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.
This entry was posted in Birmingham, hyperlocal, Uncategorized, volunteering, Wikipedia and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Documenting public art, on Wikipedia

  1. Peter Olding says:

    Very good article. I love public art hence my involvement in the Wikipages. Just a couple of questions for you (and anyone else come to that)

    1) Do you think its appropriate to include items in parks that require membership / or a fee? e.g. public art in Wiltshire page has Stourhead which as far as I know is a National Trust property that charges fees for non-members.

    2) The anchor of the QE2 is on display in Southampton. Is that public art?

    3) Would you think that statues on the outside of churches are on-topic as public art?

    Thanks again for a great article.

    • Andy Mabbett says:

      Thanks for your contributions, Peter!

      1) I would be inclined to
      2) Dubious
      3) I would not include generic putti, angels or the like, but otherwise yes — especially if the artist and/ or subject are notable

      but there are no hard-and-fast rules. In all cases, it’s a matter on which the community at each article need to reach consensus.

  2. Alastair McCapra says:

    This organisation might be of some help, and looks like a good potential partner for WMUK.

    http://www.thepcf.org.uk/

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