This blog post is at some extent based on the introduction in Swedish to my Digikult talk about QRpedia in Hedemora, Dalarna/Dalecarlia as a tool for tourism, integration and local pride, but also on previous thoughts I’ve told in the blog or elsewhere.
Projekt Hedemora (I’ve chosen to keep the Swedish spelling) is an effort to put Hedemora on the map, engage the inhabitants and encourage integration and local pride. The project has three parts, called ‘Commons’, ‘Babel’ and ‘Kulturpromenaden/QRpedia’. The tools for this is mainly the Wikiproject Hedemora. This blog, Wikihedemora, is also crucial – however, it can also be used for other wiki related things and ‘alternative tourism’ (e.g. geocaching, urban exploration and off-trail sightseeing).
The aim of subproject Commons is to promote Wikimedia Commons and make people upload images related to Hedemora, and hence make more people see many sides of the surroundings. Listed buildings as well as trash bins, church interiors as well as grasslands. Images can also inspire people to create and edit articles about the subject. Another important thing is to add coordinates to the image descriptions.
Babel, the term used at the Wikimedia projects for diversity of languages, is a subproject to increase the number of languages in Hedemora related Wikipedia articles and Commons image descriptions.
Kulturpromenaden, meaning ‘The Culture Walk’, is 35 places in Hedemora town where the Municipality’s culture administration has placed signs with tourist information. The aim is to make the articles about those places better, and available in more languages. In 2014 the subproject was supplemented with the hembygdsgård Hedemora gammelgård (a hembygdsgård is a local museum where buildings from the surroundings have been collected to resemble an old farmstead, often from the 1700s).
I’ve edited Wikipedia and uploaded pictures to Wikimedia Commons since 2006. Although my edits have been in multiple disciplines I’ve always been interested in my home town Hedemora. In 2008 the first ‘historical sightseeing in Bergslagen’, aka Bergslagssafari was conducted. The trips were mostly at places not mentioned in the tourist brochures and had the goal to get images to Wikimedia Commons, although photography was not mandatory. Many people, including myself, were discovering a lot of interesting places, and our photographs give the whole world the chance to see them.
In different ways over the years I tried to encourage others in Hedemora to edit Wikipedia, but it was hard. Many liked it, but no one was interested in contributing. However, in 2013 I discovered the projects Monmouthpedia and Umepedia, as well as some museums using QRpedia.The concept seemed very interesting and applicable to my work. All of these projects had large budgets, many participants and a clear structure. Could a similar project work even for a single, and very unstructured person? I believed it could. One article at a time, sometimes in Swedish and sometimes in English, it grew to some kind of framework.
I’m going to make an interjection here. In that era the mindset in the Wikipedia community was restrictive, much due to the numerous efforts of entrepreneurs, bands, sports clubs and others not relevant for an encyclopaedia to promote themselves. After a while the criteria for relevance were accepted by the companies, the bands and the clubs. About the same time some well-written articles, neatly formatted and with multiple references, about quite obscure topics were created. These could be about non-listed buildings, waste removal in Stockholm or the electrification of a parish in Jönköping County. Those had no interest in advertising or self promotion, just to show the local history of some places, and had quite an impact of loosening the attitude.
The restrictive mindset also promoted merging topics, to make longer articles and the categories less cluttered. After a while those who were doing a lot of maintenance work at the Wikipedia articles discovered that some of those articles were hard to give proper categories and links to other language versions. The consensus shifted back towards the original idea with separated topics. When it became more accepted to write about interesting, but not listed or architect-designed buildings, I could describe more houses and places in Hedemora – and the idea of writing about Kulturpromenaden was born.
The first steps
In early 2013 I contacted Hedemora Municipality office for showing how Wikipedia could be used for conveying local history at the fair Meet Dalarna, something I had done two years earlier. When I a tad later discovered the QRpedia projects mentioned earlier I began thinking about how that could be implemented in that work. I wrote a Facebook post on the issue, and came in contact with Centrumgruppen (‘Centre group’). Centrumgruppen is a project within the local commerce organization to revive the town’s centre and make the town more attractive to tourists and inhabitants. Together we created an event series three Sundays in the summer of 2013 called ‘alternative tourism’, with a QR code tour, but also geocaching and photographing details in the town.
The QR codes were printed on paper and laminated for weather sealing, and then placed along a walk route in the town. Both QRpedia and other usages of QR codes were shown, such as a timetable and a music video. The walk didn’t attract anyone but me and Karin Löfstrand from Centrumgruppen, but we didn’t consider it a failure, though it had gained some attention in social media. The tour was repeated at Kulturnatten (‘Culture Night’) in September, where one person showed up. However, the same day I had showed Wikipedia and QRpedia at the Meet Dalarna fair, where politicians and officials got interested in my ideas.
In March of 2014 I had an appointment with officials for Hedemora Municipality to talk about the QRpedia project. I needed a good example to show, and came to think about the listed building Teaterladan (Hedemora Gamla Theater). Until then I had written Wikipedia articles in Swedish and English (at Digikult I mistakenly said I translated it at the time for further translations) and a user in Helsinki had written in Finnish. I made a request, primarily at Twitter, for further translations, and got a huge response. In a week and a half the number of languages were suddenly 11, and few days later one more. That’s really showing the strength of the Wikipedia community! Not only the municipality office showed interest, but also the ecomusuem Husbyringen (where e.g.the prominent persons Christopher Polhem and Gustaf de Laval were active). At Hedemora gammelgård, where I am a board member, we started to talk about the benefits of the system, and had QRpedia walks as at our events.
Up and running
In the autumn of 2014 the first permanent QRpedia code was put up, at the Husbyringen and Dalarna County Administration information sign at Rällingsberg mining area, about 25 km from Hedemora. This was a great milestone, as only Umeå had been placing permanent QRpedia codes at sights before. In Hedemora the projects at the Municipality’s culture department and Hedemora gammelgård continued.
In June 2015, at Hedemora gammelgård’s 100th anniversary, its QRpedia signs were inaugurated. The signs had been fully sponsored by Wikimedia Sverige and were about the same size as the information signs in Swedish put up in year 2000. In November the same year Hedemora Municipality replaced their signs at Kulturpromenad Hedemora and added their brand new QRpedia codes.
How about the future?
Projekt Hedemora’s mission is not only to provide tourist information. Two parts equal to that are engaging the inhabitants – both native and people who moved in – and give them a relation to the municipality. Think about it, how about reading about a building in your native language? Swedish, English, Arabic, Somali? How about writing that article to someone else? The more you know about your surroundings, the more affinity to it you get. For this project to work you have to get more participants. There are several ways to do this. Study groups, youth activities or hackathons. The thing I hope for the most, and have discussed with municipality officials, is using Wikipedia and QRpedia in language education, such as Swedish For Immigrants. With the ‘history’ tab in Wikipedia one could easily distinguish contributors. It could also be valuable to read a text in Swedish and then translate it to the person’s native language.
Something important, which is currently up to discussion in Hedemora, is providing Internet connection. Not all have 3G/4G in their subscriptions/prepay cards, and roaming is currently quite expensive. This is not only an issue for Hedemora, but all towns and cities who want to use the QRpedia system for tourist information. In Umeå, as part of Umepedia, the electricity company Umeå Energi provides free Wi-Fi for Wikipedia articles.