• Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October 2021 09:30
  • Published: Friday, 03 September 2021 16:55
  • Written by Valentine Triniac translated by Jasmina Selmic and Maura Schmitt
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What if it were possible to contribute to archaeological research online without being an archaeology professional? It actually is, and in just a few clicks, thanks to the international photo contest Wiki Loves Monuments. Let’s take a closer look at this unique event, whose French edition is organized by the association Wikimedia France with the assistance of the archaeological association ArkeoTopia.

Wiki Loves Monuments: a contest for Archaeology

Why does ArkeoTopia support Wiki Loves Monuments?

Certified by Guinness World Records in 2011 as the “world’s largest photo competition”, Wiki Loves Monuments opens the door for public access to world heritage. Acting as a true social, scientific, educational and cultural catalyst, this event promotes cultural heritage valorization and supports archaeological research. It has been supported by ArkeoTopia, an alternative approach to archaeology since 2015. Let’s take a closer look at this initiative, which uses crowdsourcing to promote cultural heritage and archaeological research.

Wiki Loves Monuments – what’s that?

Since its creation by the Wikimedia movement in 2010, the Wiki Loves Monuments international photo contest has been held every year from September 1 to September 30 and encourages a diverse range of people – archaeologists or not and photographers, professional or not – to support archaeological research. How? By capturing historical monuments and locations at a given moment, then uploading these shots to the Wikimedia Commons repository within the designated time frame.A winning photograph from Wiki Loves Monuments

While it is not important when the photo was taken, the following conditions must be met:

  • legitimacy: The participant has to be the creator of the photograph
  • accepting the terms of the Creative Commons free license CC BY-SA that stipulates the conditions of use and distribution of the image
  • the subject of the photograph must be listed in the competition notice of the relevant country. For France, the list of eligible subjects is drawn from the Mérimée and Palissy databases, created and maintained by the French Ministry of Culture
  • providing an email address in an account on the Wikimedia Commons website to enable contact with the organizers
At the end of the competition period the jury proceeds by sequential elimination, finally sorting out ten shots by ten different photographers. These are then classified in order of preference to select the winners. This often very difficult decision is based on numerous criteria: compliance with the list of eligible subjects, descriptive, scientific or pedagogical relevance of the subject, technical quality of the shot, artistic value of the photo, etc.
2020 international WLM contest in numbers:
  • 51 participating countries
  • 51,507 images used on Wiki
  • 230,425 downloads, including 9,883 in France
  • 7,709 people having uploaded files, including 201 in France

Wiki Loves Monuments contest: a kick-starter at multiple levels

Wiki Loves Monuments is a singular photo competition, with far-reaching results. Reason enough to draw the attention of ArkeoTopia – all the more so as it aligns with four of ArkeoTopia’s five cornerstones.

Through WLM, we can promote and popularize archaeological research

Wikimedia France and ArkeoTopia present the contestWLM works as a social kick-starter in line with ArkeoTopia cornerstones Supporting and Popularization, as it spurs a large number of people to participate in publicizing heritage worldwide, thus acting as a cultural kick-starter as well.

The high-quality photographs, incorporated into the public domain by the participants, capture historical monuments at a given moment in time and in that way immortalize them, should they ever be damaged or even destroyed.

The photos serve as historical archives but can also be useful for potential reconstruction. Some illustrative examples are the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris in France (fire), the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan (terrorism) or the Kumamoto Castle in Japan (earthquake).

Another important aspect of this contest is that it contributes to cultural heritage cataloguing efforts in countries where this process is not already underway and allows countries that do have such an inventory to enrich it.

Through WLM, we can create new archaeological knowledge and promote exchanges

WLM works as a scientific kick-starter, building up the Research cornerstone, by virtue of its strong potential to contribute to archaeological research with its entirely digital database listing cultural heritage sites from all over the world. It facilitates projects aimed at reconstructing destroyed or damaged monuments. ICONEM – an innovative start-up specializing in 3D mapping of heritage sites – uses Wikimedia Commons resources to enhance its replicas. WLM is also an occasion for scientific exchange: for example, the 2017 edition brought together ArkeoTopia and Jacques Dassié. This meeting resulted in the aerial archaeology pioneer agreeing to upload his photos, thus making available an archeological photo collection that had previously been under copyright protection.

Through WLM, we can educate future generations

Lastly, our Education cornerstone benefits from WLM producing material useful for pedagogical purposes, from grade school through university, but also for the general public. It proves its value as an educational kick-starter, as the resources it produces allow people to discover both French and international cultural heritage. Drawing from these resources, teachers can illustrate their History and Civics classes, emphasizing the idea that everyone can add to the dissemination of this knowledge.

A competition promoted by ArkeoTopia

Signing of the partnership between ArkeoTopia and Wikimedia FranceIt was only natural, indeed, that ArkeoTopia become involved with a contest whose values and initiatives are so closely aligned with its own.

First, the association became part of the jury in the French edition of the Wiki Loves Monuments competition in 2015. The following year, ArkeoTopia helped Wikimedia France organize the French edition of the contest.

In June 2016 the two became official partners in the organization of the event as well as in the management of other aspects within the universe of Wikimedia and archaeology, by way of signing an ongoing partnership agreement.

ArkeoTopia’s contributions are not limited to the organization of the annual competition. It also helps:

  • grow the contest, by searching for new solutions that would make it possible to more comprehensively include French cultural heritage in the selection of eligible photographic subjects. In 2019, the association advocated for adding the Palissy database to the selection, in addition to the Mérimée database of official historical monuments, in order to broaden the choice of eligible heritage subjects. In 2021, ArkeoTopia championed a Wikidata/OSM working relationship.
  • increase the number of volunteers by promoting the wlm@wikimedia.fr mailing list and making use of their know-how, essential for the development of the contest in France
  • promote the contest through press articles both on the web and in classic media (Archéologia, La Classe, Vosges-Matin, etc.)

Development of cultural heritage inventories

More than a simple photo contest, Wiki Loves Monuments constitutes a central event for archeological research. From raising awareness about cultural heritage to bolstering archaeological research, this competition appeals to each and every one of us to play our part, in an amusing and active way, in studying, preserving, and ensuring proper respect of cultural heritage. In this regard, ArkeoTopia aspires to further the French edition to eventually establish a collaborative inventory that would improve upon the Mérimée and Palissy databases, thus contributing to archaeological and cultural asset mapping.

Interested in the competition? Looking to share some of your quality shots? Find out how to participate on the official Wiki Loves Monuments international webpage after selecting the country where your photo was taken.

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ArkeoTopia, another way for archaeology aims to bring another look on today's archaeology to better help existing organizations to prepare tomorrow's one. To learn more about the association, please see our institutional video and our actions.

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