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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2020

portrait of Rebecca O'Neill

Rebecca O'Neill

Project Coordinator , Wikimedia Ireland

Wiki Loves Monuments - work in Ireland

September only means one thing for the Wikimedia community, and that is Wiki Loves Monuments! In this post, Rebecca O’Neill, Project Coordinator for Wikimedia Community Ireland, reflects on the competition’s influence in Ireland and how to take part. 

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Known as WLM to everyone in the Wikimedia world, Wiki Loves Monuments is a photography competition focused on capturing images of listed structures from the built environment and uploading them onto Wikimedia Commons under an open licence. It started in the Netherlands in 2010, and has seen thousands of participants upload hundreds of thousands of images in the past 10 years worldwide.

WLM in Ireland

Ireland has been taking part in WLM since 2014, and in six years this has resulted in almost 7,500 images of Irish built heritage uploaded to Commons under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 which allows them to be used, shared, and enjoyed by the whole world. Despite the huge number of images uploaded, only 40% of the structures listed as eligible for the competition have a photograph on Commons. This leaves 60% of Ireland’s publicly accessible built heritage unrepresented on Wikimedia Commons, and thus Wikipedia itself - something which we try to address each year through the competition. Using Wikidata, we are able to visualise that gap in photographs through this query.

The Irish structures are those listed by the National Monuments Service and the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, and range from castles to bridges, churches to canal locks, and quays to fountains. The sites include the prehistoric right up to the 20th century, with many unassuming structures included which hold their own intrinsic value. 

Our initial list in 2014 was dominated by archaeological sites listed by the National Monument Service, the familiar dolmens, cairns, mounds, castles and standing stones which are characteristic of the ancient built heritage of Ireland. We worked closely with the Service to ensure that all relevant sites were included, and there were no issues regarding safe access to the sites listed. In 2017 our volunteers worked with the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage to incorporate over 6000 structures which are similarly publicly accessible. These sites date from after 1700 and offer a different, and sometimes more challenging form of built heritage to photograph. I wrote a paper on how we developed our list over time, and the implications which can be found here.

Encouraging engagement with built cultural heritage

As many of the buildings listed now have a public or cultural function, in particular libraries and local museums, they have been key to promoting the competition locally. In an ordinary year, this would have involved posting leaflets and posters to all the county libraries and museums, but this year more than ever we will be relying on digital promotion through our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. In the past, when a winning photograph has featured a GLAM, such as Kilmainham Gaol, this has spurred some interest from the site through reposting and sharing the image and news via social media channels.

As a community, we use Wiki Loves Monuments as a demonstration of the power of open licence images to improve the profile and understanding of Ireland’s material culture through Wikipedia and its sister projects. There is an important role in running the competition annually, as the store of photographs can form an archive of the condition of the structure. One such case was the documentation of a fire at the Erne Palais Ballroom in Belturbet, County Cavan in 2018. Unfortunately. images of the damaged structure were the first ones to be uploaded to Commons, but will form part of an important visual archive of the site moving into the future.

How it works 

Anyone can take part in the competition by uploading their own images of the eligible sites to Commons during the month of September. Our participants are a mix of photographers across all skill levels and inspired Wikimedians. We have a number of local photographers who participate each year, and our winners are a diverse group ranging from teenagers to retirees.

The photos can have been taken at any time, as long as they are new to Commons, and participants can upload as many photos as they like. All skill levels are welcome, as this year we will be awarding prizes for photographs of the more challenging, obscure and remote monuments that previously had no photo on Commons. 

The photographs are used to illustrate new and existing articles across all the different language Wikipedias, as well as being linked to other projects such as Wikidata and Wikivoyage.

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