Participants worldwide are uploading their photos of local monuments to Wikimedia commons as part of Wiki Loves Monuments a global photography contest that aims to crowdsource high quality images for the online encyclopedia.

Volunteers Belarus, the Czech RepublicEstoniaRomaniaRussiaSerbia, and Ukraine will snap and upload photos of local “national heritage sites” up to 30 September. The contest hopes to create an incentive for global users to contribute to Wikipedia by uploading their photographs under a creative commons license to Wikimedia commons for usage on Wikipedia or its sister projects, explains the contest’s FAQ.

Map of historic sites around Tallinn, Estonia. Red markers indicate a site that has already been photographed. White markers indicate sites yet to be photographed.

While prizes are offered for the best images – from fifty to two-hundred Euro purses to an all expenses paid trip to Hong Kong for Wikimania 2013 – the project’s real intention is to vastly improve Wikipedia’s stock of creative commons images – and therefore the user experience of the encyclopedia’s millions of daily readers.

Winner of the 2011 contest, a photograph of the Chiajna Monastery outside of Bucharest, Romania, by Mihai Petre.

The contest, launched in the Netherlands in September 2010, accrued 168,000 photographs last September from five thousand volunteers across Europe, including the winner, Mihai Petre of Romania, who captured the snow-covered Chiajnia Monastery at dusk on his Canon EOS 30D. Four fifths of 2011’s volunteers had never before contributed to Wikipedia.

The project’s success in 2011 landed it a special mention from the jury at the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage. As of 24 September, participants have already surpassedlast year’s total by more than forty-thousand.

In an interview with Wiki Loves Monuments-Romania, the country’s most active participant – a 28 year-old fine-arts graduate who goes by the handle Andrei Kokelburg – explained what drives himself and other photographers to participate to avidly in the competition. Kokelburg, whose real name is Andrei Popa, is fascinated by the historic towns and monuments in his native Transylvania. Travelling with a Nikon D3000, he’s shot thousand of photos of Romania’s historic sites since 2005. A frequent Wikipedia user, he found the pages for many of these sites lacking. Then when he heard about WLM’s project,it was the perfect opportunity to upload his pictures.

Above, Andrei Kokelburg’s photograph of a fortified church in Bazna, Romania, and below, Kokelburg’s photograph of another church in Agnita, Romania.

Judged on their originality, quality, and technical excellence, the photographs will also be judged by their encyclopedic value to Wikipedia, which is after all, the most important part of the competition.

For Wikipedia, the contest is “a fun way to get users interested and involved,” in the online encyclopedia’s services, as the number of active editors diminishes, reported theVerge.com. Asked if he will contribute to Wikipedia in the future, Popa answered that he plans to continue contributing photos, but not at the same pace, and, “yes, I’ll try to write articles in the future.”

Images courtesy Wiki Loves Monuments. Originally posted on NetProphet.

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