By Janet Carmona (MA, Museum Studies, ’14) and Colette Hayes
Last week at University of San Francisco’s Gleeson Library, a group of budding information activists and archivists — including students and faculty in USF’s Art, Architecture and Museum Studies Departments — considered the coverage of women’s place in history on the widely used online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Past surveys have shown that only 8%-15% of editors on Wikipedia are women, which affects the coverage of women on the site.
In order to identify and address this gender gap, the library hosted its second annual Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon in conjunction with Women’s History Month. The event was part of a global campaign known as Art+Feminism, which seeks to not only improve the coverage of women in the arts on Wikipedia, but also to create a community of feminist editors through workshops that focus on learning basic Wikipedia editing techniques.
Last year’s event at Gleeson yielded great results. This year, Gleeson librarians and staff partnered with the Art and Architecture department to help promote and put on the event, and to encourage new editors. Several students from Professor Paula Birnbaum’s Women and Art class came armed with names of women artists they researched last semester. Professor Berit Potter’s Survey of Western Art History II and Museum Studies I classes focused on important and under-recognized arts administrators such as San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s founding director Grace Morley and Nancy Hanks, founding director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Professor Alessandra Wood’s Design and Social Change class edited articles about women designers including Dorothy Liebes. Guests from the WikiEdu and Wikimedia Foundations were on hand to provide their expertise as well as contribute with edits
In all, 47 participants edited 30 articles, and created 3 brand new Wikipedia articles on the site. Together, event editors not only addressed the gender disparities on Wikipedia, but they also learned how to contribute to one of the largest, and freely accessible repositories of public knowledge in the world.