I’m Richard McCoy (@RichardMcCoy), an art conservator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), writer, and Wikipedian [[User:RichardMcCoy]]. Thanks to Liam for letting me guest-post on his blog.
For the past two years I’ve used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in my IUPUI Museum Studies Collection Care & Management course; last year I co-taught this course with Professor Jenny Mikulay [[User:Jgmikulay]]. In that class we challenged our students to document 40 artworks on and near the campus of IUPUI and publish their research in Wikipedia and Flickr. Together we created the IUPUI Public Art Collection and launched Wikiproject Public Art. The project received local, national, and international attention. Also, last spring, after we participated in Wikimeda@MW2010, Jenny organized Wiki Culture Conference at IUPUI, which brought Liam to Indianapolis for the first time, and got us thinking about future possibilities and collaborations.
I was excited to teach the IUPUI class again this semester (on my own) and take on another important final project. This year we set out to document 39 public artworks inside and around one of IUPUI’s most prestigious neighboring buildings, the Indiana Statehouse. The State Capitol building, in its Italian Renaissance revival splendor, houses the Governor of Indiana, the Indiana General Assembly, and lots of important public artworks.
To kick off this year’s project I colloborated with IUPUI School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) Professor Andrea Copeland [[User:Andrea Copeland]] to bring Liam back to the IMA and join Adrianne Wadewitz [[User:Awadwit]] for a night of lectures at the IMA called Wikipedia & the Cultural Sector, which was co-sponsered by the IUPUI SLIS Program, Museum Studies Program, and the IMA. The lectures were recorded and soon will be available on the IMA’s website.
After this great kick-off event, the 21 students (19 graduate & 2 undergrad) in my course spent the past month examining, photographing, researching, and writing about their assigned artworks. A big part of this project is the students’ climb over the steep learning curve to become proficient using Wikipedia & Flickr. Though these services are complex, they are no more complex than other digital asset management system (DAM) or content management system (CMS) like TMS or EMu which new museum professionals often have to learn to use quickly when they are first getting started in the field. The reason why we use Flickr rather than Wikimedia Commons to host all the photographs is because, unlike in many countries, US law does not have a “freedom of panorama” copyright exception. For artworks, even if permanently installed in public places, any publication of an image of an in-copyright artwork is subject to the approval of the copyright holder. We therefore use Flickr for the image collection and rely on “fair use” to minimally illustrate each article.
This project was designed as a practical teaching tool that would produce tangible and useful results about art at one of the State’s most important cultural institutions and also serve as a model for other educational programs to document collections of artworks in Wikipedia. I was fortunate to have Lori Phillips [[Uses:HstryQT]] work as the class’ teaching assistant to help develop the logistical framework for the Statehouse project. All of the documentation exists within Wikipedia and will remain as an example for other users and classes.
The act of documenting artworks using Wikipedia & Fickr raised awareness about the collection of art at the Statehouse, some of which were made by important artists more than 100 years ago, and others that are only a few years old. Perhaps the simplest way to gauge the results of this project is to Google the words “Indiana Statehouse Art.” Before we started our project, this resulted in only a few minor links, now there is a page of links about artworks in this collection.
Here are some highlights from this year’s project:
- 37 NEW Wikipedia articles created, each of which has at least one image, and in most cases has a tremendous amount of historical information.
- Here’s an overview article about the Indiana Statehouse Public Art Collection (the nav-box at the bottom allows for browsing of the entire collection).
- 272 NEW images created and uploaded to Flickr.
- Here’s a link to the Indiana Statehouse Public Art Group, which contains all of their images. Each image is titled, labeled, and tagged to optimize findability.
- SEVERAL Important discoveries were made by students through their research:
- The artwork previously known as Ceres, which is located in a niche on the fourth floor of the Statehouse, was re-discovered to be an important artwork made by Retta Matthews for the Chicago World’s Fair 1893. This artwork is a figurative representation of the state of Indiana.
- An article was made for the long-missing sculpture of Robert Dale Owen, which includes an image of the artist creating the sculpture (here’s hoping it turns up someday).
- The eight artworks in the rotunda were re-discovered to be titled the Values of Civilization.
- All but two artworks have confirmed artists. Anyone have a lead on who made these busts?
- A COMPREHENSIVE LIST of artworks created.
- Here’s the link to the List of public art at the Indiana Statehouse.
- For the outdoor artworks, precise GPS coordinates were added which allows for highly accurate mapping.
- Clicking on the link at the top of that list will map the locations of the artworks in either Google Maps or Bing.
- Having these coordinates in the articles makes the data highly interoperable, and potentially useful for new mobile applications.
- A GUIDE BOOK was created that is freely available.
- Here’s a link to the Indiana Statehouse Public Art Collection book, which will be update automatically when edits are made to the articles.
- You can download a copy of this book as a PDF, or
- You can order a hard copy version of the book and have it mailed directly to you.
- FOUR STUDENT’S ARTICLES WERE FEATURED on the “Did you know…” section of the Main Page of Wikipedia:
Having articles featured on the Main Page of Wikipedia can bring anywhere from 1500 to 7500 visitors to an article, which, no matter how you figure it, is more attention than many public artworks get in an entire year.
An important point to remember about this project is that, while the students are now finished, in many ways the project has just gotten started. My experience with Wikipedia shows that over time these articles will continue to grow, bit by bit, and their overall quality will continue improve.
Now that I’ve been involved in two major public art documentation projects, I know there’s a lot to do and a lot that could be done in documenting public art in Wikipedia. What if, for starters, every university in the world used this project as a way to document public art on their campus? Or if every city had its entire public art collection documented using this method? Not only would we bringing information important artworks to light–artworks that surround us and often go neglected–but we could be bringing a new group of serious researchers and photographers to Wikipedia.
Over the past year a team of scholars and students have been developing a number of excellent resources to make it easier for anyone to document public art using these tools. All of this information is contained within Wikiproject Public Art. There’s a lot happening with this project, so I want to take a moment to show some of the highlights and invite everyone to get involved with it and help it truly become a global project.
- Sarah Stierch [[User:Missvain]] has been developing two massive lists of public art and creating many articles:
- Jenny and Claudia Arzeno Mooney [[User:Claudiamoon]] have started a task force in the city of Milwaukee, WI. Their task force has created:
- More than 35 articles about public art in Wikipedia, many of which were recently created by students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
- List of public art in Milwaukee
- The Henry Bergh monument famous Bronze Fonz has been featured on the DYK? page.
- Lori has been refining tools to make the learning curve easier for beginners. In addition to a revamped project page, we now have these three well-tested resources:
- In France, Poulpy [[Utilisateur:Poulpy]] has been spearheading the development of the French version of the project, Projet: Art public.
- We are currently in the process of refining the guidelines for producing high quality images and uploading them to Flickr, Wikipedia, and/or Wikimedia Commons.
Without a doubt, Wikipedia is ideally suited for documenting public art because of their accessibility and openness for creating and sharing information in a collaborative environment. Here’s hoping that this project continues to grow into a truly global effort.
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