Ohio University

CANCELLED: Women on Wikipedia: The Libraries to Host an Art + Feminism Event

Quinn Hunter, an MFA student in sculpture, participates in the 2019 Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon
Quinn Hunter, an MFA student in sculpture, participates in the 2019 Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon.
Note: This event has been cancelled due to Ohio University's response to COVID-19. The event will be rescheduled in fall semester 2020.

Ohio University Libraries and the Athens County Public Libraries (ACPL) will co-host a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on March 18, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Alden Library 319, and from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Athens Public Library. The event is being held with the support of the nonprofit group Art + Feminism, and the theme of this year’s event is Art + Activism.

This year marks the seventh anniversary of Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thons, and is the second year in a row that an edit-a-thon has taken place at OHIO. Hundreds of Art + Feminism edit-a-thons are slated to take place in 2020, in hopes of continuing to teach people of all gender identities and expressions about the importance of diverse voices on Wikipedia. 

Michele Jennings, art librarian at University Libraries, is the main organizer of the OHIO and ACPL Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. She said that participants don’t need to have any previous experience with editing or Wikipedia to get involved. 

“It is designed for everyone, from people with no Wikipedia experience to people who are confident–all are welcome,” she said. “You can come for any amount of time, even if you just want to stop by and learn more about the organization.” 

Stacey Lavendar, the special collections librarian, edits Wikipedia pages with others as part of the Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon.
Stacey Lavendar, the special collections librarian, edits Wikipedia pages with others.

Volunteers will be on-site at both edit-a-thons to help with editing of all difficulty levels, from adding citations to creating completely new articles. Participants are welcome to stop by at any point during the day and stay for as long as they are able.

Jennings encourages participants to bring their own ideas of articles that need edited, updated or created, but that Art + Feminism and the Libraries will also identify articles that are in need of work. The articles will mostly focus on women-identified and non-binary artists, and feminism in the arts.

Wikipedia has been criticized in the past for its gender bias and the lack of diversity among its editors. A 2011 Wikimedia Foundation report showed that fewer than 13% of Wikipedia editors were women, which the then-executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Sue Gardner, attributed to an online culture that discouraged women from participating. 

Organizations like Art + Feminism and The Black Lunch Table were formed in response to these findings, and made it their goal to increase diversity among Wikipedia editors. Edit-a-thons have become a popular way of increasing the visibility of the editing gender gap and getting more people involved by providing training and guidance. 

Since it was founded, Art + Feminism has become an international organization, focused not only on increasing the number of women and non-binary editors on Wikipedia, but also on creating more coverage of the history of women-identified and non-binary artists, and feminism in the arts.

Art + Feminism states on its website that its mission is to work toward “building an equitable global community striving to close the gaps in content and editorial representation on Wikipedia, ensuring that the histories of our lives and work are accessible and accurate.”

Edit-a-thons are now held year-round in museums, coffee shops, community centers, colleges and, of course, libraries. 

Jennings said that students studying Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Art and Design, and Art History may be especially interested in the OHIO and ACPL Edit-a-thon, but that all are welcome, and she encourages all members of the campus community and the public to attend. 

“We aim to create an inclusive and welcoming environment so that everybody can contribute and participate in the expansion of the world’s knowledge,” she said. “So if you feel passionately about featuring the voices of marginalized people not included in mainstream publishing…you should come by.”

Jennings herself is a self-taught Wikipedia editor who has created pages for multiple artists and contributed to many different Wikipedia articles. She said that it’s empowering to take action and create articles that have immediate effects. 

Art + Feminism, the OHIO Libraries and the ACPL all share a goal of making information more inclusive and more accessible. Jennings said that both hope to empower individuals to be creators of information, as well as consumers. 

The Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the Libraries and the ACPL will utilize the resources of each organization, so that, for example, a book in one of the libraries could be used as a citation for an article. This means that editors are not only extending the reach of the Libraries’ collections, but opening the resources up to use by an international audience on Wikipedia. 

Jennings hopes to continue holding edit-a-thons at the Libraries for many years to come. When speaking about why people should come to the event and why editing Wikipedia was important for under-represented groups, she cited a question from Art + Feminism: If we don’t tell our stories, who will? 

Both Wikipedia Edit-a-thons are free and open to the public. Laptops and light refreshments will be provided. To request accessibility accommodations for the event, contact Jen Harvey

Photos by Stephen Zenner/Ohio University Libraries.