Disclaimer: A personal, pathetic approach.
When I joined the Wiki Loves Monuments crew, I learned one important point: make it positive, make it fun! Yes, Wiki Loves Monuments is fun, it’s an optimistic and positive activity. It puts smiles on my face every single day of September how all the volunteers around the world motivate people to participate with thousands of brilliant images.
However. There’s more that makes WLM really important, not only fun. Some months ago I was interviewed by a story teller of the Wikimedia Foundation and he asked me why I’m involved in such a project as „collecting images of cultural heritage“. After a few seconds, I answered: because things get lost.
Maybe for some of you this sounds too pathetic, but I took the liberty to say so, because the image before my inner eyes was the collapse of the Cologne Historic City Archives more than three years ago. And the fact that we didn’t even look very often at the building before it got lost (although, as Wikipedians, naturally used and tried to “liberate“ the stuff inside). As a consequence, we had very few images of this building, free to use for the general public. Of course you can find lots more of hurting examples – look at the cultural heritage that gets lost regularly in natural disasters, wars or just by neglection or vandalism.
Wiki Loves Monuments – and Wikipedians all over the world, all the time – document our cultural heritage before it gets lost or changes fundamentally. Sometimes even in the middle of the process of getting lost, as we saw in some of the last year’s images.
Today I took some images of protected buildings in my neighbourhood that burned down yesterday morning (Fortunately, nobody was hurt, even the cats have been rescued). We have one image from last year’s WLM contest of these buildings.
Last year in November, there was a newspaper story about an “accidentally“ destroyed protected building – the last image of the undestroyed building is from Wiki Loves Monuments, September 3, 2011. I am pretty sure you have more of these examples from all over the world, please use the comments to tell me your stories!
As activists of a visionary and progressive project of the 21st century, we have to admit that not all changes to our heritage are evil – but noticing what’s around us, keeping an eye on it, documenting it for the future: for me that’s the most important aspect of Wiki Loves Monuments.