Montreal, Canada: Roughly 1,000 volunteers and free knowledge leaders from nearly 70 countries gathered today for the start of Wikimania 2017—the annual conference celebrating Wikipedia and its sister projects, the Wikimedia movement, and the community of volunteers who make them possible. This marks the 13th annual Wikimania, which takes place on 11–13 August at the Centre Sheraton Hotel in Montreal, coinciding with Montreal’s 375th anniversary.
The event kicked off with an opening ceremony featuring Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Benoit Rochon of Wikimedia Canada, and Harout Chitilian, Vice-chairman of the Executive Committee for the City of Montreal.
During the ceremony, Maher joined Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, Mozilla Executive Director Mark Surman, and representatives from the #NEWPALMRYA Project to announce the inauguration of the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship. The fellowship commemorates Bassel Khartabil, Syrian Wikimedian and global open culture advocate, who was recently confirmed to have been executed in 2015 after being detained by the Syrian government in 2012. To honor Bassel’s contributions, the fellowship will support the work of outstanding individuals developing culture under adverse circumstances.
Throughout this year’s Wikimania, attendees will explore sessions related to the advancement of free knowledge, the role of academia and cultural institutions, technology in free knowledge, privacy and digital rights, and Wikimedia’s future as part of Wikimedia 2030, a global discussion to define the future direction of the Wikimedia movement. Wikimania 2017, being held for the first time ever in Canada, is co-organized by the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Canada, the local Wikimedia affiliate organization in Canada.
Wikimania 2017 will also bring together a diverse mix of attendees, including seasoned volunteer editors; researchers and data scientists; members from the medical community; librarians; and other free knowledge leaders, including featured speakers Susan Herman, President of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Esra’a Al-Shafei, Bahraini human rights activist and defender of free speech.
“There’s something incredibly unique about Wikipedia’s model,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. “At its heart, Wikipedia is about people coming together to connect across countries, languages and cultures to build a shared understanding of our world. Wikimania is a time when this global community can meet, share experiences and participate in conversations about subjects that matter most to us as Wikimedians.”
Attendees of the conference can also experience #NEWPALMYRA’s 3D-printed Tetrapylon, a freely-licensed recreation of one of the most famous structures in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which was destroyed by ISIS forces in 2016. The exhibit honors the founder of the #NEWPALMYRA project, Bassel Khartabil. A passionate advocate for the free exchange of knowledge, culture, and heritage, Bassel’s contributions have been credited with “opening up the Internet in Syria and vastly extending online access and knowledge to the Syrian people” by the European Parliament.
“Bassel was known in the free knowledge movement for his boundless enthusiasm and passion, always encouraging others to share, create, and connect with the world around them,” said Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “Like Bassel, we believe that a commitment to expression, openness, and creativity is a reminder of our shared humanity, and the foundation for a better world. Through the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship, we hope to carry on Bassel’s work to protect and preserve the values to which he dedicated his life.”
Wikimania also offers conference-goers time to experience the unique culture of Montreal. As the city honors its birth and growth over almost four centuries, there will be opportunities for attendees to explore the city’s rich history through cultural tours, music, and cuisine.
“Wikimedia Canada members will present inspiring projects at Wikimania 2017, the result of successful collaborations with several Canadian public and private institutions,” explained Wikimedia Canada President Benoit Rochon. “The archives of BAnQ (Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec) on Wikimedia Commons which have been viewed more than 30 million times, the first Aboriginal encyclopedia in Canada (Atikamekw, one of the largest and still active First Nations language) on Wikipedia and the WikiMed conference are all unique accomplishments we will proudly share with the international Wikimania participants.”
Other featured speakers include Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in conversation with anthropologist, academic and author Gabriella (Biella) Coleman and moderated by internet entrepreneur Evan Prodromou; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) Archivist-Coordinator Frédéric Giuliano and Hélène Laverdure, Curator and Director General of the National Archives at BAnQ; and Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher, who will take the stage with Christophe Henner, the Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, to discuss the future of the Wikimedia movement as part of Wikimedia 2030. You can learn more about the conference at: wikimania2017.wikimedia.org/.
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