Inspired by Wiki Loves Monuments, Wikipedia has come to Mumbai by the name Wikipedia Takes Mumbai III, scouting for similar heritage sites in the city and capturing them in pictures. The first Wiki Loves Monuments competition was held in 2010 in the Netherlands. In 2012, the competition extends beyond Europe, with a total of 32 participating countries.
Wiki Loves Monuments is an annual international photography competition held during September in which participants take pictures of historical monuments and heritage sites in their region, and upload them to Wikimedia Commons. The aim of the event is to highlight the heritage sites of the participating countries.
Just a day ago I read about lawyer Gautam Patel’s take on conservation and preservation in a city like Mumbai. He is of the opinion that architecture which is dilapidated should be let go to make way for changes. He goes on to say that not every architectural detail and every ramshackle structure is worth keeping. And he further added that citizens’ participation in such decision-making should be well considered. Fine points although I must contest their validity in case specific to Mumbai. In the city of Mumbai where heritage protection laws are loosely formed and applied, where and how to draw a line of what appears worth saving to me is worth saving to you too?
Then the point of citizen involvement is truly an inclusive thought but honestly for citizens of Mumbai whether saving heritage architecture is of priority is debatable. They are struggling for far more basic amenities like clean water, sanitation, affordable housing and sane commute for survival, so heritage conservation does appear like a lofty concept and will remain a coterie endeavor for a few more years in Mumbai.
That said, with events like Wiki Loves Monuments, it does generate people’s interest in the city’s precincts and architecture and its heritage, and more importantly the past that otherwise would have remained in a quite background of a declining city. Few will document through pictures and some will write about the experience, making it work as a passive awareness campaign whose benefits both tangible and intangible will be slow and organic but certainly positive in times to come. So, events like Wiki Loves Monuments work as quiescent catalysts and in less explicable ways for quantifying immediate benefits.