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Cornell University Participates in Wikipedia Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon

By Savannah Rychcik and Diana Huberty


The Wikipedia Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon has taken a new approach to activism in this way, which involves improving the representation of women and the arts on Wikipedia. On Feb. 22, Cornell University held the first training session in preparation for the editing event in the Uris Library classroom.

Brittany Rubin, the print room curatorial assistant at the Johnson Museum of Art, led the editing session. She stressed the importance of Wikipedia activism and the benefits to getting involved.

“The idea for art and feminism came a few years ago,” Rubin said. “It really helps with the representation of female artists on Wikipedia. It also helps people who are not usually editors become involved and share their knowledge on Wikipedia.”

People of all gender identities are invited to attend editing training sessions to encourage communal editorship of Wikipedia pages focusing on the arts and feminism. The training session focused first on creating a Wikipedia account and then learning how to edit existing articles. Easy and widespread access to Wikipedia among people of all demographics makes these events possible.

The event focused on closing the widespread gender gap across Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the majority of Wikipedia editors are male. A 2013 study conducted by Wikipedia found that Wikipedia fails to attract and retain female editors, which causes a negative impact on Wikipedia’s coverage of women.

Freshman Cornell student Kelly Stone shared similar concerns for the lack of female coverage online as well as its importance in such a Wikipedia-dependent society.

“I definitely think it’s important to have knowledge of women that aren’t especially known widely,” Stone said. “Compared to men, it’s good to see that sort of equality initiative.”

Wikipedia has brought attention to this gender gap, which has led to thousands of edit-a-thons held across the world, both on national and local levels. The edit-a-thons are supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, which provides mentors and additional technology to help new editors through the process. Cornell University has also adopted this method by involving librarians and museum professionals to help editors along the way, which makes the events even more inclusive.

Leah Sweet, the Mellon curatorial coordinator for academic programs, stressed the importance of accurate information and equal gender representation on Wikipedia, drawing attention to the power that comes with information.

“I see especially how much students and young people in general turn to Wikipedia for knowledge,” Sweet said. “We all do, especially when we’re starting an academic project, we all go to Wikipedia to begin that. What happens when there’s not quality information there or that person isn’t even present on Wikipedia? How is that influencing who then gets talked about the most? It really makes a huge difference to address that.”

The edit-a-thon, which the editing training events lead up to, will take place on March 11 in three different locations across Cornell University’s campus. A second editing training session will take place on March 3, which will be hosted by the same group of Cornell faculty members.

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