BBC to put 200,000 paintings from the Public Catalogue Foundation online

This could be fantastic – I hope the BBC will work with the museum sector to complement the work they’re already doing or planning to get their collections online.  From the Guardian, BBC to put nation’s oil paintings online:

A partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation charity will see all the UK’s publicly owned oil paintings – 80% of which are not on public display – placed on the internet by 2012.

The BBC said it wanted to establish a new section of its bbc.co.uk website, called Your Paintings, where users could view and find information on the UK’s national collection.

The Public Catalogue Foundation, launched in 2003, is 30% of the way through cataloguing the UK’s collection of oil paintings.

In addition the BBC said it was talking to the Arts Council about giving the public free online access to its archive for the first time, including its wide-ranging film collection dating back to the 1950s. 

[Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, said:] “Today we are not only reaffirming our commitment to arts, but we’re announcing a series of measures that will put this relationship on an even stronger footing. Through innovative new partnerships, I believe the BBC can deliver big, bold arts programming that is accessible, distinctive and enjoyable.”

I do wonder what Time Out’s Tony Elliott would make of it.

Move your FAQ to Wikipedia?

Mal Booth from the Australian War Memorial (AWM) makes the fascinating suggestion: they should move their entire Encyclopaedia to Wikipedia. Their encyclopaedia seems to function as a fully researched and referenced FAQ with content creation driven by public enquiries, and would probably sit well in Wikipedia.

In Wikipedia and “produsers”, Mal says:

“Putting the content up on Wikipedia.org gives it MUCH wider exposure than our website ever can and it therefore has the potential to bring new users to our website that may not even know we exist (via links in to our own web content). With a wikipedia.org user account, we can maintain an appropriate amount of control over the content (more than we have at present over wikipedia content that started as ours, already put up there by others).

Another point is that putting it up on Wikipedia allows us to engage the assistance of various volunteers who’d like to help us, but don’t live locally.”

He also presents some good suggestions from their web developer, Adam: they should understand and participate in the Wikipedia community, and identify themselves as AWM professionals before importing content. I think they’ve taken the first step by assessing the suitability of their content for Wikipedia.

It’s also an interesting example of an organisation that is willing to ‘let go’ of their content and allow it to be used and edited outside their institution. Mal’s blog is a real find (and I’m not just saying that because it has ‘Melbin’ (Melbourne) in the title), and I’ll be following the progress of their project with interest.

I wonder how issues of trust and authority will play out on their entries: by linking to the relevant Wikipedia entries, the AWM is giving those entries a level of authority they might not otherwise have. They’re also placing a great deal of trust in Wikipedia authors.

Mal links to a post by Alex Bruns, Beyond Public Service Broadcasting: Produsage at the ABC and summarises the four preconditions for good user-generated content:

  • the replacement of a hierarchy with a more open participatory structure;
  • recognising the power of the COMMUNITY to distinguish between constructive and destructive contributions;
  • allowing for random (granular, simple) acts of participation (like ratings); and
  • the development of shared rather than owned content that is able to be re-used, re-mixed or mashed up.

Adam’s post lists key principles that anyone “looking to develop successful and sustainable participatory media environments” should take into account. These points are defined and expanded on in the original post, which is well worth reading:

  1. Open Participation, Communal Evaluation
  2. Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy
  3. Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process
  4. Common Property, Individual Rewards

Who decides?

I’m really not sure what I think about this Dear Internet letter from public.resource.org.

They’ve screen scraped the Smithsonian picture library and uploaded the images to Flickr. They’ve had legal advice that the Smithsonian’s prohibitions on reuse were not valid, and state that:

This is not to say that the Smithsonian cannot obtain funds through creative means, only that the Institution should be cognizant of a special and unique status under our laws. One has only to look at the thriving Smithsonian Associates program or the wildly popular Smithsonian Folkways music site to see that there are many options for government entities to creatively raise funds. Privatizing the public domain is not one of those options.