The Greek authorities discovered icons stolen from a church in Greece in 2009 on the website of a Dutch art dealer who claims he didn’t know they were stolen.
The seven Greek icons, with values ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 euro, were seized by the police in April last year, placed in the Rijksmuseum for safe keeping, and handed over to the Greek Ministry of Culture on December 5, 2011. They date from the 18th and 19th centuries and play an important part in the country’s cultural and historical heritage.
The police explain that works of art are usually sold many years after they have been stolen, and so this discrepancy probably makes it sound like the dealer could be telling the truth. I’ve been told there are international sites to check and see if works or art have been stolen and then I would imagine that the dealer was not very knowledgeable in icons or is not telling the truth.
During September the Dutch Wikimedia chapter (the people behind Wikipedia) are calling upon everybody to send in correctly licensed photos of official national monuments, so that Wikipedia can use the uploads.
The Wiki Loves Monuments site has posted a very long list of the monuments, divided by province and town, and tagged with the exact geographic location, so that participants who would like to take fresh photos can easily plot a hike through their neighbourhood.
There is a competition attached to the event, with an iPad being the first prize, and an HTC Desire the second. You have until September 30 to upload your photos, and you don’t have to limit yourself to photos taken this month.
An earlier similar and very successful event was called Wiki Loves Art, and was held in June 2009, resulting in about 5,000 Creative Commons licensed photos. That the current edition is held in September is no accident, as the Open Monuments Day on September 11 gives a lot of access to (the inside of) monuments that are closed the rest of the year.
This photo of a Gispen lamp, taken in the cellar of the Hilversum city hall, won the Wiki Loves Art contest in which museums opened their doors to amateur photographers
The jury wrote: “A photo with a great atmosphere, and also a photo that piques one’s curiosity, and furthermore a photo that is very useful for illustrating Wikipedia articles. The perfect match of a good depiction of the object and atmosphere.”
The Wiki Loves Art contest that I reported about earlier is over, and all that is left is for the judges to declare a winner.
One of the extraordinary things about this contest is that the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam opened its door to amateur photographers. That must have been a frightful decision to take, what with all the paintings worth millions just a camera stand leg away from scratching, so I hope it was a good experience for them.
Painting above is The Harvest (1888), photo taken by Flickr user Pachango. View the 4,500+ contest photos here, or just the 450+ Van Gogh ones here. (I edited the colours into oblivion, but I just could not agree with the red hue that Pachango’s version had, or the yellow hue on the museum’s website.)
The Wiki Loves Art photo competition kicked off with an event held at the Joods Historisch Museum (JHM, Jewish Historical Museum) in Amsterdam yesterday. Museum director Hetty Berg explained that they had become enthusiastic about the idea of a photo hunt for Wikipedia after hearing about the positive experiences had by the Jewish Museum in New York during the precursor of this event in the US and the UK, Wikipedia Loves Art. She went on to highlight some of the objects that could be photographed, pointing out what made these objects special, which I thought was really helpful in portraying these objects.
Three professional photographers roamed the museum to help out the 40 or so amateur ones, and I know this certainly helped me. That was an excellent idea from the organizers! One tip I found useful and would never have thought of myself is to use a timed release when using a tripod under low light conditions. This helps the camera stop wobbling after you press the release button.
The first photos of yesterday’s hunt are slowly appearing at http://www.flickr.com/groups/wikilovesart/. I posted my first batch there yesterday, but they still haven’t appeared, so who knows how many are still waiting in a queue. If you are in the Netherlands or planning to visit, the competition runs the entire month of June, during which you can show up with your camera (and sometimes with your tripod and flash—check the rules) at any of the 36 participating museums.
Update: the rules of several of the museums have been added to their pages at the Wiki Loves Art website—some of the museums will only be accessible during guided tours for which you have to register. Regardless of the motives for this restriction I think on the whole this is a good idea. It means the photographers get professional guidance, and the museums get to build confidence about events such as WLA.
(Photo of a lamp that used to adorn stairs in the Hirsch building in Amsterdam. The museum’s own photography gives little indication of the size of these things, so I put myself in the frame for comparison. I will be posting my photos for this comp at a Flickr account I created for it instead of at the 24 Oranges one.)
De Waag Society and a bunch of other friends of digital culture have organized a photo competition called Wiki Loves Art (Dutch), which will take place during the entire month of June in which museums will open their doors to amateur photographers. The photos which must accompanied by a Creative Commons by-sa license before you can enter them will be used as illustrations for Wikipedia. A great initiative!
Apparently museums have historically frowned upon people taking photos of their prized possessions—officially because of all kinds of nonsensical reasons such as that flash might scare the objects, but the unofficial reason is that photos of their art on of mugs and posters is a significant source of income, on which the museums would like to maintain a monopoly. But now, some of them have decided to open up their doors to amateur photographers, so that Wikipedia, which traditionally has been a victim of the no photo policy, can start to illustrate its articles.
Prizes, apart from the warm glowing feeling you get when helping Wikipedia, include 500 euro to be spent on photographic equipment. Some of the participating museums include the Van Gogh in Amsterdam, the Van Abbe in Eindhoven, the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag (lots of yummy Mondriaan), the Naturalis in Leiden, NAI in Rotterdam, the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Delft, and the list goes on. Earlier similar contests were held in the US and the UK.
Contributing text to Wikipedia is as easy as clicking on the “Edit this page” link at the top of an entry. But contributing photos is harder. To write text about Leeuwarden, you don’t have to be there, but to take a photo of Leeuwarden you do. The quality of a text is only limited by your own skills, but that of a photo also by the quality of your equipment. And finally, your text is your own, but who owns a photo is also dependent on what’s in the picture.
It’s no wonder then that there is a shortage of good imagery at Wikipedia. While working on setting up a local version of the Wikipedia photo scavenger hunt which aims to remedy this, I stumbled on a similar project that tries to get portraits of the notable into Wikipedia, Wikipotrait.
The Dutch initiative, hosted at wikiportret.nl, also has an English language counterpart at wikiportrait.org, and is basically a wizard for uploading photos and sorting out the rights situation. The resulting photos will be hosted at Wikimedia Commons under a permissive license. Wikipotret is an initiative of the Werkgroep Vrije Media (Dutch, Working Group Free Media). The site’s been live for a few months now, but was officially announced on May 5.
The press office of Trafigura, the company which leased the leper ship Probo Koala at the time it dumped 500 tons of toxic waste in Ivory Coast last year, was caught red-handed “cleaning up” the Dutch Wikipedia entry about the ship. Specifically, it removed the sentence that said the ship had even transported toxic waste, and added a sentence claiming that the company had done nothing wrong, according to Dutch daily De Volkskrant (Dutch). Trafigura also used sock puppets to try and make further changes, after which the page was temporarily blocked from further editing.
Wikipedia itself is not adverse to poisining — the discourse that is. Editor Tom Ordelman said to De Volkskrant: “It is unusual […] to interfere with an entry about yourself, but in reality it happens a lot.” I guess “unusual” is Wiki Admin Speak for “verboten!”.