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From Strategic Planning

Draft in progress

If not English, in what language is this proposal submitted?:


A coordinated set of actions to accomplish the following goals:

  • Increase WMF access to digitized media.
  • Motivate institutions to digitize at high standards and share their collections online.
  • Improve relations with cultural institutions through partnered content/exhibit drives.
  • Scale up restorations of high quality media files via partnerships with art schools.
  • Counter systemic bias through targeted programs to improve digitization for cultural institutions in the developing world.
  • Leverage media improvements to spark growth and interest in WMF sites, particularly for underserved populations.


This proposal has several separate yet integrated facets. First, a short background. As of this writing I have contributed 271 featured pictures and 22 featured sounds to the English Wikipedia. That constitutes one-eighth of en:wiki's total featured pictures and one-sixth of its total featured sounds. This translates into a significant presence among featured media programs at other wikis; for example 79 featured credits at Wikimedia Commons, 89 featured credits at the Turkish Wikipedia, and one-quarter of the total featured pictures at the Irish Wikipedia. Most of these are digital restorations of historic images.

This work has had an impact outside the WMF umbrella. Earlier this year a digital restoration of the Wounded Knee Massacre aftermath discovered several human remains that the Library of Congress staff had misidentified as "scattered debris of camp". It became a minor news story when the LoC research librarians acknowledged the find and updated their records. Since that time the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts has incorporated the discovery into its official program notes for a historic photography exhibit. More importantly, along with Open Progress and WMF Netherlands I have begun working closely with staff from the Tropenmuseum of Amsterdam toward partnered media restoration work. President Ronald Venetiaan of Suriname visited the first partnered Tropenmuseum exhibit about the cultural history of Suriname. Since then our partnership focus has expanded to include Indonesia; futher negotiations are underway with Tropenmuseum and other institutions. Tropenmuseum has donated tens of thousands of images to WMF Commons as a result of the partnership; Spaarnestad Museum of Haarlem has made a similar commitment.

This proposal would build and expand upon those synergies.

Turkish model and Irish pilot program

Media is highly portable; this restored portrait of Oscar Wilde is featured on five WMF sites and is used on 177 pages on 20 projects.[1]

Worldwide, two things happen when people see high quality media about their own culture:

  • They're delighted.
  • They want to share information.

One of WMF's underappreciated success stories is the featured picture program at the Turkish Wikipedia. As of this writing that project has 1,055 featured pictures,[2] which dwarfs the German Wikipedia's featured picture program and its 751 featured pictures.[3] The Turkish Wikipedia has developed a featured picture program that is third largest among all WMF sites after Commons and English Wikipedia,[4][5] although in terms of total articles Turkish is a medium sized Wikipedia.[6] Roughly one percent of the articles at the Turkish Wikipedia are illustrated with featured pictures; this is by far the highest ratio of featured media to total articles of any Wikipedia edition.

The Turkish Wikipedia grew its featured picture project through a method that any Wikipedia with half a dozen dedicated volunteers could emulate: a few multilingual editors scout the featured picture programs of sister sites, translate image captions into Turkish, and promote them to featured status on their own project. When necessary they start new articles to house the pictures. Periodically I do restorations about Turkish history and culture in appreciation for their efforts. Due to differences featured content between other WMF sites the Turkish strategy could acquire three or four thousand featured pictures for their Wikipedia; I hope they branch out and solicit more material from institutions in their country.

I have suggested a pilot program to the administrators of the Irish language Wikipedia to develop a media content drive on the Turkish model. Our hope is that an influx of high quality media will increase article growth and volunteer participation. Michael Peel of WMF UK has offered to solicit material of interest to Irish Wikipedians from British cultural institutions, and I have offered to perform additional Irish-related restorations to foster the drive. Am interested in initiating similar pilot programs at other languages; if these are successful the model could be replicated more widely.

Cultural institution partnerships

Currently three models exist for WMF interaction with museums and libraries:

  1. Pure acquisition.
  2. Cooperative acquisition.
  3. Partnership.

The pure acquisition model focuses on importation and use of available public domain material without regard to the wishes of the source institution. The cooperative acquisition model focuses on persuading institutions to make large donations of low to medium resolution material, but goes no farther. Both approaches have advocates and detractors, but neither is partnership. Partnership develops a bilateral relationship with museum staff that builds a sustainable synergy.

A successful partnership, such as exists with the Tropenmuseum, generates large donations of media content for Commons. Yet partnership goes beyond that in several ways:

  • A large portion of the media collections at many institutions have never been digitized, or never digitized at high resolution. Partnership motivates institutions to make more of their collection available to the public.
  • Partnership provides a mutually beneficial feedback loop. Curators understand the highlights of their collections and can provide additional background information on items upon request. Likewise, even the best institutions will have underdocumented material within their collections; they welcome sourced informational additions and corrections from volunteers.
  • Partnered exhibitions within a cultural institution's physical or online space become a motivating focus for Wikipedian article development.
  • High quality media donations increase public awarenesss and interest in the donating institution and its mission.

Full partnerships generate other benefits. The Tropenmuseum-WMF Netherlands partnership resulted in nationwide news in the Netherlands and a head of state visit to the museum. In the long run, full partnerships are the best of the three models for to media acquisition and content development.

Art school partnerships

Digital media restoration is a non-damaging way to make historic material more accessible to the public. One of the advantages WMF volunteers currently bring to the table in negotiations with curators and librarians is that our best digital restorations are not only performed by volunteers, but performed to a high standard of quality. The most scalable method for increasing this output is via partnership with art schools.

Instructors like to provide assignments with real world significance; students like to graduate with useful portfolios. Our goal is to incorporate restoration into advanced courses in digital editing software, via dual partnership programs where the best student work gets selected for exhibition in museums. This develops synergies on all sides; the mutual benefits are obvious. And if WMF had 100 volunteers each doing two restorations a week, we could gain 10,000 featured pictures in one year.

Cultural Safari

Additional challenges exist where cultural institutions lack the equipment and expertise to digitize their collections. This affects underfunded institutions in all countries and is particular concern in the developing world, where the long term risk exists of underrepresentation, or of indirect representation through material from former colonial powers in the first world.


Key Questions

Potential Costs


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Durova.