Submissions:2015/Vegetation Wants To Be Free: Liberating the USDA's Pomological Watercolor Collection

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Vegetation Wants To Be Free: Liberating the USDA's Pomological Watercolor Collection (provisional)
outreach and GLAM
Type of submission
Parker Higgins
E-mail address
ParkerHiggins (talk)
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The United States Department of Agriculture maintains a digitized collection of over 7,500 beautiful watercolors of fruits painted around the turn of the 20th century. These are public domain works that could provide valuable historical and scientific information—not to mention excellent illustrations for Wikipedia—but were largely unavailable to the public. When I found these images in February of 2015, I knew that I wanted to share them with as many people as possible.
And in the months since discovering the Pomological Watercolor collection, I've come to truly love the paintings themselves. But it's also important to recognize that they stand for something much broader. We talk often about the value of the public domain to Wikipedia, and to our culture at large, but not as much about works and collections that are free from copyright restrictions but behind logistical or bureaucratic walls. The Pomological Watercolor collection is a great example of works that belong to all of us, but which, until quite recently, were not available for all of us to enjoy.
Through a combination of public advocacy, a handful of Freedom of Information Act requests, and the support of a community built around uploading archives of media, I've been able to start to free the Pomological Watercolor collection to Wikimedia Commons. I wrote my first pywikibot program, and am in the final stages of my first Commons bot request process. It's been both a challenge and a joy to dig into this collection and get it out to the world, and I want to empower more people to similarly take the public domain into their own hands.
Length of presentation
30 mins
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  1. Gaurav (talk) 22:16, 31 August 2015 (EDT) -- This sounds awesome! Good job finding this collection and getting it online!
  2. --Frank Schulenburg (talk) 22:21, 31 August 2015 (EDT)
  3. Emw (talk) 22:29, 31 August 2015 (EDT)
  4. Samantha (Wiki Ed) (talk) 14:02, 3 September 2015 (EDT)
  5. Add your username here.