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GLAM wiki

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Where DO All Those Wiki Images Come From?

With all the high visibility litigation about artist’s copyright involving the (current) legal definitions of “In the Public Domain” and “Fair Use,” it’s important to explore the other side-what is being done to further public access to Art.

One of the most impressive and far-reaching efforts is Wikimedia Commons, a database of 12,808,932 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

Wikimedia Commons was launched in September 2004 to provide a central repository for free photographs, diagrams, maps, videos, animations, music, sounds, spoken texts, and other free media. It is a multilingual project with contributors speaking dozens of languages, that serves as a central repository for all Wikimedia projects.

The project is growing rapidly. In September 2009, it reached five million multimedia files, less than six months after reaching four million. Wikimedia Commons received an honorary mention for Digital Community at the 2005 Prix Ars Electronica awards in May 2005.

The project has three community-driven mechanisms for highlighting quality contributions: Featured pictures which acknowledge the cream of the crop, and Quality images, which recognize well-composed creations by Wikimedia editors, and a Picture of the Year competition. The Picture of the Year competition has been run since Since 2006. The wider Wikimedia community is invited to share in the celebration of the inspiring free content imagery. Two pages, “Meet our photographers” and “Meet our illustrators”, showcase a selection of the highly skilled contributors who choose to use free content licenses and donate their work to the Wikimedia Commons.


The history and development of GLAM bears comment, as it has become the key of the program’s phenomenal success in securing cooperation and partnerships with some of the world’s greatest cultural institutions.

In 2010, Liam Wyatt, then Vice President of Wikimedia Australia, proposed a concept that seemed so bold, it required the British Museum to run a risk assessment before they’d agree to it. Liam suggested that he serve as the “Wikipedian in Residence,” a role that would allow him to put into practice the idea that cultural institutions should share their knowledge with Wikipedia. The British Museum agreed. That basic premise has turned into a global movement known as GLAM-WIKI.

Prior to Liam’s residency in June 2010, cultural institutions had donated images to Wikimedia Commons, but there had not yet been an institution that committed to establishing a relationship with the Wikimedia community. The concept of building a mutually beneficial cooperation is at the heart of the Wikipedian in Residence scheme.

Following the British Museum, the Wikipedian in Residence trend began to spread. The residency at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis began in August 2010, followed in early 2011 with the Château de Versailles, Derby Museum and Art Gallery, and the Museu Picasso. By May 2011, two more major institutions joined in: the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.

In July 2011, Daniel Mietchen became the Wikimedian in Residence on Open Science. Working with the Open Knowledge Foundation, this was the first residency to adapt the GLAM model to open science — an exciting advancement of the Wikipedian in Residence concept. More residencies began in late 2011, including the Israel Museum, and many are in the works for 2012 and beyond.

In an April 10, 2012 interview by Jefferson Bailey, Fellow at the Library of Congress’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, with Lori Phillips, the US Cultural Partnership Coordinator at the Wikimedia Foundation, GLAM-Wiki began to take off in the summer of 2010 following the first Wikipedian in Residence project at the British Museum.

Ms. Phillips said,

“I was involved in starting WikiProject Public Art, which aims to organize lists and create Wikipedia articles in order to, in essence, digitally preserve the artworks. GLAM-Wiki also uses the WikiProject model when organizing projects around specific institutions.”

Liam Wyatt, also popularized the term “GLAM” and convened the first GLAM-Wiki conference in Canberra, Australia. Soon after, a global community of Wikipedians united around the idea that cultural institutions should be sharing their resources with Wikipedia and began to establish models for doing this.

According to a recent article in Art Daily, GLAM-Wiki and the Walters Art Museum donated more than 19,000 freely-licensed images to Wikimedia.

Ms. Phillips said,

“The Walters has gone above and beyond throughout this collaboration with the
GLAM-Wiki community, working alongside Wikipedians to serve as a model for our mass image upload process,” said Ms. Phillips, US Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation. “The release of these images will not only improve
articles in Wikipedia, but will also have the potential to be used freely throughout the web.”

Case Studies

The GLAM site includes 26 case studies including the British Museum, the German Federal Archives, Wikimedia Commons Germany, and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.

Wikimedia France has signed an agreement with the Bibliothèque nationale de France to provide the French Wikisource with 1400 public domain texts that had been prepared for the library’s Gallica website.

Wikimedia Commons accepts only media
• that are explicitly freely licensed, or
• that are in the public domain in at least the United States and in the source country of the work.Wikimedia Commons does not accept fair use justifications: see Commons: fair use.

All major projects of the Wikimedia Foundation are collaboratively developed by its users using the MediaWiki software. All contributions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (except Wikinews, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5), meaning that their content may be freely used, freely edited, freely copied and freely redistributed subject to the restrictions of that license.

The Wiki Projects are an important addition to those efforts like the GoogleArt Project, dedicated to preserving the human cultural heritage. One has to wonder why so little use of them has been made by e-book publishers and authors.
Note: Wiki makes it clear that,

“While other sites may also use MediaWiki software and therefore look similar to our projects, or may have a name that includes ‘Wiki-‘ or ‘-pedia’, or a similar domain name, the only projects which are part of the Wikimedia Foundation are those listed below.”

1 Wikipedia
2 Wiktionary
3 Wikiquote
4 Wikibooks
5 Wikisource
6 Wikispecies
7 Wikinews
8 Wikiversity
9 Wikimedia Commons
10 MediaWiki

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