Wiki Loves Monuments in Bangladesh turned into a comprehensive photographic database of the country's archaeological sites. The contest documented photographs of almost 300 of the 452 government listed archaeological buildings and sites of Bangladesh. This contest not only provided the opportunity to build a comprehensive photographic database of archaeological sites of the country, but it also helped in revealing the present conservation status of the sites and buildings. For example, during the course of this contest, it was revealed that some the archaeological sites have been ruined in recent times and several of them were not even found due to severe dilapidation.
Bangladesh took part in the international Wiki loves monuments photography competition for the first time in 2016. Wikimedia Bangladesh, in association with 7 photography groups from around the country organized the month-long photographic competition. The topic of WLM Contest was archaeological sites and buildings of Bangladesh.
Since this was our first year in the competition, we decided to participate with the archaeological sites of Bangladesh only and wanted to expand the list in the upcoming years. A list of 452 archaeological sites was created, as enlisted by the Department of Archaeology of Bangladesh Government. Each of the sites was identified by creating a unique ID number, following the ISO code. The main motivation behind participating with only the archaeological sites was that, most of the archaeological sites in Bangladesh don’t have photographs under free license and we wanted to create a database of freely licensed photographs of all the archaeological sites of Bangladesh in Wikimedia Commons. Wiki Loves Monuments offered a unique opportunity in this regard.
The press coverage about the event in local online and print media helped get more participation from around the country. After a month-long competition during September 2016, a total of 204 Bangladeshi participants uploaded more than 7000+ freely licensed photographs of 270+ different archaeological monuments and sites in Wikimedia Commons. Among all the participants, 10% of them were women, a participation rate which is more than that of any other previous Wikimedia related competitions held in Bangladesh. Though it is still the early days, about 22% of all the photographs uploaded in the contest are now being used in Wikimedia projects.
A number of participants reported that they didn't find the building or even debris of several archaeological sites listed by the government archaeological agency. Another group of participants reported that quite a number of archaeological sites and buildings were in very dilapidated conditions and require urgent reparation for those to survive for the future. Photographs showed the state of some of the archaeological sites which were severely dilapidated yet no actions were taken on behalf of the concerned authorities. Some of the sites even had no noticeboard to mark those sites as a place of archaeological significance. We are planning to bring this issues to the notice of concerned government agencies and organizations who work with archaeological sites of the country.
Before this competition, there were only a handful of archaeological buildings and sites of Bangladesh that had photographs available on the internet and those sites & buildings were mostly from major cities and localities, let alone the availability of freely licensed photographs. The competition turned the situation into a better state. As people from various regions and districts participated in the competition, many of the less known archaeological sites were photographed alongside the better known ones.
We also noticed, during this competition, that there is a great lacking in the availability of valuable information on the internet about the archaeological sites of Bangladesh. To address this unavailability, Wikimedia Bangladesh organized an article writing contest in the Bengali Wikipedia. This article writing contest was held in parallel with the WLM photography contest and resulted in adding 178 new articles about the archaeological sites of Bangladesh. As there were hardly any information online, participants collected information from books, journals and hard copies to produce the articles.
This way, WLM acted as a unique opportunity for comprehensive documentation of the archaeology of Bangladesh along with creation of quality articles in the Wikipedia for the generations to come.