New York Cultural Heritage and Open Access Update

New York is a center for world-class cultural heritage institutions, a site of innovation in the realm of digital humanities, library, archival, museum technology, and information sharing, not to mention hefty content production.  New York was also home to the first U.S. Wikimedia Chapter, Wikimedia NYC. That’s why it’s not surprising that there is also a wealth of recent Open Access initiatives in the New York Area: in this post you can find a select list.  


Content Donations

New York Public Library (NYPL Labs)In March, 2014 the New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division announced that they were to release over 20,000 high resolution images of cartographic works in their collections as well as crowd sourced transcriptions, that were known to have no U.S. copyright restrictions. The Division released these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (U.N. OCHA) – As part of its activities U.N. OCHA  creates fully up-to-date general reference maps of nations, specifically to facilitate emergency responding. Since Spring 2014, U.N. OCHA and Wikimedia NYC have collaborated to upload approximately 226 coordinates-based maps to Wikimedia Commons and begun adding these maps images to their respective Wikipedia articles.

Józef Piłsudski Institute of America – The Józef Piłsudski Institute of America, a cultural heritage institution grown out of the collection of the Polish Chief of State and WWI military leader, has donated over 1,400 images to Wikimedia Commons. The images include photographs and scans of military documents, letters, and other Polish and Ukrainian governmental documents.

Other – Many New York Institutions have contributed small batches of images to Wikimedia Commons under CC0 licenses, as part of Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons and GLAM projects. These institutions include the Frick Art Reference Library, the Center for Jewish History, and the Queens Borough Public Library.

Francis Samuel Marryat, San Francisco, lithograph.jpg

“Francis Samuel Marryat, San Francisco, lithograph” by Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Open Cultural Data

Linked Jazz – Initiated by the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and funded by the OCLC Research and the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) in 2011, this project aims to link cultural heritage materials in a web of connections using Linked Open Data (LOD) technology. The project includes multiple facets, including an exportable, LOD Linked Jazz API, a network visualization tool, and an interactive, exploratory search function.

Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum – In early 2012, the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum released its object record collection metadata API under a Creative Commons license and through GitHub.



Wikipedia Regional Edit-a-thons – Over 10 collaboratively organized Wikipedia Edit-a-thons in New York have taken place since September, 2013 with many more staff training events and social free culture meetups. These have included: A Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and Photo-hunt with a theme of “Brooklyn History” at Brooklyn Public Library, an Edit-a-thon a #GWWI (Global Women’s Wikipedia Write- In) on Women’s History at Columbia University’s Butler Library, and Edit-a-thons at Public Libraries in Harlem, Westchester, Queens, and Greenwich Village, among other places.

Staff from the Center for Jewish History and its partner Institutions, Leo Baeck Institute, YIVO, American Jewish Historical Society, and American Sephardi Federation, join volunteers to improve Wikipedia pages about women in Jewish History on May 4, 2012. Picture by Dcb766 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Center for Jewish History: Women in Jewish History Edithathon, May 4, 2012. Picture by Dcb766 (Own work), licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

WikiConference USA – The U.S.’s first Wikimedia Conference also took place on May 30 – June 1st at New York Law School, and was hosted by Wikimedia NYC and Wikimedia D.C. and funded by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation and gifts from Consumer Reports, the Institute for Information Law & Policy at New York Law School, and the City University of New York. This event, which drew approximately 250 participants, included a 2-day program of workshops and keynotes and a 1-day unconference.

Wikipedia Education Program – The Wikipedia Education Program in New York has been growing from one class in Fall 2010 to at least 10 courses with a Wikipedia component and Wikipedia Education Program ambassadors in Fall 2014. This semester’s program includes a course on the Economics of Developing Countries at Manhattanville College, a course on Women and Health at Barnard College, a sociology of fashion course at FIT, and a Development Psychology class at Hunter College that is simultaneously being run as a study on the pedagogical effectiveness of Wikipedia. There are also two English courses at LaGuardia Community College focused on Children’s and Young Adult Literature.



Several Wikipedians-in-Residence call New York their home.

  • Lane Raspberry has been a Wikipedian-in-Residence, at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, New York since April 2012.
  • David Goodman has serves as Wikipedian-in-Residence  at New York Public Library of the Performing Arts Music Division.
  • The Józef Piłsudski Institute of America has hosted three University students of Polish History as Wikipedians-in-Residence in the past year: Piotr Puchalski, Łukasz Chełmski, and Adam Granatowski.
  • Dorothy Howard (article author) continues to serve as Wikipedia at the Metropolitan New York Library Council, where she started in August, 2014.


Free Culture Groups

Many formal and informal free culture groups and meetups operate simultaneously in New York. Named here are few of many:

Techno Activism First Mondays is a workshop and discussion-based meetup group. It has hosted recent events including: “Muslims & Surveillance in NYC: The Next Steps,” in June and “LGBTQ Surveillance & Censorship: Understanding the Worldwide Challenges” in July.

The Internet Society of New York organizes projects and events around the themes of privacy and surveillance, internet access, net neutrality, elections, decentralized networks.