Want Excellent Free Images for Your Blogs and Wikis? Check out the Digital Public Library of America

Want Excellent Free Images for Your Blogs and Wikis? Check out the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is a nonprofit organization that works with a vast range of national partners to compile resources and materials from institutions into one accessible location for the public to use. The DPLA is also dedicated to helping out cultural institutions by creating a library-controlled marketplace for libraries to organize their ebooks and e-content.

We want to share some of the innovations and resources that our colleagues at DPLA have had in the works. This past year, DPLA has been devoting its time towards their collaborative efforts with Wikipedia. Last spring they launched a project that would make images of the millions of cultural heritage artifacts DPLA had available to audiences through WIkimedia. Since its inception, the collaboration has produced many exciting outcomes in the digital space. The work that has been accomplished is impactful to organizations and the public.

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Statistics and Impact

This project was funded with the help of a $215,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The partnerships that came together to embark on this project were focused on democratizing knowledge. The DPLA and Wikipedia made perfect sense when it came to this. Both entities were not only managing major information databases on their own, they were also interested in sharing this knowledge with everyone in a way that was fair and accessible.

Within just this past year, over 1.25 million media files were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, run by the nonprofit organization, Wikimedia Foundation, that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. This now holds the record as the single largest bulk upload to the platform and covers over 650,000 different items collected from over 200 various institutions.

While making sure all of the pictures of cultural artifacts were uploaded to the commons, an even bigger purpose and more sought after indicator of success was how often these images were actually being used. Audiences are able to see any of these uploaded images through your average Wikipedia article. There’s still plenty of work to be done in boosting the discovery of these resources but DPLA has noted that they can be found on almost 1,000 individual Wikipedia pages so far which has generated over 16 million views in total. Those curious about the uploads that have already been made can easily see and track them through Wikimedia Commons.

Participation and Progress

Collaboration is at the core of this project which is why they are open to accepting contributions from any institution that may have useful materials to include. There’s a variety of webinars that touch on how institutions can get more involved with this with “Introduction to wikimedia: Increased Discoverability and Use” as one of the encouraged ones to utilize. Live information sessions are also available to those looking for more information on how to participate in the project and help grow its discoverability and use. Public libraries have already been contributing and benefiting from these projects. Just check out what’s been going on at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and the Boston Public Library which has already contributed 8,000 pictures to Wikimedia Commons!

The usage of files is one of the major metrics that the DPLA is interested in tracking. This gives them insight on the number of people who have found and utilized the materials being uploaded into Wikipedia Commons. For those interested in following the progress, there is a views tracking tool available that tracks the amount of views on media contributed by the DPLA which have consistently grown throughout the past year.

Future Goals

There’s definitely much celebration to be had for these digital partners. But DPLA and Wikipedia are more focused on what comes next. Just a few of these plans include discovering and onboarding new partners to their project and providing education to current members to boost participation. They also hope to make significant improvements within their data synchronization so that there is a seamless transition from when partner institutions upload their images to how it appears on Wikimedia Commons.

Tackling discoverability starts right in their own organizations which is why they are also dedicating time to training and educating editors and staff within the DPLA Wikipedia editing network and Wikipedia editors. This keeps everyone on the same page and up-to-date on processes and procedures that will best help this project expand to all different types of audiences.

With plenty of goals set for the future and many plans in place, people may have specific questions on how these objectives can be achieved. A live discussion was held on March 18 where a handful of speakers with direct connections to the project spoke on the work that has been done so far and the trajectory of the project. While this event has since passed, the DPLA has uploaded it to its channel on YouTube and those wanting to learn more can find it here.