News and notes
No further Bundesarchiv image donations; Dutch and German awards; anniversary preparations
German Federal Archives won't extend collaboration with Wikimedia
The Bundesarchiv's main building in Koblenz
, 1999 (photo from the donated collection)
It was announced this month that after its 2008 donation of around 100,000 photos via Wikimedia Commons, the Bundesarchiv
(German Federal Archives) will release no more images as part of its collaboration with Wikimedia.
The donation of the images from the institution's archive of 10 million photographs under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license had been negotiated from 2007 to 2008 by members of the German Wikimedia chapter. As described in a case study on the Foundation's Outreach wiki, the Wikimedia side of the collaboration involved the improvement by Wikimedia volunteers of the Bundesarchiv's metadata set of 59,000 persons; this was done by connecting it with biographies on the German Wikipedia and with the Personennamendatei authority file of the German National Library.
In an article about the collaboration for Archivar (the most important German archivist journal) some months ago, Dr Oliver Sander from the Bundesarchiv had taken a largely positive view towards the collaboration. Apart from the improved person metadata, he noted the following benefits for the Bundesarchiv:
- The (still ongoing) error reports by Wikimedians, leading to corrections in the image descriptions ("The high quality of the notices by 'Wikipedians' is surprising: Over 95% of the notices are correct!")
- A vast increase in public awareness for the institution and in the page views for its website, as well as in the revenue from image licensing (197%, according to the German archivist blog "Archivalia", – however, licensing revenue apparently still forms much less than 1% of the overall budget).
He also remarked that "interestingly, for many photographers and rights holders, the cooperation of the Bundesarchiv with Wikimedia is a positive, sometimes even decisive criterion when signing a contract with the Bundesarchiv!".
In the announcement two years ago, Wikimedians had expressed their hope "that this is only the start of a long lasting relationship that might serve as an example to other archives and image databases". Indeed, many other institutions and organizations in the cultural sector have followed suit with similar large-scale image donations, such as the Deutsche Fotothek, Antweb, the Mary Rose Trust, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Tropenmuseum (case study) and National Archives from the Netherlands.
However, according to "Archivalia", Dr Sander announced at a conference this month that the Bundesarchiv won't donate more images as part of the collaborations, citing two main reasons: first, a 230% increase in research requests without an increase in staff; and second, a disregard of the CC license in re-use outside Wikimedia projects, with increasingly "criminal traits", such as a sale of more than 3,000 images from Commons on eBay. In his "Archivar" article, he had already described such license violations as one of the problems of the project, noting that the Bundesarchiv had sent invoices to several re-users who had violated the license by not naming the photographer. In the case of a vendor who had offered 104 of the images as "vintage postcards" in a militaria marketplace, the Bundesarchiv had him excluded from that marketplace and charged him 4,000 euros in fees.
Criticism by Wikimedians had included the low resolution of the donated image versions (at maximum 800 pixels on the longer side), the unclear licensing status of some images (a few had to be deleted) and the attachment of metadata inside each image itself, as a small strip of text on one side (which was often removed, according to Commons:Watermarks. Sander acknowledged that this was allowed under the CC-BY-SA license, but claimed it contributed to the problems of missing attribution and an increase in time-consuming research requests to the archive).
Last week, Archivalia interviewed Mathias Schindler about the subject, the Wikipedian who had been involved in the 2008 negotiations and is now employed as the project manager for "content liberation" at the German Wikimedia chapter. Schindler emphasized that the Bundesarchiv had put a lot of effort into proper rights clearance, but noted that archives' not holding sufficient rights to release the material in their collections under a free license was a frequent and fundamental problem. He expressed regret at the Bundesarchiv's decision but hoped that changing conditions would result in more donations from the agency.
Dutch and German chapters award prizes
As reported earlier, Wikimedia Nederland held a photo contest in September, called "Wiki loves monuments", to photograph as many as possible of the country's 50,000 rijksmonuments (national monuments). On the occasion of the Dutch chapter's "Wikiminiconferentie 2010" last week (English-language report by Ziko), the winners among the more than 12,000 submissions were announced, the top three of building exteriors and interiors:
1. Vijzelstraat 31, an Amsterdam house presumed to have been built in the 17th and 18th centuries
3. The "Hallen van Stork", former factory buildings in Amsterdam
Also last week, the award ceremony for the "Zedler-Medaille contest, held by the German Wikimedia chapter in collaboration with an academic publisher and a scholarly society, took place in connection with the Wikipedia Academy at the Goethe University Frankfurt. The medals are named after Johann Heinrich Zedler, publisher of the 18th-century German encyclopedia Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon. This year, they were awarded for the best encyclopedia articles in two categories, with prize money of €2000 each. In the humanities section, the winner was Dagobert Duck, an article by Tobias Lutzi about the German language version of the Disney cartoon character Scrooge McDuck. In the sciences section, the award went to de:Besselsche Elemente – about Besselian Elements, used in astronomy to calculate solar eclipses – whose main author, Jürgen Erbs, acknowledged the collaboration of an anonymous (IP) editor who had not wanted to be identified.
For the first time, the Zedler medals also involved a photo contest, which however did not receive enough high-quality submissions, according to the jury. A third prize was awarded to the best entry, an illustration of the focus stacking technique by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, who was unable to attend the awards ceremony in person, but will have his prize (a camera and books) sent to India. (See also last May's Signpost interview with Muhammad and other photographers.)
Preparations for Wikipedia's tenth anniversary gearing up
"Wikipedia 10" mark, created by design consultant David Peters
for the 10th anniversary of Wikipedia on January 15, 2011
The preparations for Wikipedia's tenth anniversary on January 15, 2011, which started around April (when a separate mailing list was set up), have recently intensified. As reported last week, collaboration on the preparations was moved from the Outreach wiki into a new, separate wiki at ten.wikipedia.org. (While "ten" is also the ISO language code for the extinct Tama language, this coincidence is not considered to be a concern, because a Wikipedia version in this language is unlikely to be created.) A FAQ has been set up for the anniversary celebrations. According to Steven Walling, the Community Fellow tasked with facilitating the preparations, the priorities at this point are to set up a single list of events "that we can point interested people to," integrating the celebration across the community, providing resources for organizers, and setting up and documenting the project's "first double digit anniversary" on the ten wiki. Design ideas (based on a concept by a design studio that has also done other work for the Foundation) and preliminary merchandise kits, consisting of sets of 50 shirts and other memorabilia to be handed out to organizers, have been created.
Jimmy Wales is expected to attend various events in the UK on the occasion, one of them at the University of Bristol on January 13. A writer of the local Ignite Bristol blog seemed rather excited about the opportunity: "for me this is akin to getting the chance to see Gutenberg 10 years after he made his first printing press".
- How to avoid missing GLAM opportunities?: On his blog, Liam Wyatt (User:Witty lama) asked "How to make cultural collaborations scale?" The former Wikipedian-in-residence at the British Museum observed a "tipping point in the mood of the cultural sector", changing from widespread skepticism about collaborations with Wikimedia projects to a state where "we are now getting offers from cultural organisations faster than we can meet with them to discuss it". Yet according to Wyatt "we simply have no consistent, easily findable, and easy to understand processes for handling potential partnerships when they are presented to us", with the success of specific projects still depending on making contact with certain community members who are competent in certain tasks, and no systematic means "of finding, training and supporting people who are willing to be the local contact for GLAM partners". He warned that such gaps meant that "fantastic opportunities for free culture will go begging. More importantly, the opportunities might not come again".
- Wikimedia España: In a resolution last week, the chapters committee recommended that the Foundation's Board of Trustees recognize the Wikimedia España founding group (whose members have been vouched for by the established chapter Wikimedia Argentina) as the Spanish Wikimedia chapter. In other news, the Wikimedia CAT group this month renewed its efforts to become recognized as a chapter "for Balearic Islands, Catalonia, and Valencia", supported by various organizations that are dedicated to promoting the Catalan language and culture.
- Wikimedia at Drumbeat: Some employees of the Foundation traveled to Barcelona (Spain) this month to represent Wikimedia at the Mozilla Drumbeat Learning, Freedom, and the Web Festival. Community fellow Steven Walling has posted some photos of the "Wikimedia Lounge" on his personal blog.
- Making licensing usable: On his personal blog, Guillaume Paumier (User:Guillom) from the Foundation's Multimedia usability project explained the making of the new illustrated Wikimedia Commons licensing tutorial (Signpost coverage), saying that while many community members had become very knowledgeable about copyright issues, "the learning curve is very steep for new users. ... we even decided to ban the words 'copyright' and 'free licenses' altogether: they’re misunderstood and misinterpreted so often that we chose to explain these concepts in plain English, using practical examples". The cartoon and its various translations are the result of a collaboration with illustrator Michael Bartalos, and Paumier also explained how constraints that are customary to professional artwork (such as not releasing intermediate design versions) were reconciled with the open collaboration processes that Wikimedians are used to.
- Article feedback: Phase two of the pilot for the Article feedback tool (Signpost coverage) has been announced. Previously restricted to articles pertaining to the WikiProject United States Public Policy, the feedback option will now be activated in around 50 articles outside this area. The team has also posted further analysis from the first phase of the pilot.
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