Friends' Newsletter/2017/Issue 04
- 1 Christmas thank you
- 2 Mozfest 2017
- 3 Wiki Loves Monuments 2017 winners announced!
- 4 National Library of Wales update
- 5 Scottish Libraries and Information Council update
- 6 Bodleian Libraries Residency extended until 2018
- 7 Essay: On Notability Inequality
- 8 Can CC search work with structured data on Commons?
- 9 Wikipedia over Tor? Alec Muffett experiments with an Onion Wikipedia site.
- 10 The Core Contest
- 11 Wikipedia receives its first content from space!
- 12 Books of 1880s British political cartoons uploaded to Commons
Christmas thank you
Dear volunteers, members, donors and other friends!
With the year drawing to a close, the staff team at Wikimedia UK have been looking back at everything that’s happened in 2017 and all that the charity has achieved. Our work just wouldn’t be possible without our donors, partners, members and volunteers and we would like to thank you for all your contributions to Wikimedia UK and to open knowledge this year.
In particular, we would like to take this opportunity to thank our volunteer community, who support the delivery of our programme all year round by developing projects and partnerships, speaking at conferences and other events, training people to edit Wikipedia and contributing directly to open knowledge themselves as online contributors. All of your hard work helps move us towards the charity's vision of a more tolerant, informed and democratic society through the shared creation of, and access to, open knowledge; and we’re very grateful to you all. Do get in touch with the office if you want to discuss any ideas for 2018.
Thanks again, and all the best for Christmas (if you celebrate it) and the New Year!
Wikimedia UK Staff Team
We went to Mozfest on October 28, the Mozilla Foundation's annual Open Source tech conference in London. This year, Wikimedian in Residence Alice White ran a session on Wikipedia Games with Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. You can read Anne-Marie's reflections on the event here.
We also spoke to the people from Wikipedia for Refugees, an initiative in Italy which has grant funding from the Wikimedia Foundation to use Wikimedia projects to teach newly arrived refugees IT skills, Italian lanugage, and help them to integrate into Italian society.
Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation spoke on a panel with Ryan Merkley of Creative Commons and Mozilla's Mark Surman, about the future of the Open Source movement. You can check out our short video about the event below, and scroll down further for a look at how Creative Commons is improving their search tool by indexing every CC licensed work on the internet.
Wiki Loves Monuments 2017 winners announced!
Wiki Loves Monuments is the world’s biggest photographic competition and takes place every September. Participants take photos of historic places, including buildings and archaeological sites.
Wiki Loves Monuments encourages photographers around the world to upload photos of heritage monuments to Commons so that they can be used to illustrate Wikipedia. Images from Wiki Loves Monuments in the UK have been seen nearly 14 million times in October. This year, over 14,000 photos were submitted to Wiki Loves Monuments in the UK. The prizes are sponsored by Wikimedia UK and Archaeology Scotland, with a top prize of £250. The winning photos’ subjects range from prehistory right through to the 1930s. The overall winner was of Brighton’s derelict West Pier by Matthew Hoser, who said: “I have been lucky enough to travel quite a lot over the past few years of studying in the UK, and so when I recently heard about the Wiki Loves Monuments photography competition I jumped at the chance to get involved for the first time. This country has such rich and varied history, so taking photos of the amazing sights around Britain is a real pleasure. I am so glad to be able to share my photos with the Wikimedia community, and hopefully to make people eager to get out and see more of the UK for themselves!”
Second prizewinner, Paul Stümke took an atmospheric photo of Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland, also winner of the Archaeology Scotland sponsored best photograph from Scotland. He said: “I have not taken part before in WLM but I have seen last year’s winners. I liked the idea and since me and some friends travelled around Scotland from August to September by bicycle I was able to capture some stunning landscapes, famous monuments and other things that seemed worth photographing. When I edited the photographs back home I saw the advertisement for this year´s contest and thought to myself, why not participate? This is a great way to get some of my pictures out to the world.”
The winners of the Special Prize for Scotland (sponsored by Archaeology Scotland) and Wales depict the Smailholm Tower by Keith Proven and Craig y Mor by Sterim64 respectively.
All photos on Commons are shared on Open Licenses, such as Creative Commons Sharealike 4.0. CC licenses allow others to use the images for free as long as they attribute the author. Wikimedia UK encourages people to publish free content which anyone can use in a classroom, journalistic articles, art, on Wikipedia or for any other purpose without worrying about its copyright restrictions.
See the full list of UK winners on our blog here.
See the top 15 winners from around the world on the Wikimedia Foundation blog.
National Library of Wales update
You may remember that Jason Evans, the Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales, was appointed the first ever National Wikimedian earlier this year.
Since then Jason has spoken on his work in Wales at Wikimania in Montreal about the Wiki-health project, and generated a lot of positive coverage on Welsh language sites about the residency. Jason also helped to import data from Cadw, the historic environment service of the Welsh government. Data on 30,000 listed buildings and scheduled monuments was imported into Wikidata and was then used to identify sites that needed photographs during Wiki Loves Monuments.
In September, over 30 articles were created during a Welsh Journals editathon, and 16 as part of a Welsh women editathon. Jason also discussed with NHS Wales and MIND the possibility of releasing Welsh-language content on Open Licenses to populate Wicipedia Cymraeg. The Wici-lechyd (Wiki Health) project which is funded by the Welsh government “will see the National Library of Wales hold a series of public events across Wales, to teach and encourage Health professionals, Medical students and the general public to help improve health content on Wikipedia.”
In October, Jason manned a trade stand at the ‘More than Words’ event in Cardiff aimed at improving Welsh language access to health information. He gave a talk at the Welsh Medical society conference about the Wiki health project and spoke at the Wikidata Conference about on ‘Wikidata loves GLAMs’. Jason has also organised volunteers to work on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography and translating English medical articles to Welsh, which is also being trialled with students at Aberystwyth and Cardiff Universities.
In November, the mental health information website Meddwl.org began releasing its content on an Open License. The British Lung Foundation started releasing their Welsh language content on Open Licenses too, but unfortunately, NHS Wales declined to release their Welsh language content on an Open License. Jason also gave a presentation about Wikipedia at the Menter Iaith annual conference on raising the profile of the Welsh language. The Wikidata Visiting Scholar, Simon Cobb, has also been at work at the National Library of Wales. He has created Wikidata for many Welsh newspapers and Journals using data provided by NLW. He will now begin to explore creating Wikidata for early Welsh books with associated printers, publishers and authors. You can see more about it here.
Scottish Libraries and Information Council update
Sara Thomas, who previously worked as Wikimedian in Residence at Museums Galleries Scotland, has submitted her first quarterly report since becoming Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Libraries and Information Council. She has been working part time for 2 days a week, which will increase to 3 days in January 2018. So far, her work has concentrated on getting to know the libraries sector and introducing herself to those working with SLIC while organising training days for libraries staff.
Building on her previous residency at Museums Galleries Scotland, Sara decided to organise an event at the beginning of the residency which would prove the usefulness of working with Wikimedia projects to immediate stakeholders, as well as providing a case study for short to medium term advocacy work. Sara said in her quarterly report that,
“My other current role is as Project Officer for Dig It! 2017, working on Scotland in Six, a signature event for Visit Scotland's Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and its partner piece Scotland in Six: Hidden Gems. The latter sought to identify and celebrate Scotland's six favourite lesser known History, Heritage and Archaeology sites. Using this campaign as a springboard, and as the strategic aims of both projects were aligned, I organised a co-produced editathon, which served as a finishing point for SiS:HG, and a starting point for SLIC's residency.”
The Scotland's Hidden Gems Editathon was held on Heritage Awareness Day (Friday 6 October) to celebrate the end of the Dig It! 2017 Scotland in Six: Hidden Gems and the beginning of the SLIC residency. Partners from four public library services took part, as well as one remote participant, representatives from the SLIC Residency Steering Group, and the University of Edinburgh. Although small, the event was very useful in terms of raising the profile and awareness of underrepresented Scottish content on the encyclopedia, and in starting conversations with key library partners.
An induction day with Inverclyde Library Service (our project partner for the residency) was held on Friday 25 August, on site at Inverclyde Library Service. This was invaluable in terms of understanding more about the structure of the Library service, which has helped Sara to decide on the design of training materials.
Training days for the three first phase partners - Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire and North Ayrshire - were held during November, with 24 library and associated staff receiving training in total. The next step with these services will be to support them to deliver their first editathon in their own service, and work with them to investigate the possibilities for content upload from their collections. This first phase will be evaluated in the new year, and the learning from that will be embedded into the rollout of the programme to more library services across Scotland.
As with her previous residency at MGS, this residency will also focus on advocacy around open knowledge and information literacy - and since August, Sara has spoken at the meeting of SLIC’s Digital Champions group, the CILIPS Autumn Gathering, Archaeology Scotland & Historic Environment Scotland’s Community Heritage Conference, and the Scottish Government/SLIC Digital & Information Literacy Forum. Although the residency is still in its early stages, we are looking forward to the long term benefits of encouraging librarians to work with Wikimedia projects. In the same vein, you can check out our blogpost here about the #1Lib1Ref project which takes place in January to encourage librarians to add citations to Wikipedia articles.
Bodleian Libraries Residency extended until 2018
Dr Martin Poulter has had his residency at the Bodleian Libraries Oxford extended by 4 months until the start of 2018. In the year’s residency just gone he was worked with Oxford’s researchers to share data on Wikidata, including more than three thousand doctoral theses as well as more than three thousand historical people from the Electronic Enlightenment biographical dictionary. The new work uses this process to join up research databases and museum catalogues from around the university. In a recent blog post, Poulter described how linking open datasets can allow us to create connections between different objects, places and people and represent these connections as connected, freely-reusable data.
Here’s the cluster of relationships for Nanteos Mansion in Wales:
Poulter looks at how Wikidata has made it easy to create interactive applications in which people can explore their favourite topic. These include Textes d’Affiches for films, Crotos for art, and Scholia for academic research. He says,
"Someone interested in the Hunchback of Notre Dame gets details and the full text of the Victor Hugo book. From Victor Hugo’s node they can also find Les Misérables and the films based on that. They can navigate between books via their authors, or between films via their directors. So users can find their own journeys, linking pop culture and classic literature."
We hope that the extension of Martin’s residency will allow him to consider other databases that could be productively linked to unearth new connections, and give us new interfaces to explore culture, history, society and their interconnections.
Essay: On Notability Inequality
By John Lubbock
It’s much harder to create and defend biographical Wikipedia articles about women and people of colour. The Wikimedia Foundation, chapters (like Wikimedia UK) and many people in the movement have for years acknowledged this is a problem, but we have not discovered any clear way of getting around it.
In my spare time, I often try to create articles for people from groups lacking in representation on Wikipedia. That’s why I created a WikiProject to encourage people to add biographical articles on Black British musicians. It’s why I started the Kurdish Wikipedia Project to encourage the Kurdish community to create articles on other Kurdish people, and why I do outreach to other marginalised groups like the Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) community in the UK. I also started a WikiProject to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Social Housing developments in the UK.
Unfortunately, what happens far too often is that someone will come along and put a Speedy Deletion request, or a ‘This article may not meet the Notability Criteria’ template on the article. This is a problem that other people have noticed when editing, especially women. Obviously there is a need for people who review the list of newly created articles and delete those which obviously do not meet the Notability Criteria. Where it becomes problematic is in borderline cases, where a subject may be notable, but there may not be enough references listed, or the references proving notability may not be available online.
The problem is recognised in Wikimedia’s Strategic Direction, which states “We are still far from having collected the sum of all knowledge. Most of the content we have created is in the form of long-form encyclopedia articles and still images, which leaves out many other types of knowledge. Our current communities don't represent the diversity of the human population, notably in terms of gender. This lack of representation and diversity has created gaps of knowledge and systemic biases”.
One particular article I helped to write on a housing estate near to where I live generated a marathon deletion discussion about whether there were enough sources to prove its notability, and whether large social housing estates are notable by their very nature. Another page on the young British singer Jorja Smith was nominated for deletion by someone who repeatedly misgendered the subject in the discussion. Another on a Kurdish actor and presenter on the Kurdish version of Pop Idol immediately had its notability questioned because the majority of the sources were in Turkish.
We recognise that the very architecture of Western knowledge is biased towards white men who historically were the subjects and authors of most texts. Even now it is far easier to reference people who exist in Anglocentric cultural spaces. The work of improving the gender diversity of the content on Wikipedia is very much related to why we have so few editors who are women. Not only will you find it harder to create a biographical article on a notable woman because there are likely to be fewer sources, but you may then have to defend that article against people who are trying to delete it because they believe the subject does not pass the notability criteria.
I cannot help but feel that there needs to be some kind of positive discrimination towards inclusion of people from marginalised backgrounds, where proving notability should require fewer sources, or sources which are not only or specifically about that subject. Just look at the way that women scientists historically had their achievements downplayed, stolen or ignored by their societies. Is it any wonder that the gender gap in biographies on Wikipedia is so great?
Of course, making more sources available online would help, but at some point, where the historical record has been lost or obscured, there is only so much we can say about some historical people. Looking through a book of Classical Poems by Arab Women to find subjects to make articles for, I came across this fragment of poetry by Safiyya al-Baghdadiyya,
"I am the wonder of the world, the ravisher of hearts and minds.
Once you’ve seen my stunning looks, you’re a fallen man."
Unfortunately, in the editor’s comment on the poem, I was disappointed to learn that 'Nothing is known about the poet'.
I think we can do better for the marginalised people who Western records have elided. Wikipedia cannot solely base its Notability Criteria on an extant record which discriminates against women and non-European peoples. We need to find and create new records like oral histories, and we need to positively discriminate towards including marginalised people and histories who may not meet the strict guidelines of the Notability Criteria.
Can CC search work with structured data on Commons?
CC Search beta was launched in February. This new tool incorporates ‘list-making features, and simple, one-click attribution to make it easier to credit the source of any image you discover.’ Its developer, Liza Daly, describes it as ‘a front door to the universe of openly licensed content.’
As a small organisation, Creative Commons did not have the resources to start by indexing all of the 1.1 billion Openly Licensed works that it estimates are available in the Commons. Liza Daly decided to start with a representative sample of about 1% of the known Commons content online, and decided to select about 10 million images rather than a cross-section of all media types, due to the fact that a majority of CC content is images.
One issue they encountered was in making sure that all the content they would include was CC licensed, where a provider (like Flickr) hosted content that was both CC and commercially licensed. They also decided to defer the use of material from Wikimedia Commons, saying that,
‘Wikimedia Commons represents a large and rich corpus of material, but rights information is not currently well-structured. The Wikimedia Foundation recently announced that a $3 million grant from the Sloan Foundation will be applied to work on this problem, but that work has just begun.’
The Wikimedia Foundation understands that the resources available through Wikimedia Commons are not as accessible as they could potentially be as a result of the ad hoc nature of much of the metadata attached to the files people have uploaded. For example, one common query is ‘Why can’t I search Commons by date’. The problem here is ‘which date?’ Is it the stated date that the photo was taken (which could be incorrect) or the date that the file was created, which could be different?
This is why Structured Data is so important. The $3m grant that the WMF has received to implement structured data on Commons, in a similar way to how it’s structured on Wikidata, will allow for much better searching and indexing of media files.
CC search wants to make CC content more discoverable, regardless of where it is hosted online. To do this, they decided to import the metadata from the selected works that they are currently indexing - title, creator name, any known tags or descriptions. This data will link directly back to the original source so you can view and download the media. It seems that in its current, unstructured state, Wiki Commons is not very good for systematically importing this kind of metadata.
It seems that Creative Commons is even looking at the possibility of using some kind of blockchain-like ledger system to record reuse of CC licensed works so that reuse can be tracked. However, it seems that this remains a longer term goal.
I asked Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley some questions about how the project had been progressing since its announcement and how it might work.
WMUK: How much progress has been made on CC search since the start of 2017? Have you indexed many more than the original 10 million media items?
RM: CC has hired a Director of Product Engineering, Paola Villarreal to lead the project. We’re staffing up the team, with a Data Engineering starting soon. In addition, we’ll be pushing a series of enhancements, including adding new content, by the end of the year.
WMUK: Will you have to wait until the end of the Structured Data on Commons project to index Wikimedia content? Or does the tool only require basic metadata categories like Title, Creator, Description, Category Tags, meaning it be possible to start this before the end of the project?
RM: We’re happy to work with the Wikimedia Commons community on the project. In our initial conversations, we mutually decided to wait until some of that work was further along. We want to make sure our work is complementary.
WMUK: Is it still an ultimate ambition to use some kind of blockchain architecture to record reuse? Or is that potentially a goal that would require more resources than will likely be available for the foreseeable future?
RM: Not necessarily. There’s a lot of interesting work going on with the blockchain and distributed ledger projects. What’s most important to us is a complete, updated, and enhanced catalog of works and metadata that is fast and accessible.
WMUK: Can you explain how ledger entries would be created when someone reused a CC licensed work?
RM: The tools to track remix don’t exist right now. It’s something we’re really interested in, and our community wants as well. It will require new tools, and collaboration with platforms and creators.
There are so many incredible applications possible for all the data on Wikimedia Commons, and we hope that after the content can be structured properly, it will become a valuable source which can be searched along with other CC content online using Creative Commons’ CC Search tool. Like a lot of the changes we would like to see in the way the Wikimedia products work, this will likely take some time, but we are hopeful that the wait will be worth it.
Wikipedia over Tor? Alec Muffett experiments with an Onion Wikipedia site.
Alec Muffett, a director of the Open Rights Group and an ex-Facebook, now Deliveroo software engineer, has created a Wikipedia Onion site which can only be accessed through the Tor browser.
Wikimedians have long asked to be able to browse and edit Wikipedia through Tor, a browser which reroutes your IP address through multiple computer nodes, making you much harder to track online. However, debate within the community has for years been centred on whether or not this would encourage vandalism.
One proposed solution would be to only allow editing through Tor for email verified, signed in accounts. The onion site could also be set up as a read-only access mechanism, but — although this would be a valuable start — this would miss the point that a lot of people would like to edit more securely and anonymously. Vandalism could happen through Tor, of course, but then it already does happen through "IP" editing when a person is not signed-in.
Muffett noted in a discussion in the Wikipedia Weekly Facebook group that Facebook frequently blocked people from using their site over Tor until 2013, when it decided to change its approach. “Now Facebook recognises that ~1 million people access it over Tor, and that they are a valuable readership.” He also argued that Cluebot, which identifies and reverts Wikipedia vandalism, would equally help address vandalism over Tor as well.
There has been ongoing discussion about editing via Tor since 2007/8, which you can read more about here and here - click on the Talk/Discussion tabs on the top left to see what people have said about the subject.
While you can already view Wikipedia through Tor (but not edit it), browsing via Tor is somewhat slower, because of the way it routes traffic through multiple servers and the way that exit nodes on the network can affect the browsing experience. Muffett says that having a Wikipedia presence directly on the Tor network itself (via an Onion site) would have the advantages of adding ‘speed, surety, trust’.
Another Wikimedian in the Wikipedia Weekly discussion disagrees, and argues that aside from vandalism, editing over Tor would make Sockpuppetry (one user controlling multiple accounts) easier. He stated that ‘It is fundamentally a technical problem in the sense that the tools and processes that Wikimedia communities have come up with to fight malicious behavior in the last 16 years don't work anymore if you can obtain easily several unrelated and untraceable identities.’
Muffett says that the Facebook onion had several clear benefits:
- A better and safer experience for people accessing Wikipedia over Tor: no interference by exit nodes, no bandwidth-contention for exit nodes, no use of exit nodes at all.
- Being "a good neighbour" - accessing Wikipedia as a Tor hidden service frees up traffic that would consume scarce exit-node bandwidth.
- "a peace offering" - people (continue to) use Facebook over Tor; 3 years ago [Facebook] saw 500,000/month, more recently ~1 million users. Muffett, who used to work for Facebook, says that “we found (through measurement and assessment) that people using Facebook over Tor were ordinary folk wanting to do ordinary things. Especially in times of political crisis. Providing a metaphorical "olive branch" showed that we value their use of the site.”
- Discretion & Trust. Onion Sites are considered to be about "anonymity", but really they offer two more features: discretion (eg: your employer or ISP cannot see what you are browsing, not even what site) and trust (if you access facebookcorewwwi.onion you are *definitely* connected to Facebook, and cannot be tricked into connecting to an unsafe fake site.)
Muffett concludes that “The code is free and libre. I am doing it because it's worth doing.”
After launching the .onion site and generating quite a lot of exaggerated tech press about how there’s now a ‘Dark Web version’ of Wikipedia, Muffett's idea attracted some interest. Unfortunately, some of that interest appeared in the form of people trying to overload the site with bad "Denial of Service"-style requests.
“This experience is a microcosm of my experiences at Facebook - people attempting to flood and break a website for unknown reasons, possibly "for the lulz", possibly for actual malicious reasons. It's a mitigable risk, and in fact is greatly simplified by publishing the site over Tor which stops the more mundane forms of network attack such as flooding.”
Muffett said that the attacks the service experienced in its first few days helped inspire improvements toround-off the code's rough edges. He hopes that by demonstrating that it is possible and desirable to create a .onion service for Wikipedia will encourage people in the community to discuss and reconsider whether to allow it as an official service.
“The simplest way to demonstrate what a Tor Onion site would look like, is to do it. The technology exists ("Enterprise Onion Toolkit", EOTK) and is solid enough for the New York Times to use... yet it will only improve. The only thing necessary is to deploy it, which is trivial”, he says.
If you would like to get involved in the discussion or help out with the project, you can read the Phabricator discussion on the topic and find the EOTK code on Github.
The Core Contest
The Core Contest of 2017 was organised by Cas Liber, with the aim of improving Wikipedia's most important and most viewed articles took place between 15th May and 30th June. Overall, ten entries of significant enhancements to Wikipedia core articles were submitted on a wide array of subjects from the Holocaust and World History to animal husbandry and the Andes. Commented and evaluated on by a panel of judges and other editors, the winning entries improved content on the Aztec (first prize, User:Manus), on Sandro Botticelli (second prize, User:Johnbod) and on the Anthozoa (by User:Cwmhiraeth, winning the third prize). Winners were rewarded with Amazon vouchers.
This year’s Contest was the seventh Core Contest since 2012, showing a stable interest of the editor community to participate in such challenges. Wikimedia UK remains thankful to Cas Liber for organising the contest and to its participants for their hard work. Congratulations to all the winners!"
Here is the link to the contest for article content.
Core contest entries.
Wikipedia receives its first content from space!
Back in 2012, Andy Mabbett started a project to encourage people to record openly licensed audio clips of their voices. He managed to get some well known people to record their voices, including Stephen Fry. Now, Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli has recorded his voice for use on his Wikipedia article - from the International Space Station.
Andy Mabbett described how this came to happen:
‘In July this year, I approached Marco Trovatello (User:mtrova), Communication Officer with ESA’s European Astronaut Centre, after seeing his excellent efforts to have ESA media released under open licence. I asked him to work with me on a recording made on the ISS. Marco jumped at the idea, and immediately agreed to help. As you can imagine, astronauts have busy schedules, but Marco was able to make all the necessary arrangements, working with his ESA colleagues to get the recording scheduled and the files transferred back to Earth (two of them: one in English, the other in Paolo’s native Italian). He then uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons, where they are now available for anyone to use, freely, under an open licence (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO), as well as being used on Wikipedia, and Wikidata.’
Andy says this is an important project because ‘It helps us learn the canonical pronunciation of someone’s name’. He hopes that this news will be a shot in the arm for the project, as Wikipedia is still lacking in non-textual content like sound and video files.
Since 2012, a small group of volunteers including Mabbett have worked with many article subjects to add hundreds of recordings in 24 languages. They feature actors, sportspeople, Nobel-laureate scientists, authors, Eurovision Song Contest contestants, Wikimedians, and even another astronaut—Charlie Duke of NASA, who once walked on the moon, though his recording was made on Earth. Mabbett also persuaded the BBC to donate hundreds of clips from their radio programmes - the first time BBC content had been released under an open licence.
However, one thing holding progress back is that some of the main file types for sound and video are still not possible to upload to Commons. While .mp3 files are now possible to be uploaded by some users, Wikimedia is restricting their use because it fears a deluge of copyrighted content being added to Commons. It’s a slow process to make more file types usable on Commons, and there has been a lot of work with 3D file types too, which may start to be used on Commons in the near future.
Books of 1880s British political cartoons uploaded to Commons
By John Lubbock
I was sorting through my father's collection of books when I found two books of colourful 1880s cartoons which demonstrate some of the concerns of the time. Probably my father bought the books at auction in the 1970s during a period when he went around collecting Gladstonia - collectable items related to the 19th Century Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone.
The illustrations are signed 'Tom Merry'. Merry was the pen name of artist William Mecham, whose Wikipedia page you can see here.
As well as being a cartoonist, Mecham was an early film star. Recordings of his lightning fast sketches of famous figures were the perfect length for the short time limits of early video recordings, and there are extant versions of some of his performances from 1895-6.
Looking online, there are various references to the St Stephen's Review publication, but no very good available research. The British Museum seems to have original printed versions, and other sites are selling printed copies for around $350 a piece. I hope that the availability of these versions on Open Licenses will result in them being more widely shared and researched online. They also would just make quite illustrations for anything to do with the late 19th century, and expose some of the prejudice and the smugness of the late Victorians. You can see the whole category on Commons here.