British Museum hosts two days of talks between Wikimedia and the cultural sector
GLAM-WIKI:UK – a joint conference for Wikimedians and people from the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums sector – was held at the British Museum in London on 26 and 27 November 2010. This was Wikimedia UK's first public conference, and was convened by Witty lama (Liam Wyatt). Jimbo Wales kicked off both days with an introduction. Cory Doctorow gave the keynote presentation on the Friday, and Sue Gardner on the Saturday. Tom Morgan, Head of Rights and Reproductions at the National Portrait Gallery, gave a presentation entitled Wikipedia and the National Portrait Gallery – a bad first date? about the previous copyright-related disputes between the two institutions.
Attendees from the GLAM sector included people from organisations that Wikimedia has already collaborated with, such as the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tropenmuseum, and the city of Toulouse, as well as potential partners such as Kew Gardens. Wikimedians attending included many of the London regulars and contingents from the French, Dutch, and Chinese Wikipedias.
After a welcome by the British Museum and an introduction by Jimbo, there was a keynote by science-fiction writer and free-culture advocate Cory Doctorow, who spoke about how "Being a beloved institution will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of being an irrelevant one." This was followed by brief statements by each Wikimedian about their role on Wikimedia projects.
The rest of the morning was devoted to a trio of plenaries, beginning with Joscelyn Upendran from Creative Commons UK, who provided a broad introduction to the concept of Creative Commons and the various licences that are available, and gave examples of how organisations such as the UK government make use of the licenses. This was followed by Matthew Cock from the British Museum, who spoke on the successful Wikipedian in residence program, including their motivations in running the project and the resulting benefits. In the last session of the morning, Jill Cousins talked about Europeana and Wikimedia. Europeana is an EU-wide project to bring together and share information about objects of cultural significance; one focus of the collaboration is to enable people to re-use that content. Although they currently cannot share that content with Wikipedia due to Europeana's use of a non-commercial license, Cousins was optimistic that Europeana–Wikimedia integration projects would be possible in the future.
In the afternoon, delegates split into three separate tracks. Mathias Schindler continued the explanation of licenses started by Joscelyn earlier in the day, and talked about how copyright is enforced on Wikipedia. In parallel, Andrew Dalby gave an introduction to Wikipedia for librarians, highlighting the parts of Wikipedia that are likely to be of interest to these professionals, including the different language versions and bibliography sections. Sebastien Beyou and Jean-Frédéric Berthelot then talked about the partnership with Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which recently provided more than 1,400 scanned books to Wikisource. In the third session, User:Johnbod, the primary author of featured article Royal Gold Cup (one of the articles that benefited from the British Museum collaboration), gave a guided tour of the English Wikipedia.
In the parallel session, Daniel Pett talked about the Portable Antiquities Scheme and how it brings together volunteers with experts in its work. Josefien Schuurman and Maarten Dammers spoke about "Collaboration projects at the National Archives of the Netherlands", followed by Frank Meije's talk on the partnership with the Tropenmuseum. Roger Bamkin gave the third session, "A history of the world in 100 articles".
Dr Kenneth Crews from Columbia University, author of Control of museum art images: the reach and limits of copyright and licensing keynoted about "The free-conomy and the cultural sector", followed by a panel discussion by Jill Cousins (Director of Europeana), Paula Le Dieu (Head of Digital at the BFI), Tom Morgan (National Portrait Gallery) and Bill Thompson (Presenter of the BBC's Digital Planet).
The day began with Sue Gardner's keynote. She began by giving a thumbnail sketch of her journalism career and her current job as executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. She started out as a journalist at the CBC, and within a few years was managing their website. She describes herself as "straddling the new world of Wikipedia and the old world of journalism".
Sue Gardner gives the keynote speech on Saturday
Her presentation focused on Wikipedia statistics. One slide showed that Wikipedia is the most searched-for information website, way above Sky news, the CBC, the BBC and anything else. She made a point that 87% of Wikipedians are male. She suggested that initiatives such as women-only events could help to solve this bias, but a woman in the audience pointed out that this might promote them as "different".
A general Q&A session followed, which included interesting points, such as one in reply to a GLAM representative about whether Wikimedia is attempting to replace cultural institutions' own web services. Liam Wyatt said that some things are important but are not necessarily notable enough for Wikipedia; for example, local history; "Therefore, it should still be published, but not on Wikipedia." He made the case that the Wikipedia editorial policies of No Original Research and Reliable Sources support rather than undermine the existence of GLAM websites.
Sue Gardner pointed out that the Wikimedia Foundation is not meant to "eat the lunch" of the Wikipedia editors. The WMF is there to handle legal issues, domain names, and fundraisers, among other things. There are also some staff who work closely with the editors. She pointed out that it was important for the staff to engage with the editors.
Wikipedia and the National Portrait Gallery – a bad first date?
Tom Morgan at the GLAM-WIKI event
One of the most anticipated presentations was that of Tom Morgan, the head of Copyright and Reproduction at the National Portrait Gallery (London).
Many Wikimedians are aware of the conflicts between the NPG and Wikipedia, which go back to at least 2005, when the NPG's demands that Wikipedia remove images of the famous Chandos portrait of Shakespeare and other 400-year-old paintings were publicly rejected by Jimmy Wales in his keynote at the very first Wikimania, and escalated last year (Signpost coverage: "UK public gallery threatens Wikimedian"). In Morgan's description of the 2009 incident, the National Portrait Gallery's website had high-res photographs of their artworks which could be viewed using the Zoomify tool. Surfers were not able to see the whole image in the original quality, but a Wikipedia admin wrote a script to extract these high-quality images from the website. He then uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons, making them freely available; until then, the high-res images were available only for sale on the Gallery's website.
Morgan noted jokingly that he was pleased to have been invited, as otherwise he would have been in the audience heckling. He said the NPG has a 150-year history of collecting objects and undertaking meticulous research into the copyright status and provenance of the works. He pointed out that after a time of conflict, a productive dialogue has developed. Nevertheless, he felt "the Gallery has a strong culture of engagement and somebody [Wikipedia] has just driven a big truck through it".
At the time he felt that the difference between Wikipedia and the gallery was so great it could only ever be settled with a court case, which would be devastating for both parties. As a result of the coverage of this event, the Streisand effect was apparent (the phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove information has the unintended consequence of causing it to be publicised widely), which he felt made matters worse. "Don't get me wrong," he said, "Wikipedia is a really interesting project and conflict is essential to it. The enthusiasm of its editors is valuable and has to be supported, but they are, somewhat, ignorant when it comes to image reproduction." Morgan said that one thing the gallery has learned through reading the sometimes vitriolic commentary that arose in the ensuing debates was that the gallery is not adequately explaining to the public the skill and effort of all the work that goes on "behind the scenes" (including conservation, accessioning and of course digitisation).
At this point, Liam Wyatt joined the discussion: "We do care about copyright. We care a lot. More than," he paused, "is healthy." He then argued that if a court case provided a legal ruling which showed a clear precedent superseding Bridgeman v. Corel Wikimedia would immediately adhere to it – whichever way the decision fell. In the meantime though, they had learned to live alongside each other like a family. "Admittedly a rather dysfunctional one," said Tom Morgan, "but a family nonetheless."
Several parallel afternoon sessions were held. The second track was a presentation by Kajsa Hartig, from the Nordic Museum (Nordiska museet). She described how Swedish GLAMs have related to online dissemination in the past and how this had recently changed, citing Flickr Commons as an influential project. Hartig stressed how copyright issues can be complex, highlighting the differences within Swedish law. She presented the cooperation project, announced earlier that week by the Nordiska museet and Wikimedia Sverige, and concluded with the advantages of such a project and the questions it raises. Neil Wilson, "head of Metadata services" for the British Library described their project to open up their data under the Creative Commons CC-Zero Waiver, and how that is part of their overall strategy for the coming decade. Mia Ridge, Lead Web Developer at the Science Museum, summarised the proceedings of the MCG conference. Jean-Frédéric Berthelot and Bastien Guerry from Wikimédia France talked about the partnership with the City of Toulouse and several cultural institutions. Nadia Arbach from the Victoria and Albert Museum recapped with comments on the Britain Loves Wikipedia project. She explained how the project has resulted in files with high-quality descriptions for Wikimedia Commons, and how the sheer number of submissions is an extra workload for the museum staff involved.