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Proposal:Reassess the Bundesarchiv deal

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  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation


Or : Proposal: Stop praising the Bundesarchiv deal in an uncritical fashion.

People in Wikimedia circles speak the language of unconditional love concerning the German Federal Archive. This is childish.

The Federal archive is not a loving mother who loves you. It is a scientific-political government body seeking its own interest. It is their right to do so. But it is not forbidden that the Wikimedia projects seek also their own interest, things that fit their mission. So what you must find out is the areas where their interest and the Wikimedia project's interest overlap.

Within the next 5 years, Wikimedia will have other opportunities to sign agreements with Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs). These don't necessarily need to be a copy-paste of the Bundesarchiv deal. Please explore other ideas, other directions too.


Work in progress

quality and quantity

Stop praising quantity

The point of view that quantity is a quality is not wrong, but, quantity is not the ultimate goal. The contents must be useful. There is no point in uploading thousands of files if nobody can find a way to use them.[1]

Emphasize quality

Promote a quality insurance type of behaviour. Launch an investigation on what went wrong. Find out the extent of the problem (how many "products" are dysfunctional). Remove all dysfunctional products from the store. Then define new procedures ensuring that things will be done right in the future. The Bundesarchiv must do this when a Wikimedia volunteer finds something wrong in the description of one file. So that reporting a small problem does not contribute to hiding the larger problem hidden behind the small one.

Ask the Bundesarchiv to provide verifiable copyright information. Follow what Melanie Schlosser suggests in her paper Unless Otherwise Indicated: A Survey of Copyright Statements on Digital Library Collections[2]. See also my other Proposal:Keep the contents legal.


Entrust the leadership of the project to scientists (geographers, historians...)

The Wikimedia-Bundesarchiv project seems to have been led by computer engineers and software developpers (if not by soulless robots following a purely mechanical roadmap, without thinking about what they are doing). I think the leaders should be scientists : historians, geographers, philosophers, political scientists. For the celebration of the year 2000, the French government organized a large series of conferences on a wide range of scientific topics, in an encyclopedic fashion, for the general public. The project leader was a philosopher. I think it was a good idea to appoint a philosopher for that task. (see fr:Université de tous les savoirs)

If you think that leadership is too much to give scientists, give them at least an opportunity to have their say. That would mean at least have an advisory body composed of scientists, with the duty to give their opinon on the contents from a scientifical point of view.

see below #Roadmap for the scientists

Internationalize the leadership

World war II is a world war. So the files concern all countries. The project leadership should not be composed only of German members. German members can be a core group, but non German people should have an opportunity to have their say.

Don't take volunteers for granted

I think some serious thinking and debate must take place on the question of whether it is right or wrong to use volunteer workforce to sort small size files with the ultimate goal that the Bundesarchiv can sell more of its high definition pictures and spend the earned money on non-Wikimedia projects related expenditures.

Be more sensitive when you ask volunteers to spend time dealing with photographs reminding the ugliest pages of history. Use your en:Emotional intelligence as much as your IQ.

Remain commited to liberating the contents

  • The Bundesarchiv deal is an evangelization failure

Wikimedia has failed from spreading the Good Word about free licenses and public domain. More than 6 months after the agreement has been signed, you don't see any mention of free licenses or public domain on the Bundesarchiv's website (most likely because the agreement doesn't contain a single word about this).

Roadmap for the scientists

  • say what is scientifically relevant
  • say what part of the contents while being scientifically relevant, belongs to unpublished original research
    • Although propaganda material published as propaganda by propagandists 70 years ago belongs to published contents, as long no historian has published that propaganda material with the historical scholarship that makes it relevant for historical sciences, IT REMAINS an UNPUBLISHED ORIGINAL RESEARCH, never approved in a peer-reviewed fashion in a peer-reviewed journal.
    • Say which part of the material fits the Wikimedia-wide policy concerning unpublished original research, which means that we need one : see below #Wikimedia-wide roadmap
  • Provide information on how geographers (& environment scientists ?) can use the strange commons:Category:Rheinbefliegung 1953 series consisting of aerial pictures of the Rhine valley. Aren't the pictures too small to create maps ? Aren't the pictures too old to be useful today (new roads, new houses must have been built since, and even the river banks might have changed locations) ? What was the purpose of that 1953 project ? Who did that ? Scientists ? Was-it for the army ?
  • Help define more clever quantity/picture-size deals with the Bundesarchiv. For example, instead of having 100 small resolution pictures on a given topic, it is perhaps more useful to have only 10, but in high definition.
    • Too small pictures can be a source of scientific mistakes. If you can't see all the details on the picture, you may misinterpret it. For example, on de:Friedrich Grimm (Jurist), File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-L13979, Frankreich, Ankleben_von Aufrufen_durch_PK.jpg is being used with a caption saying it is about "gute Behandlung von Kriegsgefangenen", but if you read the French text, you can see that there is no claim that the prisonners are being well treated. If the picture had been bigger, it would have been easier to read the text and understand it. (I can read it because I am a French native speaker, but the characters are so small that you must guess half of the words rather than read them)
  • Find out which countries are concerned. In function of the findings, you might want to adjust the composition of the leading team : #Internationalize the leadership. In function of the findings, say into which target languages the final accurate non-biased descriptions should be translated[3]

Wikimedia-wide roadmap

  • Define a Wikimedia-wide policy concerning original research.

Wikisource and Wikipedia have a policy concerning original research. Commons doesn't really have one. At this point we must say if publishing on Commons the original research refused by Wikipedia and Wikisource is allowed or not.

Unearthing unpublished archives is publishing unpublished material.

Wikisource guidelines :

Works created by Wikisource users or otherwise not published in a verifiable, usually peer-reviewed forum do not belong at Wikisource : s:en:Wikisource:What Wikisource includes#Original contributions. So it quite clear you can't unearth unpublished texts from archives and publish them on Wikisource.

Should it be different for photographs ?

Should it be different for interpretative text surrounding and describing the photographs ?

Wikipedia guidelines:

Wikipedia does not publish original research or original thought. [...]
All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors. [...]
Primary sources that have been reliably published (for example, by a university press or mainstream newspaper) may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care[...]
Jimmy Wales has said of synthesized historical theories: "Some who completely understand why Wikipedia ought not create novel theories of physics by citing the results of experiments and so on and synthesizing them into something new, may fail to see how the same thing applies to history." (Wales, Jimmy. "Original research", December 6, 2004
en:Wikipedia:No original research

Are we sure it is different on commons ?

Can we equate pictures published in Nazi newspapers 70 years ago with "reliably published (for example [...] mainstream newspaper) ?

Address similar problems when negociating with other picture archiving institutions / GLAMs

National Library of Norway

The National Library of Norway proposes :

several thousand photos taken by a German soldier during WW2 in Norway, and this is about the only thing they know about the images. [4]

Does this amount to publishing unpublished original research ? If the soldier had written a text about his experience, would it be OK to publish this text on Wikisource ? If it is not OK to publish the text on Wikisource, is it OK to publish the pictures on Commons ?

On the other hand, why say "no" to the National Library of Norway if the answer to the Bundesarchiv concerning more or less similar pictures taken by German soldiers has been "yes" ?

Tropenmuseum Amsterdam
Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam [is] about making their material available on Commons. The Tropenmuseum has an important collection on the colonial past of the Netherlands and contains a rich collection on Suriname and Indonesia.[5]

Wouldn't it be wise to add a historian in the team ? Possibly a historian knowledgeable in the history of the Dutch colonization in the XIXth and XXth centuries. Isn't there a Neutral Point of View problem to solve ? Is it not a problem if the colonizer's point of view is more emphasized than the colonized's point of view ? The ideal person to help for this task would be at the same time a historian and an Indonesian citizen (#Internationalize the leadership)


  1. See also the problem of the mass upload of biochemistry pictures on Commons
  2. College and Research Libraries", v.70(4), p. 371-385 (July 2009)
  3. See GerardM's proposal to translate the Tropenmuseum's descriptions into Indonesian
  4. Source : John at Darkstar's mail, July 2009, on foundation list
  5. Gerard Meijssen's mail, July 2009, on foundation list

Link to other relevant proposals, documents, etc.

If we grow an activity of picture-describing original research, all the proposals in Category:Proposals for improving content quality related to peer-review must be more or less relevant. In particular that one about a "layer". The partitioning between the old biased Bundesarchiv layer and a new peer-reviewed layer is what is needed.

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