Wikimedia Finland had the chance to work with the main contemporary art museum in Helsinki, Kiasma. They were interested in having an edit-a-thon on the subject of contemporary art in Finland. The staff there are consummate experts in their respective fields but most of them were new to Wikipedia. We decided to be ambitious and set the participant limit at fifty, with an emphasis on completely new users. The staff would help with the research library and most participants had a strong background in art history or theory of art. Chapter members were present to help with markup troubles, find good templates and other practical things. The whole event ran for 24 hours straight, punctuated by lectures and discussions. We also had a guided tour by night and an introduction to the research library. More on this event on our blog.
The event was ambitious but everything went like clockwork. Early planning and the work of industrious producer Maria Rantamaula ensured that participants had everything they needed and more. We had discussed that participants should be rewarded somehow for taking on a challenge like writing all night for a critical audience. We found that the private night tour and the discussions with artists sparked quite a lot of interest. The best discovery for me was realizing the amount of internal motivation everyone had. There was just enough ambition and pride to take on challenging subjects and enough humility to take feedback on the resulting texts. Even though most participants came in as rookies, the level of their work was surprisingly high.
The Finnish National Gallery organized an event at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki. This time around, the theme was The Right for Collections!, a hot topic in Finland. Open knowledge is seen as a worthwhile goal, but heritage institutions struggle with issues of copyright, lack of special expertise and insufficient staff. I was asked to give a short speech on the sort of things our Chapter promotes. I chose to title it "The World of Wikis", since many of our members are involved in non-Wikimedia projects as well.
There were good presentations on example cases of museums opening up their collections for use around the world. The response from museum professionals was enthusiastic, but the old problems seem to hinder development. I chose to discuss this issue as my main point: finding ways to release images of artworks is hardly the only way for a museum to participate in the culture of open knowledge. I see the efforts of Kiasma at the edit-a-thon to be exemplary, yet they participated without the benefit of a single free image of a digitized work of art. The net effect was probably better than what would result from simply opening up a portion of their collections. While open data will generally take root on its own, the same isn't necessarily true for digitized art. If simply dumped online without any cooperation with the open knowledge community, the files risk being orphaned and left to languish on a server somewhere. As opposed to lobbying for open collections, I see projects like edit-a-thons as immediately useful. We can wait for the ten years or so that it takes for copyright reform to pass or we can do something with what we have right now. This has the added benefit for creating practical demand for openly licensed art images in the future.
Good point. In my opinion, at the end of the day what matters is if the institution is truly convinced and happy about free licenses and open content, i.e. if we gained an ally and expanded the healthy environment which Wikimedia projects cultivate and flourish on. It can be a release of many works, or some authentic getting hands dirty and sleeping on the floor! --Nemo 08:47, 11 March 2013 (UTC)