Wikipedia:Use historical images

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(NB: Hopefully to be promoted to guideline once it's been written)


Firstly, it is an assumed that all editors want to use the highest quality images possible. While this would necessarily include, for example, photographs of high technical quality, that must not be the only other consideration. All images must illustrate the subject.

Historical objects that are preserved, e.g. locomotives, ships, etc., often have minor detail differences, especially mechanical ones. Often objects are preserved in the condition they were when they finished their working lives, but are then presented as being in an earlier condition, e.g. by painting in earlier colours. Some are deliberately painted inaccurately, or altered somehow. These differences however may not be apparent to the untrained eye.

For this reason, serious works will therefore always nearly always consist of historical photographs. Historical photographs also often have another quality which modern glossy photographs do not; namely atmosphere.

It is the contention of this essay, that these qualities of historical photographs are overlooked and need to be re-emphasised. To be professional, Wikipedia must attempt to emulate standards as used by serious works on such subjects.

Photographs of the object today should still be used of course, but further down the article where preservation is discussed. This also means the photographs come in chronological order, which makes the article flow better.

Any specific issues should be discussed on the article's talk page to achieve consensus on the qualities of particular images.


  • HMS Belfast is currently painted in a camouflage scheme officially known as Admiralty Disruptive Camouflage Type 25. In the real timeline, Belfast carried that paint scheme from November 1942 to July 1944. The anachronism is augmented by the fact that Belfast in 1942–1944 had a distinctly different appearance from today, her silhouette and equipment having been vastly modified during her extended refit from January 1956 to May 1959.
    • It is better to use a photograph of Belfast in service at the top of the article than one of her moored in modern-day London.