The point of diminishing returns on image donations

One of the standard things that comes up when wikipedians talk to GLAMs is the subject of images. Even in the form of donations of image collections or allowing wikipedians in to take pictures. This is understandable. It is something straightforward that can be done fairly quickly and in the past we were rather short of images particularly historical ones.

However commons now has over 10 million images and one way or another wikimedians have got rather good at finding images for articles. So while Bundesarchiv images which have a first mover advantage are widely used this is less likely to be the case with later donations. Simply allowing people to take photos is likely to have an even more limited impact since with the exception of a museum’s stand out items wikipedia likely already have photos of the items in question or a slight lack of an article to put them in. The number of articles on artefacts (compared to say people) that don’t yet have a pic appears to be shrinking.

My recent visit to the Thinktank museum in Birmingham is a case in point. So far I’ve only been able to use a couple of images and one video in articles (aside from the article on the museum itself). I’ve probably got a couple more usable images that could be used but that’s pretty slim pickings.

Yes to an extent this can be overcome. Digitalisation of the right bits of image archives could still have a very significant impact. Allowing wikimedians into back rooms or opening cases allowing them to take photos that are better than existing photos would certainly have an impact but even there as time goes on we run into diminishing returns.

So we need other off the shelf ideas we can present to museums. At this point QR code qualifies which is one of the reasons I’m so excited about it. Open museum signs might be an option for smaller museums but that kind of graphic design is tricky to do collaboratively. I’ve previously mentioned my interest in open and linked maps of museums.  If I can ever get that beyond the demo stage its perhaps something that could be suggested. Another one is to see if we can get them to provide a complete list of their artefacts. Even if it’s a plain text list than no one other than wikipedians ever looks at it would be rather useful for us. Since we generally accept museum websites as reliable sources it would make surviving examples sections likes the one in the biber submarine article a lot less effort to reference. This also allows museums to attract visitors since it allows people reading articles about objects to find out where they can go and see an example of that object.

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One Response to The point of diminishing returns on image donations

  1. nemobis says:

    IMHO you just need to pick collections well. There are recent contributions with 100 % usage of images. Actually, part of the problem may be the term “donation”, which should be banned: nobody is donating anything here. Cf.

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