Editors collaborate at a Johnson Museum session of the 2017 Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.

Volunteer editors enhance Wikipedia content on women artists

An editor researches source material for a new article at the Johnson Museum during the 2017 Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.

As part of an international campaign to improve coverage of women and the arts on Wikipedia and encourage female editorship, the 2018 Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at Cornell will be held Saturday, March 10.

Sessions on campus will meet from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in 106G Olin Library and at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

This is the third year Cornell has participated in the edit-a-thon, first held in 2014. Among the reasons for the project: Only one out of 10 Wikipedia editors is female, according to Wikimedia Foundation surveys.

In addition to addressing the gender gap among editors, “a large part of the project is to improve what exists already on Wikipedia, because the coverage of women is inferior to the coverage of men,” said organizer and art librarian Susette Newberry, director of research and learning services at Olin and Uris libraries. “If you compare the entries, there is a huge disparity. We would like to see that addressed, but of course having better, wider coverage for artists who are underrepresented would be fantastic.”

Artists from other countries also need better coverage on Wikipedia, Newberry said: “At Cornell we would like to leverage all the language expertise we have, and all the knowledge our students and scholars have of figures around the world.”

Free editing workshops for new and returning participants will be held March 6 from noon to 1 p.m. in 106G Olin Library and March 8 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Uris Library gallery level classroom. Volunteers are encouraged to attend a workshop (register online for March 6 or March 8) and sign up for the edit-a-thon March 10. Online training and same-day training are also available.

Cornell University Library has prepared a guide to the edit-a-thon with complete information, resources for editors and suggested articles to work on. Other sources for the Wikipedia project at Cornell include a Facebook event page and Cornell events page.

Over the past two March events, volunteer editors have added several entirely new entries on notable Cornellians and Cornell-related women in the arts. These include painter Alice Dalton Brown ’58, art historian Claire Holt, artist Clara Seley, architect Olive Tjaden ’25, and artist Alison Mason Kingsbury, who created the World War I Memorial Chapel mural on West Campus (1930) and assisted artist Ezra Winter on the Willard Straight Hall lobby mural (1925-27).

Cornell participated in a similar Wikipedia editing project on agriculture and life science topics in 2016.

Participants in the Cornell node of Art + Feminism have also enhanced articles on the work of notable women. The subject matter has covered the gamut of feminism, gender and the arts, from archaeologists and architects to typographers, video artists and more, Newberry said.

“There has been a good deal of editing activity to support artists represented in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art and the Human Sexuality Collection in the library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections,” she said. “Some of the editors contributed very small edits – external links, citations, grammatical improvements – while others wrote entirely new articles based on substantive research.”

Brittany Rubin, print room curatorial assistant at the Johnson Museum; Julie McLean, the museum’s coordinator of public programs, and Marsha Taichman, visual resources librarian in the Fine Arts Library, are co-coordinators of the project.

Newberry and Taichman have been working with students and faculty in a few classes to participate.

Once they sign up, editors can get started right away on their topics of choice. Editing statistics are compiled during the month of March, not just on March 10. The statistics include the number of words added, total edits, number of articles edited, pages created and images uploaded.

The effort to improve Wikipedia will continue after the month is over.

“Some faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences are very interested in a project allowing students to contribute to public knowledge,” Newberry said. “Some people are skeptical of Wikipedia, which is healthy, but at least students can get to understand its limits. Wikipedia has a lot of people engaged in peer review, for want of a better term, and oversight. You do an edit and there are 15 people jumping in right away, even on a minor topic, to make sure that what you are offering is from an unbiased source and offered in an unbiased way.”

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