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Learning patterns/Working with cultural institutions to upload archival photographs

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A learning pattern forGLAM
Working with cultural institutions to upload archival photographs
problemYou want to improve coverage of historic topics
solutionCultural institutions have a treasure trove of archival photographs, and actively working with them will help improve the Wikimedia projects
created on20:48, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

What problem does this solve?[edit]

Your goal is to improve coverage of history on Wikimedia projects, so that the broader public can access. For this, you will need access to historic materials—source material that captures a period of time in the past. Where do you get these materials?

What is the solution?[edit]

A partnership with a cultural institution—especially a local historical society—can get you access to a rich collection of photographs that can be used to improve Wikimedia Commons, and to provide the public access to a rare or hard to access set of cultural materials.

Things to consider when developing the donation[edit]

  • You may have to wait a very long time. Some organizations, especially when associated with a local or regional government, may be more bureaucratic and not have a culture of innovation. The Wikimedia community's ability to "wait it out" is valuable here, and may be an issue for those who cannot dedicated long periods of time to waiting (such as a business that makes money a short-term contractor).
  • Local-level cultural institutions are often under resourced. Offering volunteer and equipment support will make the project more exciting. Consider support from a Wikimedia Foundation grant.
  • Where possible, have in-person meetings. Not everyone gets the opportunity to meet Wikipedia editors in person, and doing so puts a human face to our online work. In person meetings have other advantages as well: they give you a chance for you to listen and understand what concerns the cultural professionals care about. During the visit, ask them to show you about their collection, sometimes you will find rare and striking material that could be a valuable part of the collection. Moreover, GLAM professionals often don't get a chance to show their work to interested members of the public.
  • Try to negotiate for parts of the collection that are under-represented on commons already: ask yourself, what is unique about the organizations collection? What can other GLAMs not offer to the larger project? Though our community, we have hundreds of images of embossed book covers, but may not have an image that documents local history or culture.

Once you know what will be donated[edit]

  • Make sure to evaluate the copyright of the materials for both your local context and U.S. copyright (both . The specific copyright status of a photograph can be difficult to pin down, especially if it hasn't been officially "published" and thus has a longer copyright term. However, there is a class of copyright status template on Wikimedia Commons called No Known Restrictions License Tags. These state that while the copyright status is not certain, it is very likely to not be subject to active copyright enforcement. You will need to create one for your specific project, and it should contain something along the lines of:
This image, contributed by {{{institution}}} as part of a mass-upload, has no known copyright restrictions. This may mean:
  • The image is in the public domain because it has expired;
  • The image was injected into the public domain for other reasons, such as failure to adhere to required formalities or conditions;
  • {{{institution}}} owns the copyright but is not interested in exercising control; or
  • {{{institution}}} has legal rights sufficient to authorize others to use the work without restrictions.
The Wikimedia community is encouraged to add more information about this image's copyright status as necessary.
  • Try to keep the donations in small manageable batches (<5000 media files): uploading large volumes of content at once will likely overwhelm our volunteer community, and doesn't allow you to spend time cleaning up the metadata and categories once the material is in Commons. Also smaller batches are easier for editors working on Wikipedias to evaluate, and decide which materials belong in articles.
  • It´s possible that institutions may not have good metadata for the images. Spending either volunteer or staff time creating good metadata for the images, before uploading them to Commons is important:
    • It helps the Commons community understand what is in the materials -- so that it can be used our international community. Robust descriptions, and a wide range of descriptive metadata fields allows for better curation of our content.
    • Without robust metadata members of the public will have trouble finding the material on Wikimedia Commons: remember Google searches largely rely on how our media files are used on Wikipedia and the descriptions of the images within Commons.
  • Make sure to upload the content with metadata structured in using the Commons artwork, photograph, or other metadata templates. Though metadata on commons is not fully structured data, these templates allow at least a minimum amount of machine readable data for the tools. Moreover, filling out most of the fields in the template, helps prepare the collection for when Wikimedia Commons has structured data integrated more completely.
  • If you need to evaluate which upload tool or workflow you should use for uploading the media files: check out Grants:Learning patterns/Data transfers to Wikimedia Commons: Sharing institutional archives
  • Once you have the photographs online, encourage volunteers to put them to use! Communicate broadly to volunteers both in the geography of the institution, and to the larger GLAM-Wiki Global community. Also, make sure that relevant parts of your local language Wikipedia and WikiSource know about the collection. Consider working with a WikiProject, to help engage volunteers that work in a specific topic area.

When to use[edit]

  • When developing a content donation with a partner
  • When trying to batch upload or digitize content created by volunteers, about cultural heritage material


  • Rodelar (talk) 19:24, 10 April 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • Some extra thoughts: Use the Photograph template in the uploads. It will allow you to state the depicted people and places inside the template. Prepare a source template for the institution, possibly with variables to show the original information page in the institution website. The source text appears rights after the the image description in the Media Viewer, including possible links. The institution will gain visibility and possible clicks to their website, which is a positive outcome of their contribution, Also, whenever possible, declare the photo coordinates. (Created for IEG Wikimaps_Warper_2.0 Midpoint report) --Susannaanas (talk) 15:06, 17 April 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • Though I still think there is some room for expansion, and cleanup, this is a great start! Looking forward to it having more information! Astinson (WMF) (talk) 15:01, 1 July 2016 (UTC
  • CasteloBrancomsg

See also[edit]

Related patterns[edit]

External links[edit]

External links[edit]