2011-05-28

Archivist love: NARA Wikipedian in Residence + Ansel Adams

Here's a little story about photography, Archives, and love.

In 1941, Ansel Adams was commissioned by the U.S. National Park Service to take photographs of national parks, for a mural that was never made.  220 gorgeous images were preserved in the U.S. National Archives (NARA), where they remained for 70 years.[0] Low-resolution versions were published on the Library of Congress site and later on Flickr.

At the end of 2009, David Ferriero, then
Director of the New York Public Library, was appointed Archivist of the United States and head of NARA.[1]  When he learned of Liam Wyatt's work as Wikipedian in Residence at the British Museum, he had his staff ask about recruiting a Wikipedian of their own.  They felt a WiR could exemplify their values of "transparency, participation, and collaboration."

By the Ides of March, a call for applicants went out.  They selected Dominic McDevitt-Parks, Campus Ambassador, member of the Boston Wikipedia Enclave, and all-around lexicobibliotechnohistoriographile.  He arrived at NARA to start the summer residency this week, in time for a talk by Liam on the possibilities for collaboration with Wikipedia (and pointers from the Archivist on how to win a staring contest).


One NARA WikiProject later, Dominic noticed a batch upload request for the 1941 Adams photos.[2]  He replied, offering the full set of photos in high resolution, and requesting help migrating them to Commons.  
 
That was yesterday evening.  Today, he posted 220 high-resolution images to Flickr by hand, Kaldari transferred them + metadata to Commons, and Aude and high-res maven Peter Weis made attribution templates and pages recognizing NARA's image donation.  At least one project page was set up for Wikipedians to include the new photos in articles on their subjects.  True cross-project wikilove, in under a week.  And the summer has just begun...

Ansel Adams photographs from Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Carlsbad Cavern, Glacier and Zion National Parks; and Death Valley, Saguero, and Canyon de Chelly National Monuments.


Notes:
[0] NARA provides images depicting American and global history which are public domain or freely licensed. It is responsible for "safeguarding and making available for study all the permanently valuable records of the Federal Government."

[1] The NYPL is both one of the largest U.S. public libraries, and one of the most important research libraries in the world. Under Ferriero, it greatly expanded its digital department, and committed to supporting online access, reuse, and metadata standards with a passion to make any free knowledge zealot proud.   Among other things, they launched the prize-winning NYPL Digital Gallery of almost 1 million images, replaced their unique Billings classification system, and merged the catalogs of the research and public sides of the library. 

[2] A request from February.  The Commons Clock runs at its own pace.  For anyone interested in learning how to run an upload bot, there are over 40 unresolved batch upload requests.

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