The concrete cooperation through Wiki Loves Monuments means a lot! Wikimedia Commons is currently the only open platform where we can work together with dedicated and talented photographers. The work with WLM – and the mere existence of Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia – means a lot for our work with digital infrastructure K-samsök/SOCH where the linchpin is to create an open and networked access to cultural heritage and museum information.

Lars Lundqvist, Head of new media and cultural heritage data at the National Heritage Board.

The partnership has been very valuable to us. We have received many great new photos of the ships, but also gained new networks and friends.

Anders Näsberg, Brand Web Editor at the National Maritime Museums in Sweden.

Icebreaker Bore, working both on and off wiki as an icebreaker.
“Isbrytaren Bore” by Kristianwhedberg, under CC BY-SA 3.0

A train load of prizes arrived thanks to our cooperation with GLAMs.
“Järnvägsmuseet, Kristianstad – 2013-05-03 – 10” by Haxpett, under CC BY 4.0

Don’t let a wall of hierarchy stop you.
“Visby ringmur östra delen” by En-cas-de-soleil, under CC BY-SA 3.0

For the past four years, Wikimedia Sverige has organized the photo contest Wiki Loves Monuments in Sweden. Besides getting great photos to showcase Wikipedia and involving many new photographers, we have noticed another benefit from the contest that has received little attention.

What we have come to realize is that the contest is an excellent tool to increase cooperation with GLAM institutions in our country. Inviting GLAMs to be involved in the world’s largest photo contest and include their objects to be photographed is a great icebreaker.

Through the contest, Wikimedia Sverige has deepened its cooperation with a number of central GLAM organizations in several ways. In Sweden, we have mainly worked with three GLAMs: Riksantikvarieämbetet (The National Heritage Board); Statens Maritima Museer (The National Maritime Museums in Sweden); and Arbetslivsmuseernas Samarbetsråd (ArbetSam) (The Council of Working Life Museums). These GLAMs have, amongst other things, the responsibility to collect data and spread awareness about the objects within their respective fields. For example, The National Heritage Board deals with old buildings and ancient monuments, The National Maritime Museums in Sweden with important ships, and ArbetSam with a large number of museums and outdoor collections (such as old trains, mills etc.).

Wikimedia Sverige started working with the National Heritage Board in 2011, and has continued to work closely with them. The Wiki Loves Monuments contest was one of the first major projects we did together, and the National Heritage Board is now one of our most vocal and close supporters in the GLAM sector. This cooperation has been the model from which we built other GLAM relationships.

Before the start of the contest each year, we maintain close contact with the GLAMs, and work on improving the lists and other associated tasks. We strongly believe that having this type of regular interaction has solidified our cooperation.

Each of the GLAMs have provided us with data that we have used to build lists on Wikipedia. This has been the foundation of the cooperation, and has presented the GLAMs with a clear benefit and task. They have all appreciated the fact that their objects are included on Wikipedia and are considered important enough to form the foundation of the worlds largest photo contest. For the Wikimedia movement, it is obviously a great benefit to have complete and updated lists on Wikipedia. The cooperation has also put the spotlight on their work with their databases and licensing their data sets as open data – which is an added value. These are things we will then be able to include on Wikidata in the future.

For most of the contest, the GLAMs have also sponsored the prizes. These are often from their own shops – hence the prizes are very suitable for the photo categories in the contest. Sponsoring prizes is something that their staff has said is a bit easier to find support for in comparison to other tasks. What’s more, GLAM staff have been part of the jury, which is a good way to use their expertise and a task that many experts find rewarding and interesting. Another win-win!

For the last year, the GLAMs have also been actively – and very successfully – involved in the external communication work. Our joint efforts led to more than 30 press mentions about Wiki Loves Monuments in 2014 alone.

Finally, the GLAMs are now involved in Wikimedia Sverige’s applications for external funding as partners or in project reference groups. This involvement has greatly increased our chances of receiving funding for our work, and we have already seen positive outcomes. The fact that we now can pick up the phone, and ask them to join our application on short notice, is possible because of prior cooperation around Wiki Loves Monuments.

So what is needed for this to happen in your country as well?

We have learnt a lot during the last years and here are a few things to remember to form a strong cooperation (of course this list is not comprehensive, and some of it we could do better in practice ourselves):

  • Contact them early. Some of these are big hierarchical organizations that need time to form an opinion. This is especially true the first year you work together.
  • Be clear with them what they can do and what you are hoping for. Communication is the key. Don’t surprise them with new stuff that they haven’t planned for.
  • Report results continuously and at the end. Be sure to let them know that their work matters and that it is visible. E.g. we have great numbers to give them about page/image views and knowing these numbers makes it easy for them to argue internally for why they should work with us. Note: Making sure that the images are being used on Wikipedia will increase these numbers greatly. See if there is volunteer interest or if a contest around writing or adding images to Wikipedia can be organized.

Things we still struggle with

Of course there are still a number of things that we would like to develop further:

  • Reuse of the images. We would love to find ways of helping the GLAMs to use the API to get the WLM photos so that they can reuse them in their own environment. (We have a project focusing on this that is about to take off in 2015.) One example where this is already happening is the website where cultural heritage images from Wikimedia Commons are embedded (example).
  • Updating the lists. Keeping the lists up to date has proven a bit tricky, as not all GLAMs update the lists themselves or have a RSS feed with the updates in their database.

Have you found Wiki Loves Monuments useful for GLAM cooperations in your country? Have you done something similar? Please share in the comment section below!


John Andersson, Project Manager, Wikimedia Sweden

Axel Pettersson, Project Manager GLAM, Wikimedia Sweden