[Foundation-l] Request: WMF commitment as a long term cultural archive?

phoebe ayers phoebe.wiki at gmail.com
Thu Jun 2 18:28:47 UTC 2011

On Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 6:21 AM, Fae <faenwp at gmail.com> wrote:
> Briefly responding to a couple of points raised so far:
> Yes, there is a need for a policy as otherwise the WMF would have no
> long term operational archive plan. "Self evident" is insufficient in
> order to budget and plan in a credible way. If as the planned outcome
> of a research project I had a large image donation to make and such a
> commitment was absent, I would prefer to mass donate images of public
> interest to an organization that had one, and assume that at some
> point e-volunteers at Wikimedia Commons would take the initiative and
> port in what they fancied.


There is no explicit, official operational archive plan of the type
you are referring to. I am familiar with the type of plan you mean --
archives and libraries in particular often have explicit retention
plans that specify a date range. This kind of plan would likely be
developed by the board as part of our long-range operational planning.
There are difficulties, as others have pointed out, because unlike an
archive we cannot guarantee retention of any particular item --
individual curation and editorial decisions are done by the community.

However, long-term preservation and dissemination of knowledge is an
inherent and explicit part of our mission. You could point to:
* Our mission statement, which says we will retain useful information
from our projects on the Internet, free of charge, in perpetuity
* the fact that a free license enables redistribution and longer-term
preservation support than copyright does, because others have the
ability to preserve our collections even if the WMF itself fails
(dumps are noted as a value, in our values statement:

As you note, the key part of this is free licensing under a compatible
license. We are interested in supporting the ecosystem of free
knowledge, so that if an organization wanted their primary archive to
be someplace else (but accessible to Commons technically and through
licensing) that's fine; we can upload. However, as an organization, we
are absolutely committed to preserving free knowledge for the long

For this presentation, your preparation turn-around time is pretty
short here, and I personally don't have time to pull together other
community documents on this subject right now (maybe others do), but
you can certainly tell the organizations our about our long-term
commitment. Whether Commons is appropriate for them, however, depends
on what they are looking for. The biggest argument for uploading
collections to Wikimedia is not our function as an archival service
(since we don't fulfill all of the requirements of a traditional
archive), but rather the immense distribution and visibility our
projects can give such collections, far exceeding any other online
service, because of our global reach.

Phoebe (speaking as a member of the Board)

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