Cultural partnerships/Content partnerships

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Cultural partnerships

Content partnershipsDigital image restorationsJoint events

A number of cultural institutes have made digital images of works in their collections, or textual information about these works, available on Wikimedia websites. This page outlines some of the past partnerships, and some of the benefits (and also the drawbacks) of such partnerships for the owners of the works.

A wide range of institutions have also made their works freely available on the internet in the public domain, or by a Creative Commons license. This means that the works can be freely reused by all, including Wikimedia projects.


The benefits of making your works freely available include:

  • They become much more widely available and visible from computers in every country around the world
  • Visibility to people who ordinarily couldn't or wouldn't visit a museum or its website
  • Wikimedia volunteers put effort in categorization, checking and translation of descriptions, and linking the works to suitable context (e.g. Wikipedia articles)
  • Increased traffic to the online archives of institutions
  • Good public relations opportunity
  • Wikimedia projects can provide context for works, via inclusion within e.g. Wikipedia articles
  • Digital image restorations
  • Increased visibility yields increased sales of high resolution files and prints through online museum shops
  • Physical attendance to institutions can be increased via the "the more digital - the more real" principle
  • Can perform the duty of publicising the collection without having the conflicting duty to preserve the collection (especially with fragile objects)
  • Can make a greater proportion of collection that normally is only stored in an archive available to the public


There are also some potential drawbacks, which may or may not present problems:

  • There is the potential for being swamped by a large number of comments/corrections/audience that the institution is not set up to handle.
  • The copyright status of the works needs to be clear. For older works (particularly pre-1923), there are fewer concerns as these are definitely in the public domain in the United States. For newer works, copyright must be owned by the institutions (or they must have a license to use the work by any method). Note that the Wikimedia projects are very good at copyright issues, so can help clarify this.
  • Content may be used by anyone, for any purpose, including those of which the institution may not approve
  • There is a potential loss of revenue from licensing deals, though there is also potential financial gain from the sale of prints, etc.
  • Although Wikipedia is a worldwide project, it is hosted in the United States; hence, non-US institutions may be concerned that they are publishing content in a 'foreign' website.
  • Not having 'request for use' tracking makes it more difficult to know where images are being used.

Examples / Success Stories

Bundesarchiv, Germany

An example: the Prussian frigate SMS Thetis.

In December 2008, nearly 100,000 images from the German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv) were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. The images were mostly related to the history of Germany (including the German Democratic Republic) and were part of a cooperation between Wikimedia Germany and the Federal Archives. The images have since been extensively categorized on Wikimedia Commons, and integrated into Wikipedia articles.

As a result of making these images available on Wikipedia, they greatly increased the click-through rate to their website from Wikipedia, with the result that their revenue from poster sales substantially increased. They also received a large number of corrections to the image descriptions and additions to metadata from Wikimedia volunteers. They subsequently decided to hire a full time employee solely for integrating these corrections and additions into their archive.[1]

More information: Overview - Example images - All images - Latest edits to the images Corrections put forward by Wikimedia volunteers

State and University Library Dresden, Germany

In March 2009, the first German library, the Land Library of Saxony - State and University Library Dresden (SLUB) made around 250,000 image files from its repository available via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

More information: Overview - All images

Powerhouse Museum, Australia

The Art Gallery of New South Wales circa 1900, made available thanks to the PowerHouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum in Australia released descriptions of its items under Creative Commons licenses. Whilst not "donated" to Wikimedia, releasing the content under a Creative Commons license means that it can easily be incorporated into Wikipedia articles. They have also made a number of public domain images available via Flickr (also see the PowerHouse Museum page on Flickr images), which can be used on Wikipedia.

More information: PowerHouse Museum blog post - Images from Flickr on Wikimedia Commons

Tropenmuseum, The Netherlands

In August 2009, the wikipedia:Tropenmuseum in The Netherlands have partnered with Wikimedia Nederland with one of their exhibits, making around 2100 images available on Wikimedia Commons. Tropenmuseum will benefit from the increased publicity of the exhibit, and the checking and translation of the descriptions of the images on Wikimedia Commons.

More information: Overview - All images - Wikimedia Foundation blog post

Regionarkivet, Sweden

Excavation at Uriconium, Shopshire, by Francis Bedford. Released by the Regionarkivet. Digitally restored by a Wikimedia volunteer.

On 19 August 2009, Regionarkivet (a municipal archive institution based in Gothenburg, Sweden) and Wikimedia Sverige announced the release of 28 high-quality and high-resolution images onto Wikimedia Commons. These photographs, all of which are in the public domain due to their age, were taken by some of the most influential photographers of the 19th century. Amongst the pictures are some taken within the UK by the British architect and photographer Francis Bedford, and the pioneering British photographer Roger Fenton.

More information: Overview - Images - Press release - WMUK blog post

Queensland Museum, Australia

Following from the GLAM-WIKI conference in Australia in August 2009, the Queensland Museum have started making one of their photograph collections available on Wikimedia websites. Their "A E (Bert) Roberts" collection will be available on Wikimedia in high resolution.

More information: Overview - Images - Blog post by David Milne, Queensland Museum

Steps towards a content partnership

Each situation is unique, so the best approach is to talk to a local chapter (in the UK, that's us) by email, phone or in person. See our contact details for more information.

In terms of technically making content available on Wikipedia, it is possible to provide media files, complete with metadata as desired, to a Wikimedia chapter, who can then upload the media files to Wikimedia Commons. Alternatively, licensing on the institutions' webpages can be changed to release content on there under a Creative Commons license