For much of the past year Wikimedians around the world have been preparing for Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, expected to be the largest photo contest in the world by a wide margin. Building off the success of the 2011 contest, which saw 5,000 volunteers upload over 168,000 photos to Wikimedia Commons, volunteer organizers this year have been compiling lists of historic sites and monuments in over 30 countries, as far-flung as the Philippines, Panama, Canada, Russia, and South Africa.
Wiki Loves Monuments is important to the Wikimedia community because it encourages people to take beautiful photos of historic and cultural relevance, upload them to Wikimedia Commons under a free license, and allow them to be used by Wikipedia or any others from the free culture movement in perpetuity.
The contest is also important because it encourages people who have never contributed to Wikimedia projects to do so in a fun and simple way. While it might take more time and energy to research and write a new Wikipedia article, it’s pretty simple to take a photo of a building and upload it to Commons. In 2011, not only were 80 percent of the contestants who contributed newbies to Wikimedia projects, they have stayed on and edited with greater frequency than the norm. Given the large increase in participating countries this year, organizers are hopeful that up to 10,000 volunteers will participate and will contribute hundreds of thousands of photos to Commons.
In the United States, which is participating for the first time, contestants will take photos of historic buildings, sites and monuments that are part of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). For 5 years, WikiProject:NRHP members have been compiling the lists into tables and creating functionality that allows you to load the lists in Google or Bing maps. The NRHP list has been integrated into English Wikipedia, but there are still a lot of red links, meaning even those sites with photos lack articles to go along with them.
“In the U.S., anybody can photograph any of the 87,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places for this contest,” said Peter Ekman, national coordinator for the U.S. part of the contest and a member of WikiProject NRHP. “By uploading your photos you are sharing our national heritage with everybody in America and in the rest of the world. The photos will be free to use, and free of cost, forever.”
Ekman and other organizers in the US have assembled an amazing jury of photographers, archivists, and Wikimedians who will judge the photos, narrowing the tens of thousands of entries to ten finalists by mid-October. Those ten finalists will be sent to an international jury, which will pick the overall top ten and the grand prize winner. The grand prize will be a trip to Hong Kong next summer for a photo tour and to participate in Wikimania 2013, the annual gathering of Wikimedians from around the world.
You can find full bios for our judges on the http://wikilovesmonuments.us/judging but we’d like to highlight them here:
- Carol M. Highsmith specializes in capturing America with her camera. Her collection at the Library of Congress has over 20,000 photos that she has donated to the public domain.
- Heather Moran is the photographer and archivist of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) where she photographs and works to digitize the Muni collection.
- Rick Prelinger is an archivist, teacher, writer, lecturer and filmmaker. He is the founder and President of Prelinger Archives, co-founder of the Prelinger Library in San Francisco, and Board President of the Internet Archive.
- Daniel Case has been a Wikipedia editor since 2005, and is now an Administrator. He has focused on WikiProject:National Register of Historic Places
- Howard Cheng is an administrator at both Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons who works on the “Picture of the Day” and “On this Day…” features on Wikipedia’s main page.
- Daniel Schwen is an administrator on Wikimedia Commons and contributor of numerous Featured Pictures.
- David Shankbone is one of Wikipedia’s most influential photographers, whose photos appear in over 5,000 Wikipedia articles in 200 languages.
To coincide with the 2012 contest, the Wikimedia Foundation is happy to announce that it has developed a free Wiki Loves Monuments mobile application for Android smartphones, available in the Google app store. With this app, Wikipedians for the first time will be able to upload photos to Wikimedia sites through their mobile devices. The app displays nearby historic sites automatically, allows users to upload directly through their Wikimedia accounts, and is available in many different languages. The official app launches on September 1, 2012, but you can try the advance version here.
We’re excited to welcome everyone to participate, whether you’re a seasoned Commons photographer with thousands of uploads or you’re a newbie who wants to improve Wikipedia with photos you’re freely licensing for the first time. Starting September 1st and continuing until September 30th, you can upload photos of the monuments around you and be part of history — literally.
(For a list of photo walks and fun events around the U.S., visit Wiki Takes America and sign up in your area. To get started, go create an account on Commons, find your list, and start shooting.)
Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation, and volunteer organizer with Wiki Loves Monuments-US