Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.

Abyssinian with knife in hand.” Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.

134,000 images are being uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, a central repository for free media, from ETH-Bibliothek, Switzerland’s largest public scientific and technical library.

Most of the photographs are being drawn from their aerial photograph holdings (70,000 in all) and 40,000 from the archives of Swissair, the national airline of the country until its bankruptcy in 2002.

The first 18,000 uploads come from Walter Mittelholzer, a Swiss aviation pioneer and entrepreneur. In his travels, which included the first north–south flight across the African continent, he took thousands of aerial photographs from places as varied as Spitsbergen (1923), a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean; Persia (1924–25); Kilimanjaro, the dormant volcano in modern-day Tanzania (1929–30); and Ethiopia (1934). You can see examples of his work sprinkled throughout this blog post.

Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.

Refueling in Tunisia. Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.

“Mittelholzer captured sensational aerial images of landscapes, many of which had never been photographed from a bird’s-eye view before,” ETH-Bibliothek project coordinator Michael Gasser said. Mittelholzer utilized these images in a series of popular books that chronicled his trips into the-then great unknown; today, his work is used in post-colonial research.

Other images being uploaded come from are historical photographs of ETH-Bibliothek’s campus in Zurich, along with portraits of professors, students, and scientists at the same location.

Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.

Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.

Gasser says that while all of these images being are already available on the internet, ETH-Bibliothek is “facilitating access to these valuable image sources … we are trying to bring the material to where the users are.” All are licensed under CC BY-SA or are in the public domain.

The project to upload them to Wikimedia Commons stems from a collaboration between ETH-Bibliothek and Wikimedia CH, an independent organization that works to advance the Wikimedia movement in Switzerland, which was initiated through mutual contacts at Open Data.ch, the Swiss chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

You can see the images for yourself as they are being uploaded over on Commons.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.

Photo by Walter Mittelholzer via ETH-Bibliothek, public domain/CC0.