Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Photo on Wikipedia "disappearance of Madeleine" is not Madeleine

While looking for information on Madeleine’s coloboma I came across a print of a girl which the Wikipedia page “disappearance of Madeleine McCann” (under the subheading ‘family’) plainly entitled “Projected image of Madeleine as an older girl (shown draped over a building).

The image of the supposed ‘aged’ Madeleine has no coloboma in her right eye. This intrigued me and armed with full confidence in the contents of Wikipedia I went ahead with an article entitled “Huge Projected Image of Madeleine McCann” and later included it in another article “Madeleine’s Coloboma – Fact or Fiction.” The question was why the artist had omitted her coloboma from his artistic impression.

Some months later, on 15th March 2010, I received a polite email from Cyril (Studio Helnwein – the official site of Gottfried Helnwein) who informed me that the image is not Madeleine but of a girl named Molly from Waterford. She was part of an art installation by the artist Gottfried Helnwein (2008). Apparently the picture of Molly was left on the Old Mill longer than the rest of the installation. Once I understood this, the article “Huge Projected Image of Madeleine McCann” and any reference to it in "Madeleine's Coloboma - Fact or Fiction" was immediately removed from ‘Little Morsals.’

Cyril has also informed me that the Wiki user RTG has incorrectly labelled the image. Cyril explains:

The image "The Last Child" is actually a print and not a projected image. The print is actually so large, that it had to be done in 3 sections and stitched together for hanging off the old mill in Waterford.

Links kindly provided by Cyril:

You can see more information about the art installation in Waterford here: Exhibitions

And here you will find some articles about the installation: Ireland Helnwein

After explaining where I’d found the information, Cyril contacted Wikipedia (also on 15th March 2010) after which the image was immediately put up for deletion. Information here: Debate on Projected Image of Madeleine

RTG, the Wiki user who incorrectly labelled Molly’s photo as being an aged appearance of Madeleine has since explained that he uploaded it because of the likeness between the two girls (and nothing more?) Regardless, the removal of the image - even after nine days – is still being discussed. Currently the last statement on the debate page is that there is no copyright infringement.

To put the record straight, the issue isn’t copyright – it’s the fact that the image of Molly (“The Last Child”) is neither that of Madeleine nor a depiction of her and as they are fully aware of this then to my mind they are deliberately misleading their readers by leaving the image in situ on their “Disappearance of Madeleine McCann” page.

This is not the first time Wikipedia has come under the spotlight for displaying incorrect information on their pages. They can be forgiven for mistakes but to deliberately and knowingly retain misinformation and appearing reluctant to remove it, then to my mind that is unacceptable.

I doubt I’ll have as much confidence in Wikipedia as I once did and I am now extremely wary about using their site for future research/reference. It’s a shame because they had the potential to be a useful resource site.

Let's hope they do the right thing now and remove the image of Molly or at least the misleading title "Projected image of Madeleine as an older girl (shown draped over a building)."

EDIT: The photo has now been removed from Wiki's Disappearance of Madeleine McCann page.