, one cultural heritage professional will be honored with a full scholarship to Wikimania, enabling them to engage with the global Wikimedia movement at its annual flagship conference, to build new contacts and collaborations, and to find inspiration. The award will be given for the Wikimania 2024, 2025 and 2026 editions. An evaluation process will then follow to assess the award’s impact and to determine the best ways to continue it. This year, 2024, following the momentum of GLAM Wiki Conference in Uruguay, the award will be given to a professional from Latin America.

The award has been created to honor and remember Effie Kapsalis, a great friend of the Wikimedia movement who passed away in 2022.

Effie’s legacy to the world includes spearheading the Smithsonian Open Access initiative (launched four years ago, in February 25, 2020), which released millions of images from the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex into the public domain. Effie put equity and care at the forefront of her concerns, being a champion for respecting the heritage of marginalized and oppressed communities.

Throughout her work, Effie often found support and allies in the Wikimedia community, and she was a fierce advocate for Wikimedia projects inside cultural heritage institutions. Without professional champions like Effie, Wikimedia’s mission of the “sum of all knowledge” would be impossible to accomplish. She was also passionate about bridging the gender divide on Wikimedia projects, and that inspired her involvement with the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative, which laid the groundwork for the new Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum.

Effie Kapsalis, top center, with Wikimedia community members at an edit-a-thon.

Effie’s work was internationally recognized. Her groundbreaking paper  “The impact of Open Access on GLAM” and her unforgettable talk “Give it Away to Get Rich” inspired dozens of cultural heritage professionals to start brave and necessary conversations around the importance of open access to cultural heritage at their own institutions.

This award is a way to both honor her legacy and recognize other professionals that are doing similar work. A group of colleagues and friends from the Wikimedia community stepped forward to create this award, generously supported by the Wikimedia Foundation.