Wikipedia:There is a deadline

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The lost Library of Alexandria, only one of many destroyed libraries in antiquity, lost long before Wikisource had the chance to save their contents

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[edit]

There are plenty of examples of permanent loss of knowledge before Wikipedia's existence. The following is a non-exhaustive list.[1]

Before 20th century[edit]

Birmingham Central Library fire aftermath, 1879

20th century[edit]

Modern examples[edit]

Unfortunately, the destruction of knowledge has not ceased with Wikipedia's inception in 2001. Here are a few examples.


Damage in Duchess Anna Amalia Library after the fire


Loon Church, Philippines, before and after the 2013 Bohol earthquake


Future threats[edit]

The current coverage of Wikimedia Commons is imbalanced (5.2M geolocated images in the map). We must preserve the current world to the future generations. Imagine a project like Geograph Britain and Ireland[51] but globally.

Today, many of the world's languages are endangered or nearly extinct.[52][53] In some cases where parents have stopped teaching an endangered language to their children, the language is understood by only a few elderly speakers. 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.[54]

Furthermore, hundreds of websites are closed every day on the Internet; the average life of a web page is only 77 days.[55] Those websites work in many cases as references. Projects like the Internet Archive or WebCitation and volunteer groups like Archive Team[56] save copies of some of them, but many others are lost forever. This issue may affect 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.[57]

There is a deadline. This is a battle against time.


See also[edit]

El Vaporcito, a famous ship in Andalusia and Property of Cultural Interest in Spain, sunk in 2011.
A small white ferry carrying passengers in the mouth of the Guadalete river
In 2007...
The same ferry, as a dilapidated shell, sitting on a boatramp
...and in 2017.



  • Biblioteca en guerra (2009, Blanca Calvo & Ramón Salaberria)
  • Cicatrices de Sarajevo (2012, Miguel Ángel Viñas)
  • Digital Amnesia (2014, Bregtje van der Haak)
  • Digital dark age: help, we're disappearing! (2004, Jörg Daniel Hissen & Peter Moers)
  • Internet Archive (2012, Jonathan Minard)
  • Las cajas españolas (2004, Alberto Porlan)
  • Lost Forever (2011, Paul Mariano & Kurt Norton)
  • Metrópolis refundada (2010, Evangelina Loguercio)
  • Rescatando sombras. Cine, muerte y memoria (2012, Franco Lorenzana)
  • The Destruction of Memory (2016, Tim Slade)
  • The End of Memory? (2015, Vincent Amouroux)
  • The House of History (1996, Quadir Taheri)




  1. ^ a b Lost Memory — Libraries and Archives Destroyed in the Twentieth Century (Archived August 12, 2012, at WebCite)
  2. ^ Grima, Noel (23 May 2015). "Notarial Archives discovery: Documents from Gozo dating to 1431 saved from the bin". The Malta Independent. Archived from the original on 11 August 2015.
  3. ^ Notes on the history of Birmingham Public Libraries (1861-1961), Birmingham, 1962
  4. ^ (in Spanish) El martirio de los libros: una aproximación a la destrucción bibliográfica durante la Guerra Civil (Archived September 27, 2011, at WebCite)
  5. ^ US Census Bureau, Census History Staff. "Availability of 1890 Census - History - U.S. Census Bureau". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  6. ^ "$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.
  7. ^ "Library Reports on America's Endangered Silent-Film Heritage". News from the Library of Congress (Press release). Library of Congress. December 4, 2013. ISSN 0731-3527. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  8. ^ It Has Been Done Before! Reconstituting War-Ravaged Libraries (Archived September 27, 2011, at WebCite)
  9. ^ Aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising, Planned destruction of Warsaw and Polish culture during World War II
  10. ^ Carlos Aguirre: El incendio de la Biblioteca Nacional del Perú de 1943 on YouTube
  11. ^ Tibetan monks: A controlled life (Archived September 22, 2011, at WebCite)
  12. ^ Erasing the Past: The Destruction of Libraries and Archives in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Archived August 30, 2011, at WebCite)
  13. ^ Original moon walk footage erased
  14. ^ Not-Unsolved Mysteries: The “Lost” Apollo 11 Tapes
  15. ^ "Remembering The Jaffna Public Library Destroyed By Sinhalese Extremists". Swarajya. June 1, 2016.
  16. ^ The Central University Library of Bucharest, official site: "the History".
  17. ^ "Photos of the Iraq National Library 2003–08". Archived from the original on 2010-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
  18. ^ (in German) Hilfe für Anna Amalia (Archived September 22, 2011, at WebCite)
  19. ^ ""BOLA DE FUEGO" EXTENDIÓ EL DAÑO EN LA TORRE DE PARQUE CENTRAL". Segured. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  20. ^ Archive Collapse Disaster for Historians - Spiegel Online International (Archived September 22, 2011, at WebCite)
  21. ^ Shechmeister, Matthew (2009-11-03). "Ghost Pages: A Farewell to GeoCities". Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  22. ^ Haiti Cultural Recovery Project (Archive index at the Wayback Machine)
  23. ^ Breaking: Images of Egyptian Museum Damage -UPDATE 34- King Tut Objects Damaged? (Archived September 22, 2011, at WebCite)
  24. ^ Amid army crackdown, Egypt’s richest library set on fire (Archived December 17, 2011, at WebCite)
  25. ^ Un incendio durante los disturbios de El Cairo destruye el original de la 'Descripción de Egipto' encargada por Napoleón (Archived December 19, 2011, at WebCite)
  26. ^ Timbuktu's Sidi Yahia mosque 'attacked by Mali militants' (Archived July 6, 2012, at WebCite)
  27. ^ Islamists vow to smash every mausoleum in Timbuktu (Archived July 6, 2012, at WebCite)
  28. ^ Towering inferno engulfs Mumbai’s seat of power (Archived July 6, 2012, at WebCite)
  29. ^ Mumbai government building engulfed in fire (Archived July 6, 2012, at WebCite)
  30. ^ Damage to the soul: Syria's cultural heritage in conflict (Archived August 12, 2012, at WebCite)
  31. ^ Pia Ranada (October 15, 2013). "Heartbreaking: 10 iconic churches in Bohol, Cebu damaged". Rappler. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  32. ^ "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.
  33. ^ "Lebanon Loses 78000 Books To Terrorism: Tripoli's "Al Sa'eh" Library Burned". Archived from the original on 2014-01-05.
  34. ^ "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.
  35. ^ Yonekura, Kaoru (2 December 2020). "Periódicos sin archivos, país sin memoria" [Newspapers without archives, country without memory]. Cinco8 (in Spanish). Retrieved 2023-06-09.
  36. ^ {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. ^ {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ^ "Nepal landmarks flattened by the quake". Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  39. ^ Vidhi Doshi (2016-04-26). "Fire guts Delhi's natural history museum". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  40. ^ La Repubblica, Terremoto nel centro Italia, i danni al patrimonio artistico
  41. ^ "Brazil's 200-year-old national museum hit by huge fire". 2018-09-03. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  42. ^ "Los meteoritos sobreviven al incendio que ha devastado siglos de historia en Río de Janeiro".
  43. ^ McCulloch, Gretchen. "Linguistics Division". All Things Linguistic. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  44. ^ Tiffany, Kaitlyn (March 18, 2019). "Myspace, which still exists, accidentally deleted 12 years' worth of music". Vox. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  45. ^ "Archivo de la Cinemateca Nacional, una historia de deterioro". El Miope (in Spanish). 2016-04-27. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  46. ^ Katz, Brigit. "Fire at Museum of Chinese in America Caused Less Damage Than Initially Feared". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
  47. ^ Wroughton, Lesley. "South Africa wildfire that burned University of Cape Town, library of African antiquities is under control". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  48. ^ "Incêndio atinge unidade da Cinemateca Brasileira na Zona Oeste de SP" (in Brazilian Portuguese). 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  49. ^ "História da TV e do cinema queima junto com o quinto incêndio da Cinemateca" (in Brazilian Portuguese). 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  50. ^ "Israeli Damage to Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Gaza, October 2023–January 2024 – Librarians and Archivists with Palestine".
  51. ^ The Geograph Britain and Ireland project (Archived July 6, 2012, at WebCite)
  52. ^ "The Endangered Languages Project". Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  53. ^ "Endangered Languages - Ethnologue". Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  54. ^ The Rosetta Project items from The Long Now Foundation
  55. ^ Internet Archive Frequently Asked Questions (Archived October 3, 2011, at WebCite)
  56. ^ Archive Team website (Archived October 3, 2011, at WebCite)
  57. ^ Wiki Loves Monuments 2011 - European website (Archived October 2, 2011, at WebCite)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]