Ban the bomb march from Caernarfon to Bangor, Geoff Charles (1909-2002)

National Library of Wales works with Wiki to share collections

Nicola Sullivan, 25.10.2016
Open data options also being explored
The National Library of Wales – Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – has provided open access to thousands of digital records via Wikimedia UK.

So far the library has shared 15,000 images online using two licenses developed by Creative Commons – the public domain mark and CC0. These are embedded in the images metadata indicating that they can be freely downloaded, reused and manipulated for any purpose. 

Artwork, photographs, manuscripts and examples of early printed material are among the digital records available. Highlights include photographs by Philip Jones Griffiths – a Welsh photographer known for his pictures of the Vietnam war. 

Accessed via the Wikimedia Commons, collectively the images have attracted more than 140 million views since they were first made available in March 2015. Figures show that the images are attracting around 10 million views per month, and are being accessed by a user-base comprising 90 different languages.  

The aims of the project are to: share images and library content on an open license; embed open access into the work of the library and its partners; and to improve online content by getting members of the public and library staff to edit Wikipedia.

The first step was to appoint Jason Evans, who was already employed by library, as a Wikipedian in Residence – a one-year post partly funded by Wikimedia UK. Initially Evans focused on the items that were out of copyright before moving on to items where the library or artist owned the copyright.     

“We thought about what [items in the digital collection] would have the highest impact and were the most visually impressive. We took a list – what is the most visually impressive and we took a list of collections – almost like a wish list - for senior staff and they approved a number of collections for release,” says Evans.

“Some people are very open and sharing as widely as they can and others are very fearful that they are going to use control of their work and they will lose the potential to generate income from it in the future,” he added.

Viewing statistics can be used as “ammunition” when it comes to convincing other copyright holders says Evans.

“Although there is no income generated from this we have noticed that people have been reusing (particularly the higher quality works that we have released) in exhibitions and books or images to create t-shirts and phone cases,” he says.

In the long-term the library hopes to secure licensing agreements with big brands and charge a small fee for professionals that want access to the highest quality versions of the images made openly available online.  
“Something being built into our business case is the idea that if you share the material openly it gets the attention it deserves and then you can build the brand licensing agreement,” says Evans.

The library is also working with Wikidata – an open data platform – to free up access to information on its collections. This would make data available to web developers and professional hackers to use it to create apps, games and visualisations. Wikidata has already been used for the library’s Welsh landscape collection, made up of around 5,000 images, which have already been released on an open license via Wiki Commons.  

“The collection is searchable, which it wasn’t when it was just metadata. For example, we can now plot a map based on the places depicted in each image, so it has now got geolocation data attached to it,” said Evans.