About Wiki Unseen

Did you know we are more likely to remember pictures and images than words? And that on the internet, images have an impact on what people discover because search engines tend to drive more traffic to Wikipedia articles with images than those without? These are just two factors that contribute to a pressing problem in the open knowledge ecosystem: a lack of visual representation of Black people, Indigenous peoples, and people of color (BIPOC). Pictures have power. So what does that mean for the numerous biographies on Wikipedia that do not have images? It means more articles are left unread, stories untold, and faces unseen.

The Wiki Unseen project started with recognizing the visual gaps within the open knowledge environment. We kicked off this project with a list of 2,000 notable BIPOC people whose pictures could not be found on Wikipedia and, with the help of our partners at AfroCROWD, we narrowed it down to 20 historical figures. We counted on the expertise of our partners at Behance who put forward three artists from the same region as the subjects we wanted to illustrate; each artist chose two names they wished to depict. By commissioning original artwork and making it freely available, we are helping people everywhere visualize what these historical figures who were left unseen for far too long looked like.

There is more than one way to tackle a problem this complex and make lasting change. Why did we take this approach? We decided to illustrate notable figures to combine knowledge and creativity, all while providing up-and-coming artists who hail from the same regions as those figures an opportunity to share their talent with the world in an artful and unique manner. Art inspires, drives change, and encourages people to share their vision, which can lead to increasing awareness of this pressing problem.  Other possible approaches include procuring pictures and releasing them under a CC0 license. Successful procurement however can require significant or recurring licensing fees, ongoing negotiations or requesting the public release of photography from family collections.

These are not the only pages on Wikipedia without photographs, however. There are multiple community-led projects that aim at closing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia—and everywhere. Learn more.

Get Involved

There are more than one million biographies that are missing pictures on English Wikipedia alone. If you would like to share your talent and help us close visual knowledge gaps, you can create an illustration and submit it to the Wikimedia Commons. Before you start, read the instructions below to ensure your submission will be accepted.

When you make drawings of a person based on photos, you can take them as inspiration or reference. But you must make sure that your drawing is not:

  • a reproduction:​ the same image but in a different mean,
  • a derivative work:​ a new work with many recognizable elements of the original.This resource, created by Whose Knowledge, should serve as a helpful guide for drawing Unseen figures for Wikipedia.

Notable Figures Missing Pictures

If you would like to help but do not know where to start, check out the list below which features notable BIPOC whose pictures cannot be found on Wikipedia—or elsewhere. Like everything else on Wikipedia, it is important that the work uploaded is factually correct, so also add your research notes and source so your artwork can be considered and verified. Thank you for helping us share the knowledge by sharing your talent with the world!

Join a Campaign

Wikipedia is powered by humans, so it is vulnerable to human biases. It is also a reflection of structural and historical inequalities in opportunity and representation experienced by many groups around the world. Join other volunteers who are working to ensure Wikipedia represents the full, rich diversity of all humanity.

  • Les sans pagEs: Drawtober
    Join Wikimedia France to illustrate notable women whose images are missing on Wikipedia.
    Runs in October 
  • Visible Wiki Women
    Did you know that women are less likely to have pictures on Wikipedia? Help fix that.
    Runs annually starting in March
  • Wikipedia Pages, Wanting Photos
    Help connect millions of photos with millions of Wikipedia pages that need them. Let’s make Wikipedia more visually exciting!
    Runs annually July – August

Discover several other volunteer- and partner-led campaigns that take place around the world to strengthen Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. To learn more about how the Wikimedia Foundation and movement are working towards knowledge equity, visit wikimediafoundation.org/opentheknowledge

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