Wikimedia platforms provide access to and enrich DE SINGEL’s archive

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DE SINGEL arts centre opened in 1980 and has built up a rich archive over the past few decades, which continues to grow to this day. Many internationally renowned and lesser known (but not insignificant) names from the world of performing arts and music have presented and (co-)produced their work there. DE SINGEL has digitised a wealth of archive content and made it accessible online. This includes posters, programmes and photos as well as audio recordings of introductions and post-performance discussions to provide more context for the work that's available. Programmes produced by DE SINGEL often contain short biographies of the artists, which have also been published online. So visitors who click on a page for one of the people involved in a concert or performance can immediately also see their history at DE SINGEL.

Why link to Wikimedia platforms?

The number of people and organisations who have appeared at DE SINGEL since 1980 has grown too large to give them all up-to-date descriptions. The biographies that the DE SINGEL can offer are often the most recent ones written for the programmes, so for someone who last appeared at DE SINGEL twenty years ago, that's a twenty-year-old biography. But Wikipedia often has more up-to-date information, and the free licence for Wikipedia content (CC BY-SA 4.0) allows these texts to be re-used on DE SINGEL's website without express permission.

Links to Wikipedia have two main advantages:

  1. As an organisation, you can display good-quality information that you don't need to write yourself because someone else has already done it for you. As an encyclopaedia that lots of people contribute to, Wikipedia has the benefit that you're not the only person keeping the information up to date. And it's often available in several different languages, too. DE SINGEL has a website in three languages, for example, but the biographies there are mostly only in Dutch, whereas Wikipedia often has information about this same person also in English and/or French.
  2. You can add value to the archive you have published online by directing Wikipedia readers to it. Your archive is often a good-quality source of information about the subject in question, after all.

How did DE SINGEL approach this?

Link own credits with Wikidata

The intention was to enable Wikipedia content to be displayed on your own website with as little manual intervention as possible. This would therefore avoid Wikipedia content from being simply cut and pasted. Updated articles on Wikipedia had to appear automatically on DE SINGEL's website where relevant. We also wanted to be able to create the link straight away for people or organisations who don't yet have a Wikipedia page, but may have one in the future. This is done via Wikidata, the multilingual database set up by the Wikimedia Foundation, which is also behind Wikipedia. Every article on Wikipedia has a corresponding Wikidata item. Different language versions of the same subject are linked to each other on Wikidata.

20220331 Philippe Herreweghe Wikidata.png
Philippe Herreweghe's page on desingel.be

DE SINGLE describes all productions with links to their people, organisations and digital archive content in Salesforce. An extra field is created in Salesforce for the QID (or Q number), the unique identifier of a data item on Wikidata, comprising the letter 'Q' followed by one or more digits. For Philippe Herreweghe, for example, it's Q168039. When this QID is in Salesforce, the Wikidata API can be called to retrieve the linked Wikipedia content and picture in a certain language if available.

We created a one-time mapping between the people and organisations in DE SINGEL's database and the items in Wikidata with help from meemoo. OpenRefine software was used for this, which can suggest corresponding items on Wikidata based on the names or people and organisations. The most labour-intensive part of this operation is the manual validation of these suggestions. This operation also detected lots of duplicates in DE SINGEL's database, which we merged after manual checking. We ultimately found corresponding items in Wikidata for 9,100 people and organisations from a total of 19,500. This doesn't mean that all these items now have a Dutch Wikipedia article, but that A QID can be recorded in Salesforce already.

Uploading digital archive to Wikimedia Commons

DE SINGEL has provided access to lots of born-digital and digitised archive content on its own website. This online archive provides valuable contextual information, both for people who want some background information for the current programme and for visitors to the website who might be looking for historical information for any other reason. In order to reach a wider audience than just the people visiting DE SINGEL's website, the arts centre opted to publish archive content for which it, as an organisation, is the sole rightsholder under a free Creative Commons licence (CC BY 4.0). It then uploaded this content to Wikimedia Commons, which is the Wikimedia Foundation's media database for images, video and audio covered by a free licence or in the public domain. DE SINGEL followed the method already used by lots of museums for this: making data and digital reproductions of collection items available as openly as possible. DE SINGEL also see this as its public service and hopes it will generate added extra visibility, both for artists who appear at DE SINGEL and for the organisation itself. Three sub-collections were identified within the archive content which are suitable for upload to Wikimedia Commons:

  • audio recordings of introductions and post-performance discussions in DE SINGEL;
  • programmes created by DE SINGEL;
  • posters designed by DE SINGEL

The rights situation made it too complex to upload other items such as photos and video or audio recordings of concerts and shows. DE SINGEL does hold the copyrights and other related rights that cover this content (on its own), so it would be very time-consuming to gain all the necessary permissions from all those involved to be able to publish the content under a free licence.

Prior to the upload, DE SINGEL clearly published on its own website which parts of the archive were being published under a CC BY licence. The upload itself was done using the Pattypan tool, which uploaded the relevant descriptive metadata to Wikimedia Commons alongside the files themselves to ensure maximum findability for the content. We uploaded 2,267 audio clips, programmes and posters in total. Some examples:

Audio clip on Wikimedia Commons
PDF of archived DE SINGEL poster on Wikimedia Commons
PDF of DE SINGEL programme on Wikimedia Commons

DE SINGEL employees working as Wikipedians

DE SINGEL reviewed how it updates biographical information about artists. It initially used Wikipedia based on the realisation that it was impossible to provide biographies for 19,500 people and organisations on their own website, let alone maintain them. This doesn't mean that DE SINGEL is no longer actively writing biographies, however, but that they will primarily be on Wikipedia moving forward in order to contribute to universal and freely available knowledge. The fact that it can use its own archive as source material for this is a bonus because this provides extra visibility both for the artists in question and for DE SINGEL itself. Three employees were given the task of writing Wikipedia articles, with priority going to pages for artists appearing at DE SINGEL in the near future, as these are often the pages currently visited the most. They are updating existing pages using sources in DE SINGEL and writing new ones where relevant, guided by meemoo after becoming familiar with Wikipedia. They soon proved able to continue working on their own, and their edits are very much appreciated by other Wikipedians.

These contributors also ensure the links to the Wikidata QIDs are kept up to date when writing on Wikipedia. When a DE SINGEL employee creates a new article in Wikipedia, they immediately add the corresponding QID from Wikidata in Salesforce. This keeps the content on DE SINGEL's website visible and up to date at all times, and information can also be displayed in French or English when available.

DE SINGEL archive content on Christian Kieckens' English Wikipedia page

Wikipedia articles edited by contributors also refer to the relevant DE SINGEL website pages where appropriate, so you can find even more content uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. The content on Wikimedia Commons can be displayed directly in Wikipedia articles, and it has been shown in practice that it's not just DE SINGEL employees who do this. Other users know how to find DE SINGEL archive content and use it on Wikipedia pages, too.

Monitoring content references

Over a year after the content was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, 59 digital DE SINGEL archive items are being used on 76 different Wikimedia platform pages. The vast majority (46) are Dutch Wikipedia pages, which is the language most widely used by DE SINGEL employees, but the content has still found its way to 12 English and 5 German pages as well.

Views of Wikimedia Commons category DE SINGEL on glamwikidashboard.org

GLAMwiki Dashboard is a handy tool for organisations to monitor the impact of content posted on Wikimedia Commons. Content uploaded from the DE SINGEL receives 4,700 - 93,200 views every week within the Wikimedia platforms' context. The most viewed file was seen 58,200 times in total. The 10 most viewed digital archive items receive 20 views per day or more on average.

Conclusion

View statistics for the Antje Weithaas programme

It pays off to make the most of your archive content within existing copyright restrictions. The first and most obvious place to increase your online visibility is your own website, but you can also use Wikimedia platforms to reach an (international) audience that may not yet be familiar with your organisation. If you go about it the right way, your potential reach is huge compared to your own website's visitor statistics. And you're not just increasing the online visibility for your organisation, but also for the artists you work with.

Author: Bart Magnus (meemoo)