Wikipedia:There is a deadline
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Practically every day, distinct forms of knowledge are lost forever and no copies are available. When a natural disaster hits a region or a war breaks out, libraries, archives, museums, monuments and other artifacts of heritage, valuable buildings, incunabula and unique objects are destroyed or face the threat of destruction. These events usually remove pieces of human knowledge and sometimes entire cultures.
Historical instances of loss of knowledge
There are plenty of examples of permanent loss of knowledge before Wikipedia's existence:
- The Libraries of Alexandria, House of Wisdom and Constantinople are among many great libraries of the ancient world to have been destroyed. As well, many ancient Chinese encyclopedias are partially or completely lost to history.
- The 1836 U.S. Patent Office fire irretrievably destroyed most of the U.S. patent documents collected up to that time.
- A fire in the Birmingham Central Library in 1879 caused extensive damage with only 1,000 volumes saved from a stock of 50,000.
- Churches, monasteries, convents and libraries were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
- A storage vault fire in 1937 destroyed all the original negatives of Fox Film Corporation's pre-1935 movies.
- Hundreds of libraries and archives were destroyed and their contents lost during World War II.
- More than 6,000 Tibetan monasteries were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, along with unique statues, tapestries and manuscripts.
- The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina was shelled and burnt to the ground, along with thousands of irreplaceable texts, in the Siege of Sarajevo in 1992 during the Bosnian War.
- Some of the original Apollo 11 moon landing tapes in high quality have been recorded over and lost.
- During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, a fire was started in the Central University Library of Bucharest and over 500,000 books, along with 3,700 manuscripts, were burnt.
- ... and many more.
Modern examples of loss of knowledge
Unfortunately, the destruction of knowledge has not ceased with Wikipedia's inception in 2001. Here are a few examples:
- In 2003, the Iraq National Library and Archive and other buildings were looted and burnt during the U.S. invasion.
- In 2004, part of the collection at the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Germany was lost to a fire, less than two months before the collection was to be moved.
- The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake damaged or destroyed libraries and archives in several countries.
- In 2009, the Historical Archive building of the City of Cologne collapsed.
- On October 26, 2009, GeoCities was shut down, removing from public view 38 million pages built by users over 15 years. It was only partially preserved by Archive Team.
- More than 1,000 pages are deleted from Wikipedia every day.
- In 2010, much of Haiti's heritage was damaged or destroyed in the earthquake. Little over a month later, Chile's heritage suffered similar destruction in its own earthquake.
- The Egyptian Museum was looted during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
- In December 2011, a fire destroyed all but 30,000 of the 200,000 books in the historic Egyptian Scientific Institute.
- In May 2012, shrines part of the Timbuktu World Heritage Site were destroyed by the Islamist group Ansar Dine.
- Some buildings and churches were damaged in the 2012 Northern Italy earthquakes.
- In June 2012, many documents were burned during a fire at the secretarial building of Mumbai.
- Syrian heritage has been damaged, destroyed and looted during the Syrian Civil War.
- On October 15, 2013, Bohol earthquake destroyed and damaged several iconic sites.
- On December 25, 2013, the Santuario da Virxe da Barca was destroyed by a fire resulting from lightning.
- The Al Sa’eh Library located in Tripoli, Lebanon, with 80,000 books and manuscripts, was burnt down on January 2014.
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) damaged Mosul Museum artifacts and Mosul Public Library books.
Today, a lot of the world's languages are endangered or nearly extinct because "only a few elderly speakers are still living". The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to build a publicly accessible digital library of material on the nearly 7,000 known human languages.
Furthermore, hundreds of websites are closed every day on the Internet; the average life of a web page is only 77 days. Those websites work in many cases as references. Projects like the Internet Archive or WebCitation and volunteer groups like Archive Team save copies of some of them, but many others are lost forever. This issue affects Wikimedia projects too, and mirrors are needed to assure long-term preservation of the data.
Wikipedia and its sister projects can—and must—save all these forms of knowledge, through creating articles, uploading images and recordings to Wikimedia Commons, preserving languages in Wiktionary and transcribing books into Wikisource. Events like Wiki Loves Monuments may help to immortalize monuments around the world before they are damaged or destroyed.
There is a deadline. This is a battle against time.
Symbol of New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, advocating book-burning.
Book burning in Berlin, May 1933.
Burning left-wing books during the early days of the Pinochet military regime.
A cello player in the destroyed National Library, Sarajevo.
The damaged Museum of Contemporary Art in Chile.
Golden toad (Bufo periglenes), now extinct.
Collapsed Historical Archive of the City of Cologne, March 2009.
Church of Saint Paul in Mirabello, Ferrara.
- Wikipedia:There is no deadline
- Wikipedia:Editing policy
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia is a work in progress
- Lost work, Lost artworks and List of lost films
- Book burning, List of book burning incidents, Nazi book burnings
- List of destroyed libraries
- List of destroyed heritage
- Digital dark age
- Digital dark age: help, we're disappearing!
- Category:Historical deletion
- User:Emijrp/All human knowledge
- Lost Memory — Libraries and Archived Destroyed in the Twentieth Century (Archived at WebCite)
- Notes on the history of Birmingham Public Libraries (1861-1961), Birmingham, 1962
- (Spanish) El martirio de los libros: una aproximación a la destrucción bibliográfica durante la Guerra Civil (Archived at WebCite)
- "$45,000 Fire Drives Families From Homes in Little Ferry", Bergen Evening Record, July 9, 1937, p. 1. Quoted by Richard Koszarski in Fort Lee: The Film Town, Indiana University Press, 2005, pp. 339–341. ISBN 978-0-86196-652-3.
- It Has Been Done Before! Reconstituting War-Ravaged Libraries (Archived at WebCite)
- Aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising, Planned destruction of Warsaw and Polish culture during World War II
- Tibetan monks: A controlled life (Archived at WebCite)
- Erasing the Past: The Destruction of Libraries and Archives in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Archived at WebCite)
- Original moon walk footage erased
- The Central University Library of Bucharest, official site: "the History".
- "Photos of the Iraq National Library 2003–08". Archived from the original on 2010-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
- (German) Hilfe für Anna Amalia (Archived at WebCite)
- Archive Collapse Disaster for Historians - Spiegel Online International (Archived at WebCite)
- Shechmeister, Matthew (2009-11-03). "Ghost Pages: A Wired.com Farewell to GeoCities". Wired.com. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- Haiti Cultural Recovery Project (Archive copy at the Wayback Machine)
- Breaking: Images of Egyptian Museum Damage -UPDATE 34- King Tut Objects Damaged? (Archived at WebCite)
- Amid army crackdown, Egypt’s richest library set on fire (Archived at WebCite)
- Un incendio durante los disturbios de El Cairo destruye el original de la 'Descripción de Egipto' encargada por Napoleón (Archived at WebCite)
- Timbuktu's Sidi Yahia mosque 'attacked by Mali militants' (Archived at WebCite)
- Islamists vow to smash every mausoleum in Timbuktu (Archived at WebCite)
- Towering inferno engulfs Mumbai’s seat of power (Archived at WebCite)
- Mumbai government building engulfed in fire (Archived at WebCite)
- Damage to the soul: Syria's cultural heritage in conflict (Archived at WebCite)
- Pia Ranada (October 15, 2013). "Heartbreaking: 10 iconic churches in Bohol, Cebu damaged". Rappler. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- "Un rayo destruye un emblemático santuario en Muxía". El Mundo. 2013-12-25. Archived from the original on 2013-12-25. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
- "Lebanon Loses 78000 Books To Terrorism: Tripoli’s “Al Sa’eh” Library Burned". Archived from the original on 2014-01-05.
- "ISIS thugs take a hammer to civilisation: Priceless 3,000-year-old artworks smashed to pieces in minutes as militants destroy Mosul museum". Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
- The Geograph Britain and Ireland project (Archived at WebCite)
- Endangered Languages Project (Archived at WebCite)
- Endangered languages Ethnologue: Languages of the World. (Archived at WebCite)
- The Rosetta Project items from The Long Now Foundation
- Internet Archive Frequently Asked Questions (Archived at WebCite)
- Archive Team website (Archived at WebCite)
- Wiki Loves Monuments 2011 - European website (Archived at WebCite)
- Lost Memory - Libraries and archives destroyed in the twentieth century (Archived at WebCite)
- The availability of research data declines rapidly with article age
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:Buildings collapsed by earthquakes by country.|
- Wikimedia projects edits counter - Total edits in Wikimedia projects (near real time)
- WikiTeam - Volunteers group to preserve wikis
- Translations for this essay (permalink to original version) are more than welcome: German (webcite), French (webcite), Spanish
- Things get lost. Capture them (Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 blog post by Elke)
- Photos of destroyed heritage (Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 blog post) (Ukrainian version)
- Joel Aldor wants to preserve historic Filipino architecture one photo at a time (Wikimedia Blog)