GLAM/Case studies/Bulgarian Archives State Agency

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Logo of Bulgarian Archives State Agency
Logo of Bulgarian Archives State Agency

The collaboration between the Bulgarian Archives State Agency (BASA) and volunteers from the Bulgarian Wikimedian community was the first GLAM collaboration in Bulgaria. It started in March 2012, and continues as of 2017.

The Headquarters of BASA in the centre of Sofia
BASA's Director Assoc. Prof. Martin Ivanov with volunteers from BG Wikipedia. March 2012
BASA's Director Assoc. Prof. Mihail Gruev with volunteers from BG Wikipedia. April 2015

Origin of the collaboration


BASA is a state agency with the Bulgarian government responsible for the conservation and documentation of government and historical records that form the National Archive of Bulgaria, and allowing public access to them as well. The initial idea for the present collaboration came from BASA's Director, Assoc. Prof. Martin Ivanov, in November 2011, as a result of him listening to a lecture by the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero. Ferriero was presenting the US Archives' experience with the collaboration with the US Wikimedian community, and Ivanov's idea was to establish similar collaboration locally in Bulgaria.

Form of the collaboration


After a round of negotiations, mainly concerning the scope and licensing of the documents that would be donated by BASA, agreement was reached that Wikimedians who are interested to contribute to this collaboration would sign official agreements with BASA. This agreement grants them free access to the documents from the Archive, in order to select appropriate illustrative content that is in the public domain, to digitize and upload the digitized copies to Commons, and utilize them in Wikipedia, and other Wikimedia sites.

In order to split personal and BASA-related contributions, contributors created alternative user accounts. This practice also helps for easier tracking of BASA-related contributions, and easy maintenance of the collaboration's progress report.

Other Wikipedia/Wikimedia community members are welcome to address the collaborators and request investigation of the archives for certain adequate illustrative content. A coordination page in Bulgarian Wikipedia, and its talk page, are a good starting point for community members to 'order' specific materials to be located and digitized.

Spasimir scanning a document in the BASA

Initially, with their personal donations, the collaborating Wikimedians provided two flatbed scanners for use in the BASA's reading room. With them, Wikimedian collaborators digitize with sufficiently high resolution various content which is evaluated as encyclopedic, educational and documentary. Occasionally, the contributors may come with their own photocameras, too. As of 2016, one of the flatbed scanners has not been in use any more, and in early 2017, with funding from the Wikimedia foundation, two new scanners were purchased: a new portable scanner and a scanner for microfilms and negatives.

Our aim is as much as possible of the digitized and uploaded files to illustrate encyclopedic articles in one or more languages. From legal point of view, only content from the public domain is eligible for digitizing and upload in the frames of the collaboration. The reason is that BASA holds the material rights over the physical artefacts in the archives, while it is not a copyright holder of that content.

BASA's desire was to obtain better visibility and publicity of their materials, and for this reason, it was negotiated that the caption texts under images, digitized within this collaboration, will contain the attribution: Source: Bulgarian Archives State Agency. Also, the Agency required that all uploaded materials contain the specific archival identification attributes Fonds, Inventory, Archival unit and Sheet no.. These IDs are listed in the file description pages, and also form the initial part of the filename.

Scope and specifics of the digitized documents


So far, the collaboration has turned out to be an extremely valuable source of portrait photographs of notable people, places, events and printed materials. The most usual type of content is pictures, either individual or group pictures, of notable people: writers, opera singers, actors, artists, politicians, military men, etc. We have, though rarely, retrieved and digitized handwritten documents. Such documents are found after investigations in the personal fonds of people, whose archives had been submitted to the BASA by their families, usually after people's death.

Potentially, BASA can also source geographic, topographic and military maps, but the largest collection of maps is located in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, and also maps usually require wider scanner flatbed.

The thematic scope of the documents covers a broad range of topics and periods from Bulgarian history, which for copyright reasons has been limited to the 1940s. Such topics are Bulgarian National Revival (XVII - XIX century), Establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate, en:Bulgarian unification, Third Bulgarian state, Serbo-Bulgarian War 1885, Balkan Wars 1912–1913, en:World War I, Bulgarian diaspora.

Progress report

See Commons:Bulgarian Archives State Agency/Report

All documents, digitized within the collaboration, are listed in a Progress Report page. Since May 2013, this page has been automatically maintained by bot.

As of October 2018, the collaboration has resulted in: *

  • 11,881 scanned and uploaded documents
  • Illustrated pages in Bulgarian Wikipedia: 1843
  • Illustrated pages in 85 other projects: 1891
  • In Wikidata: 484
  • Distinct images used: 1568 (19.5% of all) **
  • Number of new articles created: 185+ ***

* GLAMorous
** Glamorous + some regex magic
***COM:BASA (custom script, counting contribs)


Media coverage

The collaboration officially started in March 2012 with a press conference and extensive media coverage.

Conference presentations

In November 2012, BASA co-organized with Sofia University the seminar "Archives, Universities and Libraries in the Digitization of the National Cultural and Historic Heritage", which turned into traditional conference. The US National Archives and Records Administration's Chief Digital Access Strategist, Ms. Pamela Wright, was invited and a presentation of the BASA-Wikipedia collaboration was presented to her.

In 2014, the then BASA director Ivan Komitski again presents the BASA-Wikipedia collaboration at the Third International Conference "Archives, Universities and Social Media @ Sofia.

From Wikipedian side, the collaboration has been presented at several international events:

Date Location Event Presentation
October 2013 Warsaw, Poland OpenGLAM'2013 [1]
December 2014 Kiev, Ukraine Wikimedia CEE Meeting'2014 File:Wikimedia-CEE-2014-Kiev--GLAM--Vassia.pdf
June 2016 Esino Lario, Italy Wikimania'2016 File:Archives-Challenge-Spasimir.pdf
April 2017 Belgrade, Serbia Wikimedia Serbia's national conference WikiLive'2017 File:Archives Challenge WikiLive2017 (removed fair use).pdf
Useful links