The idea of the free travel-shirt arose during the meet-up of some Wikipedians in Hanover, Germany, on 3 March 2009. The objective was to raise awareness on a global scale of the international movement for free knowledge, and to bring Wikipedians all over the globe closer together. It was intended to remind Wikipedians that they are part of one of the world’s most important networks ever launched, and to reinforce the foundation’s mission statement “to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally”.
The idea was that the shirts would circle the globe much like the torch relay before the start of the Olympic Games, and that this would attract new editors to Wikipedia and raise the profile of the Wikimedia Foundation. A blueish T-shirt from Wikimedia Deutschland e. V. (size L) with “Enzyklopädist” written on it (German for “encyclopedist”) and a white T-shirt (size XL) embossed with the English Wikipedia logo were taken to many different places. Wikipedians were asked to pose for photographs holding or wearing one of the shirts, with distinctive motives, features and people as evidence of the long journey the shirts have been on. These pictures have been uploaded to Commons at Free travel-shirt 2009 and added to the organization page on metawiki m:Free Travel-Shirt.
At the end of the journey, the two shirts came back again to Hanover for the start of this year’s CeBIT on 2 March 2010. Since June 2010, they have been up for auction for the benefit of Wikimedia Foundation Inc.: white shirt, blue shirt.
Before it arrived in Germany, the white shirt had done the rounds in San Francisco and New York City, where Wikimedia attorney Mike Godwin added his signature. In Germany, the shirt was signed at a summer party of former President Horst Köhler in Bellevue Palace by Christian Wulff, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, and Wolfgang Schäuble, Federal Minister of Finance. The white shirt was taken to Switzerland, Estonia, Norway, Finland, Ireland, Austria, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic, and finally arrived in Hanover in March 2010.
The white shirt can now be purchased on eBay, from which the proceeds will go to the the Wikimedia Foundation.
The blue shirt went to Azerbaijan before it was returned to Germany to be presented at Wikimedia Deutschland’s general assembly in March 2009 and Wikimedia’s Board, Chapter and Developers’ Meeting in April 2009, where it was signed by Jimbo Wales and appeared in many photographs. The blue shirt then went to Sweden, the Tripoint where the German, French and Swiss borders converge, and to Berlin, where it was signed by Christian Wulff, one of the instigators of the idea.
Next on the tour was Moscow and a number of other Russian cities, and then Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where it was signed by the Chairman of Wikimedia Argentina, Patricio Lorente. From there, steward Mardetanha brought the item to Iran and Dubai. During a longer trip through Poland it was photographed in Warsaw, Bydgoszcz, Toruń, Poznań and Wrocław. Finally, it was snapped during a trip along the Ruhr river in northwestern Germany, and came back to Hanover in March 2010. It now can be purchased on eBay for the benefit of the Wikimedia Foundation.