Boston Public Library makes historical images available for use in Wikipedia

Partners with the Digital Public Library of America to create the single largest batch of uploads ever contributed to Wikimedia Commons

BOSTON – January 14, 2020 – In celebration of Wikipedia’s 20th anniversary on January 15th, Boston Public Library has uploaded more than 8,000 historical photographs from its archival collections to Wikimedia CommonsThese images include some of the library’s most important photographic collections, and contribute to the single largest batch of uploads ever contributed to Wikimedia Commons. By uploading these public domain images, BPL is making them available so that they can be freely used to enhance Wikipedia articles, re-printed in publications, or incorporated in student projects and papers. 

“What really makes this effort a game-changer is that we’re not just making these materials available within our own digital collections or on our own website – we're actively adding these images to a larger worldwide collection that has an incredibly broad audience,” said BPL’s Chief of Collections Laura Irmscher. This is going to make these photos much more easily discoverable, whether it’s people using Google Image Search to find historical materials, or dedicated Wikipedians looking to add high-quality, trusted image content to the world’s largest encyclopedia.” 

The upload is a part of a broader effort being coordinated by the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to increase public access to historical materials from libraries and museums across the country, which has resulted in the single largest batch of uploads to Wikimedia Commons ever contributed 

“I am so happy that DPLA has been able to help create pathways for the riches of collections like BPL’s to reach the essential collaborative information source that is Wikipedia,” said DPLA Executive Director John Bracken. “The DPLA partnership with Wikimedia is central to our mission of democratizing access to knowledge for all, and it has already vastly expanded discovery and use of 1.3 million DPLA artifacts. 

The BPL items uploaded to Wikimedia Commons represent some of the library’s most significant photographic collections, including photos documenting the early history of the Boston Red Sox and their Royal Rooters fan club; 19th-centry daguerreotypes of prominent abolitionists such as Theodore Parker and William Lloyd Garrison; portraits of indigenous peoples taken during government-sponsored expeditions and surveys of the American West in the late 1800s; photos of the construction of the historic McKim library building in Copley Square; and many other newsworthy photos of Boston’s people and places previously published in the Boston Globe, Boston Traveler, and Boston Herald newspapers. 

By uploading content to Wikimedia, BPL is taking its “Free to All” mantra to the next level, surfacing rare archival materials that have been previously unknown or inaccessible, and extending its reach in the digital world. This work is an outgrowth of BPL’s commitment to making knowledge available online, a mission which is readily apparent by visiting, an online digital library hosted and managed by BPL featuring more than 800,000 items from more than 200 libraries, historical societies, and museums from across the state of Massachusetts. 

This upload is just the first of BPL’s contributions to Wikimedia Commons; the library will be adding thousands more images periodically throughout the year, including maps, illustrations, photographs, and manuscripts. 

To see the collection, visit the BPL’s Wikimedia Commons page or the DPLA’s Wikimedia Commons pageand visit to view to BPL’s full digital library. 


About the Digital Public Library of America 

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) amplifies the value of libraries and cultural organizations as Americans’ most trusted sources of shared knowledge. We do this by collaborating with partners to accelerate innovative tools and ideas that empower and equip libraries to make information more accessible. Find us at