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Civic Impact

Wikipedia Wednesday connects tech, art, and feminism in next week’s edit-a-thon

Wikipedia is often the first place a curious art-lover will turn to learn more about an artist, but what happens when there is no article to be found? It’s an especially common concern for female artists, but Art + Feminism and the Art Gallery of Ontario are teaming up to help correct those blank spots.

On January 20, the AGO will host the fourth Toronto-area Wikipedia Wednesday. While the edit-a-thons started in New York City in 2014, Amy Furness, the Rosamund Ivey Special Collections Archivist for the museum thought that the AGO would be a good local partner because they have “the space and the resources,” emphasizing that the AGO’s role will be “hosting and facilitating.” January 20 will mark the fourth time the AGO has hosted the event.

The edit-a-thon is open to anyone with a laptop, but Furness says that “it’s predominantly women, because part of the goal is to empower women editors.” The facilitators will provide hands-on training to people who are new to creating and editing Wikipedia articles. “Many of the people come completely green, and we teach it from the ground up every time. Often it’s making changes to existing article, while the more ambitious ones might start creating articles from scratch.”

Between events, Furness and the Art + Feminism group keep a running list of potential articles to edit. On the night of the edit-a-thons, the AGO provides research materials to the group, and encourages them to flesh out short or incomplete Wikipedia articles with information and images. “In common with everywhere else in the world, we have a gender disparity” in publically-available artist information. “Something the AGO has always done is try to document the arts scene here, and to some extent that’s a local story,” she explains.

The event’s impact can be felt on a global scale. In the past year, more than thirty new articles have been created for female artists, with another thirty receiving expanded and improved articles. The impact can also be intensely personal. “It’s also important to empower people to feel a sense of ownership over Wikipedia,” Furness says. “It’s something everyone can contribute to and build. People may not emerge from an event being full-fledged editors, but they’ll have a better understanding of how Wikipedia works.”
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