Saturday, January 30, 2010

Library of Congress starts open source initiative

Considering how much of the historic media at Wikipedia comes from the Library of Congress, it may surprise you that the Wikimedia Foundation has no formal partnership with the Library of Congress. 

Yesterday Slashdot picked up on a Library of Congress initiative to do more of their work with open source software.  It would make a lot of sense if the Library of Congress interfaced directly with the world's most successful open source nonprofit: Wikimedia.  The Library of Congress has been absolutely wonderful about making its material available to the public at high resolution.  Today's post expresses appreciation for that openness in the hope that this valuable synergy will be appreciated and built upon.

Eight of the images that ran on the main page of the English Wikipedia this month came from the Library of Congress collection.  The image above is a landscape of Havana, Cuba painted in 1639 by Johannes Vingboons, which I restored.  Wikipedia's main page received 4.0 million page views while it ran at the Picture of the Day feature on January 1, 2010.  The image itself received 11,900 direct page views that day and a total of 13,382 direct views this month.  All of the page view statistics for Wikipedia's main page are confirmed here.
The Picture of the Day for January 6, 2010 was a seventeenth century chiaroscuro woodcut by Bartolommeo Coriolano, who was knighted by Pope Urban VII for his artistic work in engravings and woodcuts.  I did the restoration.  Wikipedia's main page received 5.1 million page views on January 6 and the image itself received 7937 direct page views this month.
This 1868 portrait of an Argentine gaucho was Picture of the Day on January 8.  Wikipedia's main page received 5.2 million page views that day and the image received 16,427 direct views this month.  This was another of my restorations.  We'll be seeing other volunteers' work too.
This 1890s photochrom print of the quays at Waterford, Ireland was restored by Jake Wartenberg.  It was Picture of the Day on January 14 when Wikipedia's main page received 5.3 million page views.  Jake's restoration has received 33,629 direct page views so far this month.  Good work, Jake!
The artist for this woodblock print of a women's bathhouse was Torii Kiyonaga, 1752-1815.  Wikipedian editor Torsodog performed the restoration.  It was Picture of the Day on January 18 when Wikipedia's main page received 5.6 million page views.  The image has received 39,158 direct page views this month.
On January 20 Wikipedia's main page ran this albumen print of Moroccan snake charmers, which was created during the latter half of the nineteenth century.  This was another of my restorations.  Wikipedia's main page received 5.3 million page views that day.  The image file has received 17,884 direct views this month.
On January 21 another one of Jake Wartenberg's restorations ran on Wikipedia's main page.  This is an 1856 lithograph of the hospital at Selimiye Barracks where Florence Nightingale worked during the Crimean War.  The main page had 5.3 million page views on January 21 and the image file received 21,840 direct views this month.
This theatrical advertisement from 1900 was restored by Adam Cuerden.  While it was Wikipedia's Picture of the Day for January 22, the site's main page received 5.3 million page views.  The image file hosting page has received 11,211 direct views this month.

Altogether that totals 41.1 million page views this month for Wikipedia's main page while media from the Library of Congress was running on it, and 161,468 direct page views for the eight Library of Congress images that were highlighted as Picture of the Day.  These numbers are typical for the attention the Library of Congress collection is receiving through Wikimedian volunteer efforts.

I'd like to coordinate directly with the Library of Congress management to utilize this synergy better.  And if the Library of Congress isn't interested I'll be happy to work more closely with institutions such as the Tropenmuseum that see the potential.


David Gerard said...

I've just suggested to some of the GLAM liaison people that they get onto this idea, and referred them to your post ... WMF and local chapters liaise with other national libraries, so it makes obvious sense.

Lise Broer said...

Thank you very much David. Also please spread the word that I have a standing offer to do one courtesy restoration for any cultural institution that negotiates with Wikimedian volunteers about a potential donation.

SJ said...

What a lovely post; and an excellent standing offer. I've been in contact with the Library about this within the past few months; they are definitely interested (and have some of their librarians working slowly on Wikipedia itself).

This is a good discussion to have on-wiki, perhaps on a new project page dedicated ot it.

Lise Broer said...

Thank you for the input, SJ. How would you envision an open discussion? Should it be on Wikipedia or Commons or Meta or the Strategy Wiki?

SJ said...

How about two places: we can start a discussion on Strategy about how this is an important, and post to WP:Libraries and WP:GLAM about where to develop these ideas on Wikipedia -- where they will most naturally link to the pages and images in question.

We need a GLAM wikiproject, so that might be the right place to carry this out once there is more than one institution involved; for now working in tandem with the librarians might be most comfortable.

Either way, we can invite LOC staff to create accounts and add themselves to a WikiProject to coordinate work and proposals.

Lise Broer said...

That sounds like a really good idea. I've been developing an integrated proposal and haven't quite figured out how to fit it into the strategy wiki. This post covers part of it.

Other elements to the integrated plan are:

*Duplicate the highly successful WMF Netherlands-Tropenmuseum meatspace exhibit by holding other fully partnered museum shows.

*Scale up digital restoration by partnering with art schools to integrate restoration into advanced digital editing classes. Select the best student work for exhibit in museums.

*Assist digitization for GLAMs in the developing world by putting together a mobile team of people to do high quality rephotography at cooperative institutions that lack the funding and staff to digitize their own material.

The last of these proposals would require funding (equipment, travel) and could form part of a joint strategy to foster growth in smaller language Wikipedias.

SJ said...

The last point is important - Google's claim on global digital collections was only possible because libraries find this sort of work and technology daunting.

The Internet Archive has started a bit of the 3d-world scanning assistance in Guatemala, where they have one of their scancenters... so they know how to make and ship cheap easy to use scanners.

Lise Broer said...

Agreed. Right now there isn't any uniform standard within the museum world for digitizing images. So at one extreme there's the beautiful Library of Congress material, at the other small thumbnails of just a few dozen kilobytes.

What we're finding when institutions work with us is that we need to educate them on digitization standards and image management. So it's important to get a seat at the table and ensure that media becomes available at a high standard that won't be obsolete in a couple of years.

Seth Finkelstein said...

Could you expand on what you meant by "It would make a lot of sense if the Library of Congress interfaced directly with the world's most successful open source nonprofit: Wikimedia."? Did you mean something technical versus some sort of partnership? A staff person - doing what?

I hate to be a wet-blanket on such good intentions, but anything involving money or time devoted from paid staff is going to draw concerns of favoritism (it's probably legal, but look at the mess with "nofollow"-exemptions and hyperlinks from Wikipedia to Wikia).

Perhaps you could work it from the other side, and see if there's some sort of volunteer position you could apply for, or be appointed to, at the Library of Congress.

Lise Broer said...

Sure, Seth. As you may be aware, the Tropenmuseum of Amsterdam recently held a partnered exhibit with WMF Netherlands about the cultural history of Suriname. The exhibit made national news in The Netherlands and received a visit from President Ronald Venetiaan of Suriname.

One of the fruits of that partnership was that Wikimedia Commons received 40,000 digital images from the Tropenmuseum's collection with selected high resolution highlights for digital restoration.

There are several reasons to develop partnerships between WMF and cultural institutions. Duplicating the Tropenmuseum success is one of them.

Legal issues haven't presented any barrier yet to these negotiations.

These institutions have a mission to share information with the public. Partnership is a very effective means of reaching the public.