DPLA to make cultural treasures freely available on Wikipedia with new Sloan Foundation support

By DPLA, January 4, 2023.
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A $750,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to the Digital Public Library of America will fuel a multi-year effort to connect America’s cultural heritage institutions with Wikipedia, the world’s free online encyclopedia. This grant will offer an opportunity to make millions of cultural treasures from hundreds of American libraries, archives, and museums freely available online, including Renaissance manuscripts from Philadelphia’s Science History Institute; historic photos of the Pacific Northwest from Seattle Public Library; and portraits of 18th-century actors from the University of Illinois.

Nearly three years ago, Sloan Foundation funded DPLA to work with the Wikimedia Foundation, the global nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and other free online knowledge projects. DPLA has since shared more than 3 million photographs, documents, and files on Wikimedia Commons, a free online repository of images, sounds, videos, and other media used on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, enabling these resources to be viewed more than 150 million times on Wikipedia. Sloan’s support will allow DPLA to dramatically increase the number of participating organizations and the amount of essential cultural heritage content available on Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and related Wikimedia projects.  

“The growth of our partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation positions DPLA to more fully realize our mission: free and open access to the cultural and intellectual riches stewarded by libraries, archives, and museums across the United States for the benefit of all,” said DPLA executive director John S. Bracken. “It’s imperative that knowledge gathering isn’t restricted to only those who can travel and see our cultural and heritage treasures in person.” 

“We are delighted to continue support for this seminal partnership between two pillars of the Sloan Foundation’s program to democratize knowledge for the benefit of all, DPLA and Wikipedia,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “With our previous grant, DPLA was able to contribute the largest bulk upload ever made to Wikimedia Commons by a single organization. With this renewed grant, we anticipate a four-fold increase in the number of uploaded files and contributing institutions that will make more of the world’s rich cultural and scientific heritage available to a billion people around the globe.” 

“Today, DPLA is one of the largest contributors of images to Wikimedia Commons. Crucially, DPLA adds descriptive structured data to these images, ensuring they are more discoverable for use on Wikipedia,” said Yael Weissburg, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Vice President of Partnerships, Programs, and Grantmaking. “By managing a digital asset pipeline to Commons, DPLA helps to illustrate Wikipedia with high-quality images and make collections visible and relevant to a global community of readers.”

“Libraries and museums strive to be inclusive places of knowledge sharing and they want more patrons to experience and learn from their collections. Sloan Foundation support will allow DPLA to make the collections of hundreds of libraries and museums available on Wikipedia,” said DPLA director of community engagement Shaneé Yvette Willis. “We will be able to increase the reach of our partners, such as the Middle Georgia Archives in Macon, Georgia, whose photo of Christ Episcopal Church now illustrates the Wikipedia page for the Episcopal Church, and Toledo Lucas County Public Library, whose photo of the McKinley Monument illustrates the page of the 25th President.”

“We’re excited to make the historic photos, postcards, and sheet music in our collections accessible for seamless discovery and use by the global community through our work with DPLA and Wikimedia,” said Jason Kucsma, executive director of Toledo Lucas County Public Library.

DPLA’s Wikimedia work is guided by a 10-person Wikimedia Working Group, chaired by DPLA data fellow Dominic Byrd-McDevitt, which includes:

  • Meredith Doviak, National Archives and Records Administration
  • Eben English, Boston Public Library & Digital Commonwealth
  • Christine Fernsebner Eslao, Harvard Library
  • Jamie Flood, National Agricultural Library
  • Giovanna Fontenelle, Wikimedia Foundation
  • Rachel Meibos Helps, Brigham Young University (Mountain West Digital Library)
  • Evan Robb, Washington State Library (Northwest Digital Heritage)
  • Angela Stanley, Georgia Public Library Service (Digital Library of Georgia)
  • Greta Suiter, Ohio University Libraries (Ohio Digital Network)

To learn more about our Wikimedia work and find out how your institution can participate, please join our next Open Board + Community meeting on Monday, January 9, at 2 pm ET. We will also be presenting a Learning Lab on this work at the ALA LibLearnX in New Orleans on January 28.

DPLA’s Wikimedia work is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation

About Digital Public Library of America

Digital Public Library of America amplifies the value of libraries and cultural organizations as trusted sources of shared knowledge. DPLA fulfills its mission by collaborating with partners to accelerate the adoption of innovative tools and ideas to empower and equip libraries in making public information more accessible.

About the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a New York–based, philanthropic, not-for-profit institution that makes grants for research in science, technology, and economics; quality and diversity of scientific institutions; and public engagement with science. Sloan’s Special Initiatives program, directed by Doron Weber, supports high-return projects that strengthen the scientific and technological enterprise as a social good. The program leverages opportunities where society can maximally benefit from science as a powerful source of breakthroughs, shared knowledge, and common values while being protected from any potential harms. Sloan has been a lead funder of the Wikimedia Foundation since 2008, helping Wikipedia scale up, improve accuracy, and enhance credibility as it became the largest encyclopedia in human history and one of the top web sites in the world. The Foundation has been a champion of DPLA since its earliest days, providing support for e-books work, cultural heritage work, and more. Learn more at sloan.org or follow Sloan on Twitter and Facebook at @SloanPublic.

About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. The Wikimedia Foundation’s vision is a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. The Wikimedia Foundation believes that everyone has the potential to contribute something to our shared knowledge, and that everyone should be able to access that knowledge freely. The Wikimedia Foundation hosts Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, builds software experiences for reading, contributing, and sharing Wikimedia content, supports the volunteer communities and partners who make Wikimedia possible, and advocates for policies that enable Wikimedia and free knowledge to thrive. The Wikimedia Foundation is a United States 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA.