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Survey: Searching Wikimedia Commons

About This Document

This survey summarises use of Wikimedia Commons to host images and video resources on morris, sword and related traditional dances. The focus of this survey is on understanding the types and numbers of media files which are held on Wikimedia Commons and can be found using a simple search. The survey concludes with a discussion of the findings and a summary of further work.

About Wikimedia Commons

Many people will be familiar with Wikipedia a free online encyclopaedia which anyone can edit. Less well-known is the related Wikimedia Commons, a collection of over 75 million media freely reusable resources which anyone can contribute to.

As described on the Wikimedia Commons website:

Wikimedia Commons is free. Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as they follow the terms specified by the author; this often means crediting the source and author(s) appropriately and releasing copies/improvements under the same freedom to others. The license conditions of each individual media file can be found on their description page. … More information on re-use can be found at Commons:Reusing content outside Wikimedia and Commons:First steps/Reuse.

The aim of Wikimedia Commons is “to provide a media file repository that makes available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content to all“.

The morris and traditional dance community will have an interest in ensuring that media files related to traditional dance are freely available, in order to ensure that the general public can gain a better understanding and awareness of the morris and traditional dance.

Survey of Media Files Related to Morris and Traditional Dance

About the Survey

This survey has been published in order to gain a better understanding of the coverage of various forms of traditional dance within Wikimedia Commons.

Note the forms of traditional dance styles used in the Morris Federation’s Teamfinder service have been used. These are “Cotswold”, “Garland”, “Longsword”, “Molly”, “Clog”, “Mumming”, “Rapper”, “Appalachian”, “Border” and “Northwest Morris”. A slightly modified version of the terms have been used (e.g. ‘Rapper sword’ rather than just ‘Rapper’ to avoid misleading results) and the general “Morris dance term was also used.

Findings for a General Search

The results for a search for “morris dance” are shown below. Note:

  • The search term was enclosed in quotes (without the quotes results for ‘morris’ or ‘dance’ would be included).
  • A total of 1,033 results is shown near the top right. This is the figure which is used in the findings.
  • The image shows that as well as findings for images results for audio, video and other media types can also be shown.

Survey findings (general search)

The findings are given in the following table. Note that clicking on the links in the results will provide up-to-date figures.

Search TermImagesAudioVideoOther media
“morris dance”1,03335324
“Cotswold morris”2000
“Garland dance”3006
“Longsword dance”0000
“Molly dance”4000
“Clog dance”170184
“Rapper sword”19002
“Appalachian dance”0000
“Border morris”42010
“Northwest morris”7000
Table 1A: Search results for a general search (terms in quotes)

Since the numbers of results was low in several cases, findings for a search without the quotes are given below. Note, however, that this will give results for media files which contain, for example, “Garland” or “dance“.

Search TermImagesAudioVideoOther media
morris dance1,3360710
Cotswold morris500 0
Garland dance61002
Longsword dance10050
Molly dance173310
Clog dance3601 0
Rapper sword11000
Appalachian dance0000
Border morris410114
Northwest morris42001
Table 1B: Search results for a general search (terms without quotes)


  • In Table 1 the ‘Other Media’ column includes PDF files, music manuscripts, etc.
  • In Table 1B the results for media files are for either search term or example, “Garland” or “dance“. These results are therefore misleading.
  • The results are based on the words used by the person who uploaded the media file (although the descriptions could have subsequently been updated). They therefore may reflect the general public’s terminology rather than an expert. Also resources uploaded by an expert may not include details which may be assumed by an expert. For example a photograph or video could be described as “The Newcastle Kingsmen performing at the Late Night Extra at Sidmouth” – which would not be found by someone looking for a “rapper sword” media file.


Encourage Use of Resources With a ‘Free-to-Use/Reuse’ Licence

Wikimedia Commons can be a valuable resource for those wishing to make use of media files which have been licensed for reuse (i.e. for those who are reluctant to use an image which has simply been found on the Internet).

The licence provided for media files hosted on Wikimedia Commons will be particularly useful for those wishing to use photographs or videos in folkie or similar publications, those who wish to create educational resources for young people or those who wish to encourage young people to create resources about traditional dance, whilst ensuring that copyright issues are respected.

Finding ‘Hidden’ Resources

The survey described above in based on the occurrence of the search term in the description of the resource. However there will be many other relevant media files which do not contain the search terms. To find these it can be helpful to look at media files which use a relevant ‘category’.

Some of the categories which may be relevant include:

For example a photograph entitled “A dancer takes a tumble.jpg” which is include in the Category:Rapper sword – Wikimedia Commons has a description “A dancer takes a backward tumble“. However as the description does not contain ‘rapper‘ or ‘rapper sword‘ would not be found using a general search for these terms.

A further survey of relevant categories used in Wikimedia Commons will be published shortly.

Publishing Photographs, Videos and Similar Media Files

This article describes how at least 1,146 images about morris and other traditional dance styles are freely available on Wikipedia and explains how such resources can be used by others.

Uploading media files to Wikimedia Commons is slightly complicated. However the Morris Federation will shortly be producing a document which describes how to do this.

Page published: 19 Sep 2021
Page updated: 24 Sep 2021
Date of survey: 8 Sept 2021
Survey updated: 25 Sep 2021
Page author: Brian Kelly

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