Annual Report 2023/Story: Spreading Unique Intangible Cultural Heritage

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Det här är en översatt version av sidan Verksamhetsberättelse 2023/Story: Vi sprider unikt immateriellt kulturarv. Översättningen är till 100 % färdig och uppdaterad.

In this story, we share our efforts to disseminate intangible cultural heritage, particularly Sweden's musical heritage. The inclusion of intangible cultural heritage on Wikipedia, one of the world's most widely used sources of knowledge, gives strength to the practitioners in their work by increasing understanding and interest in their cultural expressions. Many cultural heritage institutions manage unique special collections that also deserve a place on the Wikimedia platforms, something that may not be commonly considered.

When thinking about Wikimedia Commons, the database for free licensed media files on Wikimedia platforms, images are primarily what comes to mind. This includes photos taken by the community and digitized artworks from numerous museums worldwide. However, there is also a plethora of other materials, such as audio- and video recordings that are freely available for everyone to access.

Sound, specifically, has been a central focus in our collaboration with the National Collections of Music, Theatre and Dance, an agency that consolidates various activities within Swedish music- and theatre life. As part of the National Collections is, among others, the Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research, which focuses on music technology. There are numerous recordings documenting Sweden's musical cultural heritage in their collections, and we assist them in spreading these on the Wikimedia platforms.

Audio is somewhat in the background on Wikimedia Commons due to the platform's visual emphasis, the integration of audio material has been limited. Additionally, Wikimedia Commons is often primarily viewed as a resource for Wikipedia, despite the free licensed material being reused in a variety of ways, thus gaining a much more widespread distribution. Despite the encyclopedia being around for over twenty years, many editors still hold a fairly traditional view that articles should be illustrated with images, overlooking the multimedial possibilities of the digital platform. The low demand for audio- and video material leads to the interest in uploading such content to Wikimedia Commons being lower than it could be. It is a vicious cycle, and something that could be changed if more people would discover the possibilities that exist.

That is precisely why it is worth emphasizing audio resources on the Wikimedia platforms. We have previously brought up that intangible cultural heritage deserves a stronger representation on the platforms, and the more material we upload, the greater the chance that both users find something of interest and that developers improve the infrastructure to make the platform more user-friendly. Also relevant to this discussion is the earlier project Work with Sounds, where several cultural heritage institutions, including the Museum of Work, contributed audio- and video insights into our industrial heritage; something that cannot be fully conveyed with still images.

We have collaborated with the National Collections for several years, both through occasional uploading initiatives where Wikimedia Commons provides an additional gateway to the material for the public, and by offering so-called "Wikimedian in Residence"-services. This entails a dedicated resource from our staff who spends a certain amount of time at the agency's office, working practically on large-scale uploads and training staff on how the platforms work so that various parts of the accessible material can be integrated into Wikipedia. A tangible result of this is the fact that there now are over 6,000 audio files from their collections on Wikimedia Commons, covering wide-ranging areas such as yoik, music performed on lesser-known instruments such as nyckelharpa and psalmodicon, as well as folk music from Norway, Iceland, Finland, and all corners of Sweden. These unique collections can be beneficial not only to Wikipedians but also to researchers and others interested in music history.

The strength of the Wikimedia platforms lies in the diversity of their community. People from all over the world come together to compile and distribute free knowledge, and no special interest is too niche. Whether it is tramlines, chicken breeds, or folk instruments, there is someone passionate about the subject who can either contribute to or benefit from the knowledge. It is therefore a fantastic space for museums and other cultural heritage institutions to participate in, as they can share their specialized collections - including intangible ones - with a much larger audience compared to those who are able to visit their premises.

We are delighted that the National Collections has become a valued and continued partner; it shows their serious commitment to the Wikimedia platforms. We look forward to continuing and deepening our collaboration and hope that other cultural heritage institutions become inspired by their initiatives. There are many unique treasures in our museums, not just images and data, that deserve to be brought to light and shared with a wider audience!