In March I was invited to three different Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons! I had a basic idea of what these were about, but I was eager to get involved and find out more. One was held at MIT Libraries, and one at the Institute of Contemporary Art, but I decided to attend the one held at my beloved alma mater, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). It was hosted by librarians at MassArt, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts and the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences.
As the invitation promised, we were led through basic Wikipedia editing skills by accomplished Wikipedia editor Amanda Rust, the Digital Humanities Librarian and Assistant Director of the Digital Scholarship Group at Northeastern University.
After teaching us the basics of Wikipedia editing, Amanda and MassArt librarian Gabrielle Reed talked about the purpose of the project. Gabrielle’s event invitation sums it up well:
Wikimedia’s gender trouble is well-documented. While the reasons for the gender gap are up for debate, the practical effect of this disparity, however, is not. Content is skewed by the lack of female participation. This represents an alarming absence in an increasingly important repository of shared knowledge.
We were given a list of female artists associated with MassArt who did not yet have a page on Wikipedia, but of course we could also choose any female artist who was not represented. I choose from the list and began doing research on Frances Euphemia Thompson. MassArt librarians helped me find primary research materials on Ms. Thompson. She was an artist and educator, and one of the first African American women to graduate from Massachusetts Normal Art School (the precursor to MassArt).
I found some good biographical information on Thompson in this book by Mary Ann Stankiewicz.
MassArt librarian Katie Riel at the left, ready to help and/or display our efforts on social media. On the right, MassArt librarian Danielle Sangalang helps me find more information on Ms. Thompson for my very first Wikipedia article, which you can see below and find at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Euphemia_Thompson!
Talking with MassArt librarian Gabrielle Reed, I was happy to find out that this series of edit-a-thons started at ARLIS! It grow out of the ARLIS/NA Women’s SIG, and was led by Sîan Evans together with Michael Mandiberg, Jacqueline Mabey and Laurel Ptak. From small beginnings, it has grown into an international movement, complete with an online guide to help anyone start an event: http://www.artandfeminism.org/organizing-kit/. As Gabrielle told me, “They make it so easy for us, there’s not excuse not to do it.” She added,
“It’s a concrete way to contribute something – the world is so crazy right now, I feel like it’s important to do things that make a difference.”
I think we all felt the same way, and we had a great time working together, using our voices to add more diversity to Wikipedia.