Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons

Through Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons the University Library publishes historical print collections as Linked Open Data and free of copyright.


The historical print collections of the University of Anwerp have been available digitally for some time now. In 2015 the Special Collections department first launched the electronic catalogue of the university's print room, a collection of some 1350 prints, produced between the 15th and 21st centuries, about the history and urban development of Antwerp.

In 2017 the department added a second catalogue, that of the Thijs Collection, a collection of about 1100 devotional prints and texts, again with a special focus on the Antwerp region.

Wikimedia Foundation

These catalogues offer specialized information with high-resolution images and in this way, they are a veritable treasury for all kinds of researchers and afficionadoes. The only problem is it is not always easy to find these sources. Although the catalogues are freely available as part of the Anet-network, many users, especially international ones and non-specialists, experience this as looking for a needle in a hey stack. For those users it is much easier to find information through big channels like Wikipedia. This famous online encyclopaedia is part of a bigger organization, the Wikimedia Foundation, who also curate the Wikidata database and the media repository Wikimedia Commons.

In this way, these databases contain data and the images that can, for instance, be used to enrich Wikipedia articles. But they are also extremely useful outside of the Wiki-environments. Wikidata contains Linked Open Data, which means that the data is interconnected and completely open to reuse. And Wikimedia Commons publishes its material with a Creative Commons license, which provides flexibility regarding copyright.


Therefore, the integration of databases like that of the Print room or the Thijs Collection in the Wikimedia-environment has many advantages. At the same time it is not a trivial matter to do this in a qualitative way for large datasets. To help with this, the Centre of Expertise in Digital Heritage -  PACKED vzw started a project  Linked Open Data publicatie met Wikidata some time ago, which the Special Collections department could hook up with. Together with a passionate intern and coached by PACKED the departement developed a procedure whereby both the data and the images of the two print collections were converted and uploaded to Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons. The images in question - in total ca. 2000 - and there registration are published there with CC-0 license, which makes them free of any restrictions worldwide. So the sky really is the limit!