Documenting public art, on Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a number of articles listing public artworks (statues, murals, etc) in counties, cities and towns, around the world. For example, in Birmingham. There’s also a list of the lists.

Gilded statue of three men

Boulton, Watt and Murdoch (1956) by William Bloye.
Image by Oosoom, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are, frankly, not enough of these articles; and few of those that do exist are anywhere near complete (the best is probably the list for Westminster).

How you can help

I invite you to collaborate with me, to make more lists, and to populate them.

You might have knowledge of your local artwork, or be able to visit your nearest library to make enquiries; or to take pictures (in the United Kingdom, of “permanent” works, for copyright reasons — for other countries, read up on local ‘Freedom of Panorama‘) and upload them to Wikimedia Commons, or even just find coordinates for items added by someone else. If you’re a hyperlocal blogger, or a journalist, perhaps you can appeal to your readership to assist?

Practical steps

You can enter details of an artwork using the “Public art row” family of templates. A blank entry looks like:


{{Public art row
| image =
| commonscat =
| subject =
| location =
| date =
| show_artist= yes
| artist =
| type =
| material =
| dimensions =
| designation =
| coordinates =
| owner =
| show_wikidata= yes
| wikidata =
| notes =
}}

(change “yes” to “no” if a particular column isn’t wanted) and you simply type in the information you have, like this:


{{Public art row
| image = Boulton, Watt and Murdoch.jpg
| commonscat = Statue of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, Birmingham
| subject = ''[[Boulton, Watt and Murdoch]]''
| location = Near the House of Sport – Broad Street
| date = {{Start date|1956}}
| artist = [[William Bloye]]
| type = statue
| material = Gilded [[Bronze]]
| dimensions = 10 feet tall
| designation = Grade II listed
| coordinates = 52.478587,-1.908395
| owner = [[Birmingham City Council]]
| show_wikidata= yes
| wikidata = Q4949742
| notes = <ref>http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/things-to-do/top-5-statues-birmingham-5678972</ref>
}}

Apart from the subject, all the values are optional.

In the above (as well as some invented values for illustrative purposes):

but if that’s too complicated, you can just enter text values, and someone else will come along and do the formatting (experienced Wikipedians can use the {{Coord}} template for coordinates, too). If you get stuck, drop me a line, or ask for help at Wikipedia’s Teahouse.

What this does

The “Public art row” template makes it easy to enter data, keeps everything tidy and consistently formatted, and makes the content machine-readable, That means that we can parse all the contents and enter them into Wikidata, creating new items if required, as we go.

We can then include other identifiers for the artworks in Wikidata, and include the artworks’ Wikidata identifiers in other systems such as OpenStreetMap, so everything becomes available as linked, open data for others to reuse and build new apps and tools with.

About Andy Mabbett

Enjoying my freelance career, helping organisations to understand on-line communities, open content, and related issues; often as a Wikimedian (or Wikipedian) in Residence.
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