Use Survey: photos viewed much more often if context provided

One year ago, the Dutch National Archives and Spaarnestad Photo together published more than 1000 photos of politicians on Wikipedia. At two separate moments during the past year, we carried out a survey on the use of this collection on Wikipedia.  

When we carried out the first survey, the photos had already been viewed on Wikipedia more than 17,500 times more often than in the National Archives’ image libraries. This proportion between visits to Wikipedia and to the National Archives’ image libraries remained relatively constant during the whole year. The huge difference in visits can be largely attributed to the fact that Wikipedia provides context with the images. By including relevant information with the photos you increase the chance of people coming face to face with cultural heritage.

Some of these press photos have even become iconic. A photo of Frits Bolkestein taken in 1980 is published on twenty Wikipedia pages in several different languages. Thousands of people visit the Wikipedia page on Frits Bolkestein every month in their own language, making this the most viewed image of Bolkestein in the world.

There are only a few heritage institutions using this medium at present. In the Netherlands, only the Tropenmuseum has a substantial collection available on Wikipedia. Together, the 45 thousand images published on Wikipedia by the Tropenmuseum are viewed more than 5.5 million times each month. As they can add these visitors to their total number of online visitors, this means they have one of the most-viewed online collections in the Netherlands.