GLAM/Case studies/Walters Art Museum/Image donation

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The first project with the Walters Art Museum was a donation of over 18,000 collections images and their associated descriptions to Wikimedia Commons. The Walters Art Museum is unique in that its collection is publicly owned by the city and people of Baltimore, Maryland. Its entire collection comprises of a timeline starting with ancient art and stopping with 19th-century works. The date of creation of the collection objects made the Walters collection a perfect institution to contribute content to Wikimedia Commons, as the artworks are public domain. After playing host to GLAM-WIKI Baltimore, and learning about image donations made by the Archives of American Art and the US National Archives and Records Administration, the Walters began working with Wikimedians to personalize an upload process to handle the donation over 18,000 medium resolution collection images and their associated descriptions. Dylan Kinnett, Manager of Web and Social Media, obtained permission from Walters administrators, and proceeded to partner with volunteers to prepare, process, and crowdsource the distribution of the collection. Today, these images are available for download under a free license via Commons and the Walters website. The images uploaded to Commons are now used in thousands of Wikipedia articles spanning over 40 languages.

The Ideal City, ca. 1480 and ca. 1484, attributed to Fra Carnevale, was the first image uploaded in this partnership project.


Adopting a free license[edit]

On February 2, 2012, the Walters adopted a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 free license on their website. This free license made it possible to upload the images and their associated descriptions to Wikimedia Commons.

Creating an upload process and testing it[edit]

Dylan Kinnett, Manager of Web and Social Media at the Walters, attended GLAMcamp DC. During the three day conference, Kinnett worked with Wikimedia volunteers to create an upload system that would allow the Walters to easily upload 18,000+ images and their associated descriptions. Volunteer Kaldari was provided access to the files and proceeded to upload the content via a robot he had created. Uploads were tested and templates and metadata were perfected via Commons by the volunteers. The first image uploaded was The Ideal City attributed to Fra Carnevale.

Volunteers become e-volunteers and perfecting the uploads[edit]

After working together at the conference, the volunteers became e-volunteers. These e-volunteers, all Wikimedians, proceeded to communicate with Dylan Kinnett via email and wiki as the project continued. Before the large scale upload process began, e-volunteers perfected the necessary templates that would display the detailed descriptions and metadata provided by the Walters database. An institutional template was created, which displays all necessary details about the Walters as an institution and would appear on every single piece of media associated with the Walters on Commons. The e-volunteers also created a project page on Commons to update the community about the project and provide a "one stop shop" for all resources associated with it.

Providing permissions[edit]

While the e-volunteers perfected templates and tested uploads, Dylan Kinnett obtained written permission by the Executive Director of the Walters, Gary Vikan. This letter provided written permission for the image donation, and verified the release of the images and descriptions under CC-BY-SA 3.0 and public domain licenses. This written permission was then emailed to Wikimedia's volunteer customer service agents (OTRS). OTRS reviews copyrights and permissions to ensure that they are eligible for upload to Commons. The permission was approved on February 17 and a template was created. That template states the license and attribution properties for the image collection. It has since been translated into four languages. General categories were also created, which would serve as a skeleton for organizing the images on Commons.

Image upload[edit]

After the verification of permissions, the upload process began in mid-March. Kaldari used his bot to upload the images from his home in California. The upload ended on March 26 and totaled 18,413 images.

After upload[edit]

After the completion of the upload, the Wikimedia community went to work categorizing the images for easy discovery on Commons, adding creator templates to appropriate images, adding images to Wikipedia articles, and reporting errors in file names and description data, which is used by the Walters to correct their collections data. The Walters also issued a press release announcing the donation.


The Walters Art Museum image donation is a prime example of how valuable in-person meetings can be, and how they strengthen online relationships between project partners. By "locking" themselves up in a hack space at GLAMcamp for three days, a group of dedicated volunteers and the Walters Art Museum were able to develop an upload system that would smoothly upload and process over 18,000 images and their associated descriptions and metadata. After the conference attendees went their separate ways, and the partnership proceeded to take place online, productivity did slow due to personal and professional priorities in the volunteers' lives. However, having an advocate like Dylan working in the institution, and a staff that was comfortable with the concepts of free licensing, was truly a blessing for this partnership. This ensured that Commons would be provided high quality, beautiful photographs, along with detailed descriptions providing pertinent information that had been researched by the Walters curatorial department. The public can now enjoy free access to amazing images. They may also use these descriptions under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

With over 18,000 images to be organized by volunteers, the project is not yet complete. Thousands of images need to be added to Wikipedia articles and have their categories and creator data verified. This will take time, but the Walters has provided an invaluable donation to the public and their images and descriptions are already making an impact by being viewed by Wikipedia readers and cited by Wikipedians and researchers in their work. This is a model project which has paved the way and will hopefully inspire other institutions to do the same as the Walters: set their content free! - Sarah Stierch, US OpenGLAM Coordinator and GLAM-Wiki volunteer



After the completion of the upload, the Walters Art Museum consulted with Wikimedians and free license advocates to perfect the language used on their website to describe their licensing. You can view the the Walters license here. The new licensing terms were a revision, in some cases, to the licence in use for providing access to grant-funded digital assets, such as the manuscripts which were photographed at the museum with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanties. Changing the license required permission from the National Endowment for the Humanities, who were "happy to see the data made more freely available"; a more open license invites a more broad audience. Work is ongoing to make similar license changes on the museum's other websites, such as the Digital Walters, which is a repository of manuscripts images for scholarly and technical use.


Image use in Wikipedia articles
  • March 2012: Walters images were used in a total of 27 Wikipedia articles in 12 languages. This was the month the image upload was completed.[1]
  • December 2012: After continued distribution in projects via crowdsourcing, Walters images are now used in 1,357 articles in over 40 languages.[1]
  • As of December 2012, over 2,130 image are used in Wikimedia projects. Do keep in mind that many images uploaded by the Walters are primary sources (books) or multiple images of one object.[2]
Views of pages using Walters images[3]
  • March 2012: Articles using Walters images (27 articles) were viewed 276,843 times in 12 languages.[1]
  • December 2012: Articles using Walters images (1,357) were viewed 10,016,938 times in over 40 languages.[4]
Traffic to the Walters website from Wikimedia and Wikipedia
  • January 2012: Before the upload, Wikimedia and Wikipedia websites (all languages) direct about 2,000 visits to the Walters' website, annually.
  • January 2013: After the upload, Wikimedia and Wikipedia websites (all languages) direct about 10,882 visits to the Walters' website, annually. This is an increase of about 544% in the amount of traffic from these sources.