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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday November 23, 2018

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Liam Wyatt

Liam Wyatt

Program Manager for WikiCite, Former Europeana GLAMwiki Community Manager , Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedians discuss their favourite works from Europeana Collections

As Europeana celebrates its tenth anniversary, four Wikimedia editors from across the continent - from Armenia to Wales - reflect on working with some of their favourite artworks from Europeana Collections. Their experiences highlight the importance of making our cultural heritage not merely accessible but also reusable.

The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz | Lelie, Adriaan de, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain.
The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz
Lelie, Adriaan de
The Netherlands

Sir John Williams - chosen by Jason Evans

National Wikimedian, National Library of Wales. Wikipedia username: Jason.nlw

Sir John Williams

Sir John Williams, Bart, GCVO, MD. Williams, Christopher. National Library of Wales. Public Domain.

As the National Wikimedian at the National Library of Wales, I am always looking for opportunities to share our collections openly. However it’s equally important to encourage engagement and reuse of the collections we give access to, and the story of our portrait of Sir John Williams is a great example of the opportunities open access can present. The story began with the Europeana 280 project. Among 10 high resolution images shared by the Library with Europeana and Wikimedia Commons for the project was the portrait of Sir John - founder of the National Library of Wales. The image was widely reused on Wikipedia and a Welsh language Wikipedia article was created about the painting itself.

No no no no by Erika Inzitari. CC BY-SA.

The image was later discovered on Europeana Collections by a student and developed into a superb gif. Much like the paintings on the walls of Hogwarts, Sir John was brought back to life, nodding his head and raising his eyebrow. Europeana even adopted our founder for their error page, sternly shaking his head to tell users that something has gone wrong. For me, it is this kind of creative reuse which demonstrates the true value of open access.

The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz - chosen by Arminé Aghayan

Wikipedia volunteer in cultural topics and gender gap. Wikipedia username: Armineaghayan

The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz

The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz | Lelie, Adriaan deRijksmuseumPublic Domain.

My Europeana story goes back to the Europeana 280 project, 2016. Though my country was not directly involved in the project, being a big art lover I translated 23 articles about artworks from different collections presented in Europeana thus providing the Armenian readers the opportunity to have some of the collection items in their native language.

One of the artworks in the translated articles was ‘The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz’. This artwork is unique for me as it depicts not only the art collector with his friends in his house-cum-gallery but also gives the viewer the opportunity to admire 16 gilded framed artworks (and some more in the second room) from different worldwide collections of Dutch Golden Age painters, animal and landscape painters, draughtsman and etchers, painters of pastoral landscapes, history, still life, portrait painters, as well as Flemish artists (Rubens). All in one picture.

Theatrum Pictorium - chosen by Jane Darnell

Wikidatan in the arts. Wikipedia username: Jane023

Theatrum pictorium

Theatrum pictorium. Teniers, David I; Peeters, Jacobus. KIK-IRPA, Brussels (Belgium). CC BY-NC-SA.

The first artwork from Europeana Collections that I worked with was the 1794 gallery painting ‘The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz’, which was part of the Europeana Art History Challenge), It shows us the taste in ‘Top Art’ anno 1794, but is itself an exemplar of a much older Flemish gallery painting tradition made famous by David Teniers in his work for the Archduke Leopold of Austria. 

Having seen how well-received a Wikipedia article about the Gildemeester gallery was, I decided to start a whole new project on the 1660 publication of the first recorded ‘illustrated art collection catalogue’, known as the Theatrum Pictorium. (Great article on this here!) This book is held by libraries worldwide and the listed engravings are in Europeana Collections many times over (example: engravings by one of the pictorium engravers Nikolaus van Hoy). Some of the most complete datasets based on this book are also in Europe and in Europeana Collections, such as the one in the Slovak National Gallery (example 07101/G_11965_166). Though the painting this record represents has been lost, the miniature by Teniers used to make the engraving has survived in a private collection. Many of the paintings and their miniatures that the engravings illustrate are also in Europeana Collections as they have remained in the Austrian state collection known as the Kunsthistorisch Museum.

As I discover more gallery paintings by Teniers, I try to create Wikipedia pages for them that include all depicted images, such as this one (obj00060263), since only the Italian paintings were published. The collections holding individual miniatures, paintings, copies or engravings are spread around the world. Here is a map from a Wikidata query. Only a subset of these currently have Europeana IDs, but there could be many more.

Halbzeit - chosen by Sandra Fauconnier

Belgian-Dutch Wikimedian. Wikipedia username: Spinster

Theatrum pictorium

Halbzeit | Majerus, Michel, Mudam Luxembourg, CC BY-NC-ND 

On a cold winter morning in 2012, I found myself in Stuttgart, where I paid a spontaneous and unplanned visit to the Kunstmuseum. At that time, practically the entire museum was taken over by a retrospective of the Luxembourg artist Michel Majerus (1967-2002). That exhibition was one overwhelming onslaught of enormous, powerful canvases and installations, in Majerus' signature mash-up style of brightly coloured references to popular culture. It impressed me deeply, and I have been a Majerus fan ever since.

When I prepared to participate in the Europeana 280 challenge on Wikidata and Wikipedia, I was delighted to discover in Europeana Collections a work by Majerus: Halbzeit (2002), in the collection of Mudam in Luxembourg City. I promptly decided to dedicate a Wikipedia article to it. Now - writing about contemporary art on Wikipedia is a nice challenge! It takes quite a bit of thought and effort to translate the often theoretical and lofty texts about today's art to Wikipedia's factual, neutral encyclopedic style. I hope I succeeded in summarising the work's meaning in a legible way, understandable for a broad audience.

Due to copyright restrictions, Wikipedia entries about contemporary art usually include few or no images, but I wrote this article on the English-language Wikipedia, where I was able to include a very small illustration for educational purposes under the fair use doctrine in US copyright. This case reminds me of the 20th century black hole: due to copyright restrictions, we see very few images of recent and contemporary works on platforms like Europeana Collections and Wikipedia… I wonder if an artist like Majerus, who built his entire oeuvre around remixing popular culture, wouldn't have approved of broader availability and reusability of digitised representations of his artworks? Unfortunately, Majerus himself can't tell us anymore (he died in 2002 in a plane accident), but I certainly would love to see more clear and well-informed choices by contemporary artists in this area.