March 26, 2010, 03:21 PM ET
Wiki Project Sets Out to Document the World's Public Art
If every episode of every television show deserves to be on Wikipedia, so does every piece of public art. Or at least Jennifer Geigel Mikulay thinks so, which is why she helped start a project to promote the documentation of public art around the world on Wikipedia.
Ms. Mikulay, an assistant professor and public scholar of visual culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, started the project, Wikipedia Saves Public Art, with Richard McCoy, an assistant conservator of objects and variable art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Ms. Mikulay and Mr. McCoy taught a course together last fall at Indiana-Purdue, in which they asked students to write Wikipedia articles about pieces of public art on the campus. They used a GPS to obtain coordinates for each piece, and they wrote an entry about each one, giving its art-history context.
The 40 articles produced by the class are meant to begin a much bigger project. Ms. Mikulay said that it is difficult to quantify interest in the project but that traffic to its Wikipedia page is steadily increasing, and she hears from students on other campuses, and people in the public-art field, about once a week. Ms. Mikulay, Mr. McCoy, and some Indiana-Purdue students are now writing entries for pieces of public art around Indianapolis.
But they don’t just write new articles, they also tag pre-existing entries that fit the project with the Wikipedia Saves Public Art banner—they’ve tagged 912 so far. People tend to let the banners be, and none of the articles they’ve added have been taken down permanently.
Ms. Mikulay explained that the digitization of public art lags behind other art forms because it gets commissioned in so many different ways, and there is no national organization that documents it all. Even temporary installations should be documented, Ms. Mikulay said.
“Public art of all types deserves to be on Wikipedia,” she said.