Saturday, April 18, 2009


When you write a Wikipedia article, you are expected to provide sources that prove the assertions made in the article. There are good reasons to do this, for articles it is not only considered "best practice" but even essential. Current practice on many Wikipedias is that articles that do not provide reliable sources may be put forward for deletion.

A picture proverbially paints a thousand words and when a thousand words in Wikipedia exists without any citations the least you can expect is a template indicating that citation is needed.

The illustration can be seen as an advertisement for what to wear to prevent troll troubles. It is however a picture that comes with excellent provenance; the original picture is referred to and urges American ladies to save their country like Joan of Arc did for France.

Both the original picture and the derivation are properly sourced and consequently you have the information you need to appreciate these pictures for what they are. This can be exceedingly important because it is the provenance that allow pictures to express their thousand words.

Falsifications are not new, and they exist for a purpose typically profit and propaganda. When you look up the word provenance, you find two aspects that are of relevance; the origin of something and the history of the ownership of something. Both are relevant to the illustrations that we use. Practically it would be wonderful when we always refer to where the original material can be found. It is then for the museums, archives and libraries to provide the complete provenance of the material we use as illustrations.

In my opinion, we should always indicate where the originals of our illustrations can be found. This has nothing to do with copyright or licensing and everything to do with us providing information that can be trusted.

PS we take orders for troll apparel..


Liam said...

This is a very important point and one that I hope becomes absolutely standard practice on Commons.

As you say:
Just as we require references for good articles so we should require provenance for our images.

This does not mean just listing the creator, or where the JPG/TIFF was copied from but also where the original (physical) image is currently to be found. For example, we recently featured "the raft of the medusa" on the front page of en:wp. However, neither in the article or the image metadata was their listed the record number of the painting at its gallery (INV. 4884) or the gallery's "official page" for the painting which were both easily found (even if the URL is not pretty).

So, I agree that our approach to attribution of media needs to be expanded to something approaching the provenance system that has been built up over generations in the art world.

Malooney Momma said...

I'm a publicist that works with a privately held company. Recently we've had some random consumers writing us and asking if/when we might have a presence on Wikipedia. In reading the terms, however, it is apparent that my relationship with the company is not neutral enough to meet the guidelines.

As an expert Wikipedian (am I correct in using that term?), I was hoping you could give me some insight about how to initiate such an article, without unduly influencing its acutal development.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!