GLAM/Case studies/Archives of American Art/Image donation

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Eitaro Ishigaki working on a mural at the Harlem Court House, ca. 1940

The final project of the Archives of American Art Wikimedia collaboration was the donation of images to Wikimedia Commons. One of the most powerful tools at the Archives of American Art is their image collection - one of the world's largest related to American art history. The Archives holds photographs from the 19th century up to contemporary times; a collection that mixes public domain, government created work, copyrighted content and personal images into a historical documentation not found anywhere else. The Wikipedian-in-Residence worked closely with staff members to decide on their first image contribution, examining the Archives collection and what images could be released without copyright concerns. The Wikipedian-in-Residence then worked with a volunteer in the Wikimedia community to develop templates and an upload process for the images, which was completed within two days of beginning the upload.


Research, image selection & approval[edit]

The Wikipedian-in-Residence began the image donation process by examining Wikimedia Commons image policy. By becoming aware with the types of images that Wikimedia Commons accepted, the resident was able to express this to image reproduction staff, allowing them to take a look at the type of images that would be a perfect match for Commons - public domain images within the Archives holdings. Within one meeting it was decided that the Archives would seek approval from the Director and Curator of Manuscripts to release the entire collection of Federal Art Project images. These images were produced as part of the United States federal government's Works Progress Administration program, to document artist involvement in the Federal Art Project. Since these works were produced by the federal government, they are in the public domain. Within weeks the photographs were approved for release.

Template development[edit]

A brief examination by the Wikipedian-in-Residence took place to see how other institutions had uploaded their images. Following their lead, the resident established a main page for the donation on Wikimedia Commons and worked with a Wikimedian to decide on the best templates to use for uploading the images. She also worked with Archives staff to acquire usage rights for the Smithsonian logo which is used in a template. Since the images were created on behalf of the Works Progress Administration we selected a public domain US Government WPA template and a created special Archives template to represent the partnership between the Smithsonian and Wikimedia. Wikimedians and staff worked together to also develop the Archives of American Art institutional template, a category for the FAP collection, and the general layout of the summary for each image, which shows a direct link to the FAP collection, the name of the photographer, the medium, the date, description and other related metadata.

Image upload[edit]

While the donation of 256 images could have been completed by hand, the resident decided it would be easier to work with a volunteer Wikimedian to upload the images to Commons. The Wikipedian-in-Residence, volunteer Wikimedian, and staff agreed that the high resolution images and versos would be uploaded to the Wikimedia DC servers. These were transferred to the Wikimedia DC server by Archives tech staff, and then the appropriate metadata - which was determined by staff and the volunteer Wikimedian - was processed with the images. Three images were test-uploaded by the Wikimedian for staff approval. Minor changes were made to the metadata template, and then the final upload began. Within three days all 256 images were uploaded into Wikimedia Commons. The upload was complimented by a press release from the Smithsonian Institution.

After upload[edit]

After the upload the images were categorized by the Wikipedian-in-Residence and other e-volunteers, allowing for easy finding through categorization within Commons. Images will be added to appropriate Wikipedia articles and related projects, and articles will be created for artists and subjects that are not yet represented in Wikipedia. Selected images have been cropped and improved (through removing of image noise, etc.) by Commons image clean-up taskforce members.


Hopefully in the near future a simple mass uploader will be made available for volunteers, staff, and Wikimedians to be able to easily enter data and upload selected images into appropriate categories. This will cut back on volunteer hours, streamline the process, and will allow for institutions to have more control over uploading. It will allow those who are not-adept to programming data to upload and participate in large scale projects such as this with ease. It would also be ideal to develop a template creator, which would allow Wikimedians and staff to create easy templates themselves. The Archives of American Art and Wikimedia both hope that this will be the first of many image donations to Wikimedia Commons, and that this case study can provide an example to be followed and improved upon by others.


More coming soon!

  • Starting on October 5, 2011, the image upload process began and all 256 images were uploaded by October 7, 2011.
  • View all of the images here.
  • All of the images were categorized by the Wikipedian in Residences, which included the creation of numerous new categories specifically for artists with multiple pieces of media.