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Cornell joins the fray in narrowing gender gap on Wikipedia

Wikipedia Art
Courtesy of Margaretta Jolly
The Wikipedia Art + Feminism edit-a-thon March 5 will produce new content on women artists for the site, including Alison Mason Kingsbury, whose murals adorn three campus buildings. Shown: Kingsbury's "Van Buskirk's Gulf," painted in Newfield in 1935.

Only about 10 percent of the people who edit articles on Wikipedia are female, according to Wikimedia Foundation user surveys.

To help improve coverage of women and the arts on the collaborative online encyclopedia and narrow the gender gap among editors, Cornell will participate in the 2016 Wikipedia: Art + Feminism edit-a-thon, Saturday, March 5.

The project, with more than 100 events around the world held in connection with International Women’s Day, aims to empower women to edit content on Wikipedia and ensure the accurate representation of important arts contributions of women from all cultures.

On Feb. 1, 2014, more than 600 Art + Feminism editors converged on Wikipedia and added 100 new articles on women artists to the site.

Last March, more than 1,500 edit-a-thon participants created nearly 400 new pages and made improvements to 500 articles.

The Cornell effort is targeting seven artists lacking pages on Wikipedia, including Alison Mason Kingsbury, whose work over a 60-year career included murals in the Willard Straight Hall lobby (1925-27), Gannett Health Center (1958) and the World War I Memorial Chapel (1930). At least 17 other entries will be improved and updated during the communal campus edit-a-thons, including articles on alumnae artists Margaret Bourke-White ’27, Susan Rothenberg ’66 and Anna Botsford Comstock, Class of 1885.

“This project is really exciting because it lets us tap into our resources as a community,” co-coordinator Brittany Rubin said. “As a community at large that really cares about issues of gender equality, I think [Cornell] is a great place to do this project. We’re lucky to be able to add to such a vibrant and growing movement, making sure women are being fairly represented on Wikipedia.”

Rubin, the Kress Interpretive Fellow at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, is one of three on-campus ambassadors coordinating participation at Cornell, along with Susette Newberry, art librarian and assistant director of Cornell University Library Research and Learning Services, and Marsha Taichman, visual resources and public services librarian at the Fine Arts Library.

Wikipedia has logged more than 814 million edits since it was created in 2001; the multilingual site has more than 5 million content articles and 27.5 million registered users. Many reasons have been suggested for the gender bias and disparity among Wikipedia editors, from a misogynist culture to women having less time available than men.

Wikipedia edit-a-thons have also focused on women’s history, cultural heritage sites, museum collections and other topics. African-Americans and the LGBT community have used edit-a-thons to address Wikipedia’s racial and sexual demographics.

Jacqueline Mabey, core organizer for the Wikipedia: Art + Feminism edit-a-thon, will discuss the project’s history and the disparities in race and gender representation, Thursday, Feb. 25, at 4:30 p.m. in 106G Olin Library. Her talk will be live-streamed; it is co-sponsored by the Cornell Council for the Arts and the Graduate Association for Multidisciplinary Legal Studies.

The edit-a-thon on campus, Saturday, March 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will occur at the Johnson Museum, Olin Library and the Fine Arts Library in Rand Hall. The project encourages editorship from people of all gender identities.

Free, 90-minute Art + Feminism Wikipedia editing workshops on campus will help prepare participants, Feb. 26 and March 2.

See the local Wikipedia Meetup Page for more information, resources and to register for events; participants should bring laptops to the sessions. New editors should create a Wikipedia account to sign up in advance. Same-day training will be offered March 5 to assist drop-in participants.

“We want to encourage people to participate, anyone who is concerned with content on Wikipedia or artists in general,” Rubin said. “You don’t have to have experience in art history. Just come in and be curious, and we will help with the rest.”

The events are co-sponsored by Cornell University Library, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, the Society for the Humanities and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Media Contact

Melissa Osgood