Case Studies/Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur

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graffiti, photography, sociology, University of Chicago


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Crescat Graffiti is a collection of over 1,100 photographs documenting graffiti written in the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library since September 2007.

Students write graffiti to be heard. Creative Commons lets their words echo across the Internet. — Quinn Dombrowski


"Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur" is a project documenting graffiti in the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago. Started by UChicago alumna and IT staff member Quinn Dombrowski in September 2007, this collection has grown to over 1,100 photographs, all licensed using Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike.

All the photographs are categorized and available for download in a collection on Flickr, and the collection is supplemented by commentary and analysis on the companion website blog.

In November 2009, Quinn self-published a selection of graffiti in a book, Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur: Confessions of the University of Chicago.

The collection continues to grow, with new photos and commentary added weekly.

License Usage

"Crescat Graffiti" began as a subset of Quinn Dombrowski's extensive collection of photos on Flickr, all of which were licensed using Creative Commons BY-NC-SA (later changed to BY-SA).

Ever since she started posting the graffiti to Flickr, Quinn was struck by how often they were reused on blogs. An LA Times book blog article in July 2008 brought the graffiti to the attention of a much larger audience, and would not have been possible without a Creative Commons license.

To promote the book, Quinn launched a remix contest in hopes of inspiring others to make use of the graffiti in Creative Commons-licensed works. A pattern for Camilla Neppl-Huber's winning entry, a cross-stitch of "Go to Italy, be a cobbler", was made available for anyone to download, use, and remix further.

The choice of license, and Creative Commons licenses more broadly, became a focus of the discussion when "Crescat Graffiti" was featured on Slashdot.


"Crescat Graffiti" was intended as a documentary project, rather than a stand-alone artistic endeavor. Although Quinn licenses all of her photography using an Attribution-Share Alike license, she felt particularly compelled to do so with the graffiti photos.

All of the graffiti are written in public areas where they can be seen; in doing this project, Quinn wanted to extend the reach of their visibility, while ensuring that their derivative works remain open.


Media coverage

February 11, 2010, Wall Street Journal tech blog, A Statistical Stab at Graffiti

February 8, 2010, (Croatian news site), Što studenti iz Chicaga poručuju škrabanjem na stolovima i zidovima (What students from Chicago scribble on the tables and walls)

February 8, 2010, Slashdot: Slashdot Science Story | Statistical Analysis of U of Chicago Graffiti

February 3, 2010, Inkling Magazine: Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur: Being a Statistical Analysis of Graffiti Found at the University of Chicago Library

Dec 14, 2009, AV Club Chicago: Art of the remix: Interpreting classroom graffiti as contemporary art

Oct 16, 2009, Chicagoist: The Creative Graffiti Of U of C's Regenstein Library

July 8, 2009: LA Times: Library graffiti at the University of Chicago