Welcome to Wiki Town
A 1,000-year-old town uses technology to help visitors log in to English history
There are many historic landmarks in Monmouth, such as the 13th-century Monnow Bridge. (Robert Estall / CORBIS)
Monmouth is located in Wales, part of the United Kingdom. (Jim McMahon)
Monmouth, Wales—a small town in the United Kingdom where King Henry V was born—has made history again by becoming the world’s first “Wikipedia town.” Since May 19, visitors have been able to take an in-depth Wiki tour of the town with their smartphones by scanning more than 1,000 different bar codes that have been placed on various landmarks. The phones immediately pull up each landmark’s Wikipedia page.
Created in 2001, Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia written and edited by anyone who wants to contribute. It attracts more than 400 million visitors each month.
The Monmouth project, called Monmouthpedia, aims to describe every notable place, person, object, plant, and animal in the town in as many languages as possible. Over the past six months, many people came together to make that happen. The town’s city council installed free town-wide Wi-Fi. Local residents and businesses created nearly 500 new articles about the town and updated about 150 existing ones. Other volunteers translated the articles into more than 26 languages, including Hindi, Czech, Hungarian, and Latin.
HOW IT WORKS
Universities, museums, historic sites, hundreds of shops and businesses, and most schools in Monmouth have been tagged with QRpedia codes—bar codes that a smartphone can read through its camera. Each code takes the person scanning it to a Wikipedia page in his or her chosen language. The person can then read all about the landmark, object, etc.
This allows tourists to learn much more than they would from physical signs, which can fit only a limited number of words in one or two languages. Also, while the information on physical signs and guides can become outdated over time, Wikipedia pages can be constantly updated.
Monmouth was chosen as the first Wikipedia town because of its rich cultural history. It is home to a 13th-century bridge—the only remaining one of its kind in Britain—and to the remains of Monmouth Castle, built in the 11th century. Wikimedia UK, which supports Wikipedia, hopes other towns will become Wikipedia towns in the future.
“If everyone shares the stories of their local area, we’ll have a much clearer understanding of the world we live in,” Stevie Benton of Wikimedia UK told the Associated Press. “And that’s a powerful thing.”