- Posting of copyrighted material is a violation of Wikipedia's policies; that material must be removed at immediately after being detected. In particular, text already published on your institution's website may be copyrighted there; if so, it can't be posted verbatim. Text can usually be rewritten and summarized so as to not violate copyright (remember that Wikipedia is an encylopedia, which aims to produce overview articles, not to capture every bit of human knowledge.)
- Key question: "Is the material that I am contributing copyrighted?"
- Example of a problem: Posting text and images from your institution's website and publications. Such materials are generally copyrighted (an exception is the U.S. Government). A copyright release must be provided by someone at your institution with the proper authority.
- Key policies: Copyright violations and Contributors' rights and obligations.
- Ignore all rules when needed – If you find that a rule prevents you from making a better encyclopedia, ignore it. This strategy should only be used rarely, if at all. However it is a fundamental principle that Wikipedia is not like a traditional publication and, in order to accommodate exceptions, Wikipedia's practices are just as fluid as its content. In the end, the proof of the quality of a contribution is the contribution itself, although you should be prepared to fully explain why your changes are helpful, and why it was necessary to ignore all rules.
- Key question: "If I follow rule x, will the encyclopedia be worse off and will other neutral editors agree with me?"
- Common problem: Making an edit that you know is against policy and against established consensus, but using "ignore all rules" to justify it anyway. Other editors should assume good faith but edits performed under "ignore all rules" need to clearly help Wikipedia. When in doubt, discuss the change first.
- Key policy: Ignore all rules
- Can I add a link to our special exhibition on an artist or subject, or mention it in the text?
- Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a news site. Material posted temporarily on your site should never be linked. Permanent material can be linked in limited cases if it complies with our guideline, however you should not promote your exhibition and adding a link to a current event is frequently seen as being promotional. How much information useful to a reader who will not visit the exhibition does your website contain? If you have as much information as the Metropolitan Museum of Art often does—several pages of material and PDF attachments—then that will probably be fine. If you just have a couple of pages that are mostly visitor information, it probably won't be. A good test of whether current event material is encyclopedic is if it will remain relevant to readers long after the event is over. Normally the page to link from will be the article most relevant to the subject, for example the biography of an artist for a retrospective exhibition.
- To which articles can I add external links to my institution?
- Your purpose in editing Wikipedia should not be to promote your institution's website. Links are appropriate in certain cases as explained in our guideline. Generally, links should only be added to actual online information on the article subject, not to pages saying you have information but not showing it – for example, library or archives catalogues, or a page saying what a fine collection you have, without much illustration of it or discussion of the topic. A link to your home page should be the first "External link" in the article on your institution. Other links depend on how much detailed information useful to a non-visitor your website contains. If your website has extensive material on particular topics, direct links to the material may be appropriate in related articles. In articles on specific objects in your collection, a link to a specific page should be used. There can be a limited tolerance for large numbers of items in the "External links" section of any article, even if all are relevant. On many articles they are kept at a maximum of perhaps four or five. If your link is removed but you feel it is more relevant or informative than others kept in place, raise the matter on the talk page. If a specific object in your collection is mentioned in the article, especially if there is no image on Commons and your site has good information on it, it may be appropriate to add a link to the object's page as a reference, but do not add mentions of your objects in the text yourself, unless they are clearly appropriate.
- To which articles can I add Wikipedia internal links to the article on my institution?
- Most institutions should add such a link to the article on their city, or sometimes to a list article of museums in a large city. There may be other lists of museums by country or state, or by subject: see Ceramics museum, for example. You might also add an external link to your museum as a reference. If your collection is really a global leader on a particular subject, a brief mention with a link may be appropriate in one or more articles on the subject – for example if you are a museum on a single person, a paragraph is probably justified at their biography. The same principle applies to libraries with the personal archives of an individual. In articles on specific objects in your collection, a link should be added. In any article mentioning your institution the first mention should be linked, following the usual Wikipedia policies.
- What about categories?
- Categories are a sometimes neglected way of linking articles on your institution. If there are at least four articles on objects from your collection, no one will object if you establish a category to be a member of w:Category:Museum collections or w:Category:Manuscripts by collection etc, or add appropriate articles to an existing category (but not objects loaned for exhibitions etc). Generally only very large and internationally known institutions should also establish a category in w:Category:Categories named after museums – currently only 20 museums worldwide have these. There are a handful of similar categories in w:Category:National libraries.
- More on external links to cultural sector institutions: a personal essay by a very experienced editor
- Can I add links to digital objects curated by my institution from relevant pages?
- Web materials not covered by a preservation policy should not be linked to. Permanent materials that your institution is committed to preserving on the web at a given URL may be linkable to a single appropriate article if they are unique and significant. This uniqueness may be that your institution has the largest collection of information on this subject/item/creator; that you have negotiated a liberal licence for redistribution with the creator; or that these are digital surrogates of your globally unique holdings (novel manuscripts, archival content, etc etc). Significance is related to notability; all wikipedia articles should ideally be illustrated with, and linked to, a small number of relevant examples. It is preferable to upload them to wikimedia and embed them in the page, where this is not possible they may be linked to. Where there are many potential examples that could be linked to, it is preferable to link to collections of examples. All material must comply with guideline.
For further reading on Links, see:
- external links guideline
- 'Links to avoid'
- 'Wikipedia is not a mirror or a repository of links, images, or media files' policy
- FAQ section on "Links"
- Who should edit from my institution?
- This page is focused on curators and their assistants for a good reason. Such people are more likely to be neutral and to focus on the cultural works themselves rather than on the institution that houses them. It is almost never a good idea to have someone from the business or marketing departments edit, with the only exception being to provide releases for copyrighted material. Note that a curator's assistant can include a volunteer or intern working under the supervision of an established curator. However, you should not assign an intern to find the best Wikipedia article in which to place a link to many items in your collection because that would clearly be promotional. Editors must be willing and able to build the encyclopedia first and foremost.
- I'm the expert on this topic, why can't you stop other people from changing what I've written?
- There are many reasons. In addition, keep in mind that Wikipedia is written for its readers, not for other experts. A contribution can be completely correct and yet not be understandable to the average reader, or the contribution may conflict with Wikipedia guidelines. An experienced editor may have little knowledge of the topic, yet be able to identify a problem with the style used in an article; ideally, the subject expert and the experienced editor would collaborate to develop the article. However, if no convincing reason was provided in the edit summary that changed your contribution, simply change it back, while providing a detailed edit summary explaining why your change is desirable. In your edit summary, it is helpful to mention a specific error in the text that you are correcting, but it is not helpful to comment on the other editor. You can and should remove unsourced claims and patent nonsense inserted by others, however it is essential that you do not enter an edit war: if your changes are removed twice in one day, seek assistance by raising the issue on the talk page.
- If my work gets changed for the worse, how do I stop people saying that I wrote something that I no longer agree with?
- Articles are not attributed to any single editor; instead, the full history of all article changes (in the "history" tab) shows who did what. In addition, it is possible to list only your user contributions to make it simple for anyone to see exactly what you wrote.
- My work got removed and someone wrote an unfriendly message saying I'm a vandal/spammer. Why?
- Either you misunderstood something on this page or you have run into a user not familiar with the unique characteristics of a culture sector professional. Wikipedia policies evolve over time and many people aren't up-to-date on the latest changes. Another possibility is that the other user has been down in the trenches fighting serious vandals and you were caught up in what looked like a similar pattern of behavior. So long as your first task on Wikipedia isn't to add 100 links to your website with no other content, you should be fine. We are trying to make the standard warnings more friendly, but this has not yet been completed.
- Wikipedia's article about my institution, general-manager, government department isn't very good. Why can't I improve it just like I would improve the article about my area of expertise?
- Because you have a vested interest in the article and are unlikely to maintain a neutral point of view. You may make comments on the article's discussion page to alert other editors and let them make the improvements if they agree. It is in your best interest to not give anyone a reason to question your motivations for editing. The same advice is given to people who have articles about themselves and even Wikipedia's founder as been asked to not edit his own article.
- If someone takes a section of my work here and includes it in their own commercial book, do I get a royalty or a credit? Do they ask my permission first?
- They do not need to ask permission or pay a royalty, but they are required to credit contributors. Beware that there are many websites that illegally copy Wikipedia content without attribution. This is no different than a website illegally copying material directly from your site. However, Wikipedia material is frequently targeted due to the site's popularity.
- My boss wants me to edit Wikipedia but only if my editing-pseudonym (username) is the name of my institution. Why can't I do this?
- Usernames that are the name of a company or group create the appearance of intent to promote that group. We understand that organisations wish to present a consistent public-facing brand but Wikipedians are individuals, not corporations.
- How do I get a template to reference material from my institution?
- It would be best to first post on the discussion page to determine if a template is warranted. There is resistance to creating templates unique to a single organisation. The Louvre has one, but this is focused on its buildings and history, and excludes individual objects. The best justification would be an abundance of good and legitimate articles about specific items in your institution's collection.
- How can I promote my organisation in Wikipedia?
- You may not promote your organisation in the sense of w:marketing; do not advertise upcoming exhibitions or link heavily to your website's collection. However, you are encouraged to improve articles relevant to your institution, and that may increase awareness of your institution. You may also wish to contact your local chapter (see "contact" at the bottom of this page) to arrange an event or partnership with them.
- What if the description or metadata of a work in an existing article is incorrect?
- You may, of course, edit the information to improve the description. If this is the metadata for a multimedia item, click through until you find the page on Wikimedia Commons where it is stored and fix the metadata there. Alternatively you could Contact someone at Commons to help you improve it. You can also leave a message at the discussion page where you saw the mistake.
- Wikipedia contains pictures from my institution's website, why won't you delete them when we asked?
- If the images or other multimedia items are out of copyright ("in the Public Domain" or PD) then they are legally allowed to be copied and redistributed by anyone even if it is the policy of your institution for people to ask permission before use. We understand that this may be confronting; we do not mean to cause offense. Many institutions do not allow photography of their works by the public and this is legally permissible because those works are the institution's physical property. However, this right does not extend to copies of public domain works as there is not right over copies – no "copy-rights". Attempting to claim rights over copies when copyright has expired is called copyfraud. Therefore, if there is a copy of a photo from your institution's collection that is in the public domain on Wikipedia then we are under no obligation to delete it. If the original object is still in copyright then please contact us and we will delete it immediately. See copyright violations for details. Wikipedia also applies the decision of the US court in Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., by which photographs of two-dimensional objects which are themselves out of copyright cannot be copyrighted under US law, though under most other legal systems they can be. This is the core of the issue with the National Portrait Gallery in London. See Non-free content, Public domain and Image copyright tags
- Wikipedia contains pictures from my institution that are poorly cited/references/attributed, can I fix them?
- Yes, please do, initially in the picture file (click on the picture, and if there is a link to Commons, follow that for the main file).
- Why does Wikipedia have some images that are definitely still in copyright?
- All media files require a copyright status statement. In some cases, low-resolution images may be used without permission under the "fair use" copyright exception in United States law. This is applicable because Wikipedia is hosted in the US. This means that, when no freely available alternative exists, Wikipedia may include a low-resolution version in extremely limited circumstances. To claim this exemption the image must be uploaded directly to Wikipedia rather than Wikimedia Commons. There may also be a question of "freedom of panorama", covering photographs taken in public spaces (variously defined), where the relevant law is that of the jurisdiction where the photograph was taken.
- If I release material under a license applicable to Wikipedia does that mean that my institution can no longer sell that material?
- You may continue to sell products with material that you have released. However, once it is released, others may incorporate it into their own commercial products as well. Releasing content to be used on Wikipedia does not hinder your ability to use it in whichever way you choose. What it does is allow other people to use it too.
Glossary of commonly misunderstood Wikipedia terms
(Commonly misunderstood to be synonymous with "significance")
In Wikipedian usage the word "notable" is a term of art meaning that the subject at hand warrants an article in its own right. So, if something is "non-notable" then it should not have its own article and could perhaps be included as a sub-section of a higher-order article.
We do not currently have specific Notability criteria for articles about museum artifacts and related objects. These might be developed in the future if you would find them useful. Nevertheless, our more general rule states that:
(See also the FAQ section on "article subjects" (above) for specific guidance on what articles are and are not likely to be acceptable.)
Notability in Wikipedia is more akin to the term "provenance" in fine art studies. Proving provenance is ensuring that an object has a pedigree of owners that can be traced with strong source material and is an integral part of valuation. Proving notability is ensuring that a subject has independent and reliable sources and is an integral part of justifying inclusion into the encyclopedia. In a fine art auction an item without provenance may be judged to have no value, whilst in Wikipedia an article without claims to notability may possibly be speedily deleted for not indicating why its subject is important.
"Notability" should not be confused with the term "significance" as it is used in the cultural sector. The "statement of significance" of an item in a museum (etc.) expresses the inherent value of the item and is information which would be perfect to be included in an encyclopedic article. However, whilst there could be a "statement of significance" for every item in a collection this does not mean that Wikipedia should have an article about each item. For example, this segment of the original trans-atlantic submarine telegraph cable has a statement of significance written by the museum that houses it. However, because there is not significant coverage from reliable sources about this individual object it is not, in itself, notable. On the other hand, the Transatlantic telegraph cable is, and we have an article about it.
The criteria for notability differ between language editions of Wikipedia. For example in the English edition we have a standalone article about the cartoon character Bart Simpson however in the German edition he is a sub-section of the article "Simpson Family".
(Commonly misunderstood to mean enforced simplicity of description)
In Wikipedian usage the word neutral is shorthand for "neutral point of view" or "NPOV". The neutral point of view neither sympathises with nor disparages its subject, nor does it endorse or oppose specific viewpoints. It is not a lack of viewpoint, but is rather a specific, editorially neutral, point of view. In the cultural sector much effort has been taken in the last few decades to make item descriptions engaging and to embrace the controversies that an item might have surrounding it. This is in contradistinction to past practice of writing simple, uncontroversial (even bland) item descriptions. By insisting on "neutrality" Wikipedia is not asking for a return to simple descriptions or an avoidance of controversial topics. For example, Wikipedia's article on evolution includes a well referenced section on social and cultural responses which discusses "creationism". Elgin Marbles is a highly controversial museum topic, as can be seen by perusing the article, its editing history and talk page archives. If the ownership or display of an object has caused a controversy that has generated significant coverage, the controversy should be covered in an objective way. See Getty kouros for another example.
So long as the controversies and more "colourful" sections of a subject meet the criteria for verifiability then please feel free to include them in the article – but in a neutral tone.
w:WP:PEACOCK is a style guideline that deprecates unreferenced "peacock terms": unreferenced superlatives in a description ("highly important", "most beautiful", "unique" – what authority made the assessment?). Attitudes as to what constitute "peacock terms" vary considerably among editors, as will their readiness to accept the owning institution as a reference on this. A sensible quotation from a reliable source independent of the institution should not be challenged – but for example a newspaper journalist may not be considered a reliable source in this context, where an art historian should be.
(Commonly misunderstood to mean subjects Wikipedians think are the most important)
In Wikipedia there is a system of quality assessment that goes from "stub" all the way up to "featured article". All articles that appear on the Main Page of Wikipedia are featured articles and they can be recognised by the small bronze star () at the top right corner of an article. To achieve this status an article must meet strict criteria and are rigorously peer reviewed. All articles in Wikipedia have the potential to become featured articles, and the subject matter can range "from the sublime to the ridiculous".
A similar kind of purpose of writing in the cultural sector is the catalogue raisonné (an exhaustive list of works of a particular type) even though it is a different style of writing. Just as such a catalogue is considered to be the pinnacle of analysis of the subject matter by virtue of its completeness so to a featured article is considered to be the pinnacle of description of any particular subject. Featured articles often have sub (or "child") articles that expand on particular sections within them but are considered to be a complete and exhaustive study of the subject at hand. Similarly, the featured list is an exhaustive list of a particular topic. When the complete set of a series of articles or lists in an identifiable group are all at the "featured" level then this becomes a featured topic. For example, Wikipedia's articles about Jupiter and all of its moons are considered collectively to be a featured topic.
Wikipedia has lots of policies and guidelines. That's not surprising, given how broad our scope is, but we understand how hard it is to get started.
Please be aware that far and away the main concern raised by Wikipedians in creating this advice page was a fear of spam – that is, the repeated insertion of large numbers of links to your institution's website. Please do not, as has been suggested, "go crazy". Try to contribute to Wikipedia first by improving articles rather than starting by adding lots of links.
As you can imagine, people constantly try to use Wikipedia to promote their organisation. Removing such advertising takes a lot of time, especially when people try to "game the system" by doing what is called Wikilawyering. However, we recognise that cultural institutions are qualitatively different because of similar goals: the preservation and publication of knowledge. That's why specific policy exceptions have been put in place to encourage you to edit articles relevant to your institution.
Here's a quick way to see whether you've gotten a good sense of what content Wikipedia wants: After a half-dozen or so edits, and a day or two, review the articles you've edited. See whether other users have changed what you did, or responded to your edits by posting on the article talk/discussion page.
Wikipedia strongly prefers content which is supported by one or more relevant references (citations). Where your institution has publications (whether these are online or not) which supports text in articles, you can definitely help by adding references (footnotes) for existing content and for any new content you add. Ideally, you should add references to the most authoritative sources, whether they are published by your organisation or by others. References are not considered spam unless they are marginally related (or not related at all) to the text that they are supposed to support.
Wikipedia has a number of different citation systems. You do not need to understand these to add a reference. To start you can just add the reference in brackets and leave it to some Wikignome to put it in the correct style. Or you can copy an existing footnote/reference and just modify it. Later, when you know our system better, you can help by improving the other footnotes/references in articles, ones that you didn't add. .
If you have material which provides additional information which cannot be included in the article then the addition of a link under the Further reading or External links sections should be considered. We aim to include only the most useful links on the entire web under these headings and your expertise should be very useful in finding these. Please do not just add links to your own institution unless you think other librarians, curators etc. would agree that your link meets this standard. Feel free to delete existing links which you feel do not meet this standard (though it is considered polite to add a note explaining why on the Discussion page for that article, if you do delete something that others might see as valuable (see the tab at the top of each article for the link to it's discussion page).
You might also be particularly interested in the WikiProject Visual arts Art Manual of Style.
- FAQ for Librarians on Wikimedia Outreach
- Cultural Collaborations Project on Wikimedia Outreach, including a monthly newsletter