Activities/Britain Loves Wikipedia/Museum participation

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Britain Loves Wikipedia
Photography contest from Wikimedia UK and museums across the country
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This page describes how museums can participate in Britain loves Wikipedia, and various other frequently asked questions. Information for individuals will be coming soon.

Britain Loves Wikipedia is a photography contest to take photographs of objects in museum collections across the UK. The contest will run throughout February 2010, when members of the public - primarily those with an interest in Wikimedia and/or photography - will visit participating museums to take photographs.

The competition will have pre-specified targets, to be decided on jointly by the museums and Wikimedia UK. These will likely not be specific objects, rather they will be "themes" under which a number of items in the museums will fall. Prizes will be given for a variety of categories, including most photographs taken, best photographs, etc. - see this page for more possibilities.

The photographs entered into the competition will be made available on Wikimedia Commons, which is an image library used by a number of websites including Wikipedia.


The benefits of the event are:

  • For museums: Increased the visibility of your collections, reaching new audiences and increased visitor numbers, having photographs of the collections taken that you can use, ...
  • For Wikimedia: Making more freely licensed images available of important objects in museums, which can be used to illustrate Wikipedia articles and inspire the creation of new articles
  • For the public: Winning prizes; having their images used on Wikipedia, experiencing new types and techniques of photography, viewing museum's collections with a different perspective, ...

Past events

Two successful photography competitions like Britain Loves Wikipedia have been run in the past, as well as a number of similar other events.

In February 2009, the Wikipedia Loves Art event ran in museums in the US and the UK, including the Victoria and Albert Museum. Over 300 photographs were taken at the V&A during this event, which are now available on Wikimedia Commons and are currently being integrated into Wikipedia articles.

Wiki Loves Art NL ran in the Netherlands in June 2009; this involved 46 museums, including the Van Gogh Museum and the Tropenmuseum. Over 4,000 photographs were entered into the event, which are now on Wikimedia Commons.

How to participate

To participate in this event, you must allow members of the public into your museum to take photographs. The resulting photographs must not have any restrictions on their use - they have to be released under a Creative Commons license, or into the public domain (see Copyright, below). If you are willing to allow tripods or flash photography then this will let the participants take higher quality images of your objects (less blurry/noisy).

We will jointly develop a list of targets with you that will both suit your museum and cover topics that Wikipedia does not have many images of. We will provide leaflets describing the event, how people can participate and enter the competition, and what the targets are. These will be available both online and in paper form, and will build upon the leaflet from the event at the V&A, which is available here.

We are currently in the process of creating a website which participants will use to upload their photographs. This website will also contain a staging area so that you can check the photographs (if you want) before they are transferred to Wikimedia commons.

These are the baselines for participation; if you want to encourage more people to join in the event then there are a number of additional things that you can do or run: see Marketing and promoting, below.

The deadline for participating in the event is the 15 January 2010. If you want your name on the leaflet, then you need to sign up by the end of 2009. The event will launch on the 31 January 2010 at the Victoria and Albert Museum; the launch event will be open both to the public and to participating or interested museums.

If you want to participate in the event, or have any questions, please contact Mike Peel at


All content on Wikimedia projects needs to have a free license associated with it, and needs to have clear copyright status. Copyright infringing material that is uploaded to Wikimedia projects will be deleted by the volunteer editors there. This includes any images that are taken of objects that are currently in copyright - for example recent paintings. Note that Wikipedia's stance on the copyright of faithful reproductions of images in the public domain is that the reproductions are also in the public domain (this is the reason for the National Portrait Gallery copyright conflicts).

Wikimedia projects do not currently consider anything beyond copyright, however. The standard refrain here is "Wikipedia is not censored". We realise that this could present problems for you, so images taken during this competition will be put into a "staging area" where you can approve the images to be transferred to Wikimedia Commons.

The photographs taken during this competition must be released under one of three licenses, depending on the choice of the photographer:

Support is available to museums concerned about making their collections available under these terms, to find out more, please contact Nick Poole at or members can post a question to the Museums Copyright Group via their elist.

Marketing and promoting

If you want to maximise participation in the event at your museum, then we would love to run a joint event with you on one of the weekends in February. Each weekend will be in a different part of the country, and will focus on museums in those areas. If you can do one or more of the following things on one of these weekends then these will encourage people to come to your museum and take photographs to enter the competition:

  • allow free entry to your museum
  • allow tripods and/or flash photography
  • offering to loan cameras to participants and/or internet access where they can upload their photographs
  • offering tours of your museum or behind the scenes
  • Offering free tea and coffee to participants in a social area

You may also want to encourage your local community to participate in the event, for example by contacting:

  • Local photography clubs
  • Local societies with an existing interest in the museum collections

Finally, to encourage future visits to your museum you could offer museum-related prizes for the competition - for example, tickets to special exhibits, a book from your shop, etc.

Collections care

As with any event involving collections, museums need to ensure that they balance the benefits of public access against the risks of incidental or deliberate damage. Museums participating in Britain Loves Wikipedia need to maintain reasonable standards of care and security before and during the event, and it may even provide an opportunity to tell the public more about how museums take care of their collections.

In general, and depending on the type of event they are planning to hold, museums will want to take the following areas into consideration:

  • Object handling
  • Preparation and security of display site
  • Location and movement control
  • Heat, light and relative humidity
  • Food and drink
  • Public liability

In this, Britain Loves Wikipedia is really no different to any other public event, exhibition or open store. The main difference is that photography (including flash photography) is actively encouraged, as is the open sharing of the resulting photographs.

Object Handling

As a general rule of thumb (with the obvious exception of handling collections), objects should be handled as little as possible, only by trained staff or volunteers and only using appropriate equipment such as cotton gloves.

That said, different types of objects present different degrees of risk, and you are encouraged to use your judgement and take a pragmatic approach. The main risks to objects in transit are shock and vibration, so if you are moving objects over any significant distance, you should consider protective packaging or padding and securing loose items and joints against vibration. If in doubt, always seek advice from a skilled and experienced colleague.

It should be made clear to visitors attending your event that they should not touch, move or rearrange the objects either on display or on racking/shelving. If possible, it would be useful to have a suitably skilled member of staff present who can move objects if need be.

Information about handling objects, as well as preparing them for temporary exhibition, is available from the Touring Exhibitions Group and the Collections Link website.

Preparation of Display Site

Museums participating in Britain Loves Wikipedia may wish to define an area or perimeter for access during the event. In preparing the display site, thought should be given to:

  • Clear, unobstructed points of access with appropriate provision for wheelchair users and others with particular access requirements
  • Sufficient space and light for photography
  • Appropriate space for the estimated number of visitors
  • Approporiate provision for security, including invigilation

Information about security and invigiliation can be found in the Practical Guide to Security in Museums, Libraries and Archives.

Location and Movement Control

If you are moving objects, for example from your stores into a display area, you should always follow standard procedures for Location and Movement Control. This includes ensuring that you have at least minimal documentation of what has been moved, from where and to where.

Guidance on Location and Movement is available from the Collections Link website.

Heat, Light and Relative Humidity

Museums will already have policies in place for temperature and RH. You should always ensure that sufficient environmental controls are in place such as ventilation and air control.

A specific concern is often raised by museums concerning the exposure of light-sensitive materials to flash photogaphy, and specifically that even brief exposure to high levels of illumination (and UV radiation) will accelerate the chemical deterioration of organic materials.

There is certainly a cumulative risk to artefacts from exposure to both light and variable heat, but this should be managed on the basis of both pragmatism and with due consideration to the access requirements of users. Museums may wish to consider the following:

  • Deciding whether or not to permit flash photography (recognising that not to do so will significantly impair the users experience and value of the event)
  • Creating areas in which there are higher than normal degrees of ambient or natural light
  • Establishing an exclusion zone around particularly sensitive artefacts
  • Selecting artefacts on the basis of their relative stability and resilience to light and heat

There may also be some sections of the museum, or some collections which are expressly precluded from bein photographed - for example as a condition of a bequest. Museums should ensure that these collections and/or areas are clearly identified and excluded from the event.

Food and drink

Food and drink present particular risks to collections, and museums should take care to ensure that they aren't brought into areas where they might be dropped or spilt. Information should be provided to visitors to this effect and where necessary appropriate signage should be used.

Guidance on Food and Drink around collections is available from the English Heritage website.

Public Liability

Museums must ensure that they hold an appropriate level of Public Liability insurance and that it covers events in sections of the museum not normally accessible to the public. More information can be found in the publiction Insurance for Museums.

Further information