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Rose’s Wiki Edit-a-Thon spotlights female artists

By Katie Decker-Jacoby

Section: Arts

March 17, 2017

Community members gathered in the Rose’s Lois Foster Gallery to create and improve the Wikipedia pages of underrepresented female artists on Friday, March 10.

The Rose Art Museum joined forces with Art+Feminism to host the Wiki edit-a-thon.

Accompanying one of the Rose’s spring exhibitions, “Collection at Work,” the Art+Feminism edit-a-thon aims to put a spotlight on female artists who do not receive enough recognition in the art sphere. The Rose scheduled this event to coincide with International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8.

The Rose provided lists of artists with pages that needed to be verified or expanded, and artists without pages. An enormous disparity existed between the two groups: There were 17 artists in the first category and 60 in the latter.

Twenty of the 77 female artists listed have books in the Brandeis library. Many of these artists have works in the Rose’s collection and will be featured in the “Collection at Work.” Rose curatorial intern Meredith Combs ’17 was excited to work on Jacqueline “Jackie” Winsor’s page, since Winsor’s wooden sculpture, “Fence Piece” (1970), can be found on display in the “Collection at Work.”

Event organizers advised participants to first see what was already on the artist’s Wikipedia page to find out what further information was needed. Students could then search for academic sources such as university-level textbooks, journals, mainstream newspapers, magazines and books issued by respected publishers. Finally, students corrected preexisting information or inserted new information.

A page had less credibility if it did not have enough reliable sources or was only edited by a single individual. Participants were advised to check such pages and add relevant information. One Rose staff member stayed at the reading room table at all times to guide participants through this process.

Last year, Acting Director of the Office of the Arts Ingrid Schorr and Visual Resources Curator and Art History Administrator Jennifer Stern reached out to Rose Collections Assistant Betsy Nelson to launch Brandeis’ very own edit-a-thon event on campus. The Rose hosted its first edit-a-thon last school year.

There was a small turnout this year. However, Nelson appreciated those who did show up. “As one of the two main goals of this project is to get more women as Wiki editors, and two people signed up for new accounts and learned how to edit pages, I take it as a win. I think any additional people who get more comfortable editing, who figure out they can do this on their own even without an event, is a plus,” Nelson said.

Nelson herself learned something new this time around. “I wrote a new article this year, which I’ve never done before. It was really exciting to be able to see a Wikipedia page that I wrote,” she added.

Siân Evans, Jacqueline Mabey, Michael Mandiberg and Laurel Ptak founded Art+Feminism in 2013. What started as a conversation between four friends flourished into a global phenomenon. The group has gathered at more than 280 events across six continents.

According to Art+Feminism, less than 10 percent of Wikipedia contributors are women. The group strives to change this number by hosting edit-a-thons all around the world. Some upcoming events will be held in Portugal, Switzerland, Peru, Germany, Canada and Italy. These events tend to take place in museums, libraries and colleges. Art+Feminism’s website makes it easy to locate the nearest edit-a-thon and register for it online.

“We are students, librarians, professors, artists, art workers and art lovers who create meaningful changes to the body of knowledge available about feminism and the arts on Wikipedia,” Art+Feminism’s website states. “Our feminisms are intersectional and inclusive. We have different perspectives and practices but share the belief that art is fundamental to thriving societies and strive to make visible the lives and work of underrepresented artists,” Art+Feminism added.

Since the Rose participated in an edit-a-thon last year, it was eager to join Art+Feminism for its fourth annual Art+Feminism’s Wiki Edit-a-Thon this past Friday. The Rose advertised its event on Facebook, through posters and in the Fine Arts Department listserv. Museum staff hoped to train students and other community members to be editors.

Several copies of a quick guide for the edit-a-thon rested on the reading room table in the “Collection at Work.” The guide provided instructions on how to get started, general tips and suggestions specific to artist pages.

Participants had to first make a Wikipedia account. Then they could join the program on the event’s website. Some general tips included, “Write with a neutral point of view” and “Citations from reliable sources are important.” Simple edits and fact-checking took 15 minutes to complete, while creating a fresh page was a two- to three-hour endeavor, according to Combs. To help out with research, library books that pertained to the list of female artists also appeared on the table.

The Rose’s participation in Art+Feminism’s Wiki Edit-a-Thon is among several other acts that show the museum’s part in recognizing women in the arts. On International Women’s Day, students created signs with the names of numerous women, including some female artists’ names. These signs were posted at the Rose’s Light of Reason. Additionally, the Rose hosted a book sale, selling art books by or of female artists on March 8-12.

In terms of powerful female artists featured in the Rose this spring, visitors can view the works of Ana Mendieta and Louise Nevelson. Mendieta, a Cuban immigrant, pays respect to the female body through performance paintings and videos. Meanwhile, Nevelson’s art flouts gender norms from the 1970s feminist art movement.

“I’d also love to see other edit-a-thons happen on campus. Once you figure out the Wiki system, it is remarkably easy, and it’s the kind of consolidation and citation of researched information that university students are already so great at,” Nelson said. “So if we keep doing this event in the future, I’d love to see an emphasis on other underrepresented groups both as editors and as subjects of pages.”

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