Walters Museum uploads 19,000 photos to Wikimedia Commons

The Tulip Folly, Jean-Léon Gérôme, from the Walters Museum collection

‪The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, has donated more than 19,000 freely-licensed images of artworks to Wikimedia Commons. The Walters’ collection includes ancient art, medieval art and manuscripts, decorative objects, Asian art and Old Master and 19th-century paintings. The images and their associated information will join our collection of more than 12 million freely usable media files, which serves as the repository for the 285 language editions of Wikipedia. ‬

‪The project began taking shape in February 2012, as part of the GLAM-Wiki initiative (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums). During GLAMcamp DC, a three-day conference hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., the Walters Museum worked with several Wikimedians to develop a documented process for uploading images to Commons. The basic details of the upload procedure were established during the conference, and during the weeks that followed, the uploads were conducted, monitored and tested, while collaboration continued online. ‬

‪”The Walters has gone above and beyond throughout this collaboration with the GLAM-Wiki community, working alongside Wikipedians to serve as a model for our mass image upload process,” said Lori Byrd Phillips, U.S. Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation. “The release of these images will not only improve articles in Wikipedia, but will also have the potential to be used freely throughout the web.”‬

‪The image donation is part of the Walters Museum’s larger initative to provide free public access to its collection, both online and offline, beginning with the removal of admission fees in 2006. In 2011, the Walters launched a redesigned works of art website with 10,000 online artwork images freely licensed under a Creative Commons license. ‬

Sarasvati image from Walters Museum

‪”By uploading our information in this way, we can share items of cultural heritage from around the globe, directly with people in those parts of the world. Already our images have been used in 48 different languages. The Walters’ collection is well-suited for this project because of its size and its breadth of topic areas,” said Dylan Kinnett, Manager of Web and Social Media for the Walters Art Museum. “By developing documentation and tools for this type of work, we hope that our upload project can serve as a prototype for other cultural institutions.”‬

‪Already, the museum’s images have had an impact in improving content on Wikipedia, such when they are used as illustrations in entries whose topic is not the artwork itself, but a related idea, such as a mythological figure, or a time or place. The Walters’ painting of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, for instance, has been added to five different language Wikipedia entries about the goddess.‬

We would like to thank to the Walters Museum for their donation and their commitment to promoting free knowledge on Wikimedia Commons, and to the GLAM volunteers who helped make this endeavor possible.

Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager

Categories: GLAM, Outreach
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10 Comments on Walters Museum uploads 19,000 photos to Wikimedia Commons

Ryan Kaldari 3 years

@AndreasP: No, PD-Art|PD-old-100 is not the correct license for these images. First of all, PD-Art|PD-old-100 is not a license, it is an explanation that the images are not copyrightable in several countries. For all the countries that do recognize sweat of the brow (Spain, Taiwan, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, possibly the UK, etc.) a license is required. Otherwise, the images would be fully copyrighted in those countries. Regarding the descriptions: the threshold of originality also varies considerably by country. In most countries, the majority of Walters descriptions would be covered by copyright. In the both of these cases, the Walters is going out of their way to relinquish their copyrights in those countries, even though Commons doesn’t require it. For this, they are accused of copyfraud. I guess no good dead goes unpunished on Commons.

AndreasP 3 years

@Ryan: The copyfraud GFDL license still is part of the licensing section, and it is bold and clearly visible. The correct license would be PD-Art|PD-old-100, and it is nowhere in the description. It cannot be detected automatically, and the only way to find out that this may be the correct license is to read the smalles possible print at a place that you don’t expect it. Which is what fraudsters do in any area, by the way.

Please make sure that the Walters Museum license template has a parameter to switch to the correct license. This should happen _before_ uploading thousands of images, by the way.

The gift from the Walters Museum indeed is nice, but some gifts are poisoned. Claiming copyright on sheer facts (and what else are museum descriptions supposed to be) is such a poisonous ingredient. Museums may try to do so, but Wikimedia shouldn’t actively encourage them.

Ryan Kaldari 3 years

@AndreasP: The license template doesn’t say anything about metadata. Regarding the descriptions, they are all detailed (some several paragraphs long), and thus eligible for copyright protection. Plus the template explicitly states “Copyright restrictions only apply to descriptions which cross the threshold of originality.” Regarding the photographs, most are of 3D object (as already explained). For the rest, the template explicitly says “In the United States and many other countries, faithful photographic reproductions of original two-dimensional works of art do not qualify for copyright protection and are considered public domain.”

Gary G. 3 years

How can you be sure the license template is copy fraud. What you say sounds good, but what else support your theory.

AndreasP 3 years

The license template is pure copyfraud. The metadata are mostly ineligible for copyright (for some more detailed descriptions, some copyright might apply, though). But more important: The photographs of paintings and drawings of Public Domain images are in the Public Domain according to “Bridgeman v. Corel”.

The license tag should be changed.

sil 3 years

mostly objects???!?!

very nice objects !!!!

Katie Filbert 3 years

I think it’s the metadata that is CC and the images themselves are PD-old.

Ryan Kaldari 3 years

And just to be clear, all the images do include a PD tag for the artwork.

Ryan Kaldari 3 years

Most of the Walters images are actually photos of 3D objects. For the other images there is a disclaimer that the CC license may not apply depending on the jurisdiction.

Mathias Schindler 3 years

If these are paintings made by people who died more than 70 years ago, why are they under a “free license” instead of being marked as public domain? Jean-Léon Gérôme died in 1904, his works entered the public domain on January 1, 1975 (in a worst case scenario). Please apply CC-licenses to works that are still in copyright.

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