Second Annual Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

Rebecca Potance organized both this year and last year’s Edit-A-Thons. Photo by Sasha Hill

The second annual Art and Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon took place March 11 in the St. Francis Auditorium of the New Mexico Museum of Art in celebration of Women’s History Month. Its purpose: to create and edit Wikipedia articles for unrecognized local women artists. Attendees were encouraged to bring their own laptops and tablets on which to edit their articles, but the research materials, snacks and camaraderie were provided. The event started at 10 a.m. with an introduction to editing Wikipedia. The attendees were shown how to work within the free encyclopedia program and the rules of creating content. “Basically the biggest challenge is to make sure you’re paraphrasing because in Wikipedia you can’t cut and paste,” participant Judith Moir says. “And also that you’re limiting it so that it’s not so long that someone won’t want to read it and find out something about her.”

Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon volunteers use this collection of books for reference as they correct entries within the webpage. Photo by Sasha Hill

Rebecca Potance was the organizer of this event as well as last year’s. “I learned about it through an organization called the Art Library Society of North America,” Potance says. “Because the primary organizer [Sian Evans] works Artstor in New York so she kind of told all the librarians about it and that’s how I got involved.” Last year, the Santa Fe event was the only nearby location for New Mexicans, but this year there was also an event in Albuquerque, Potance says, and “These events are going on throughout the world actually.” The Edit-A-Thon is organized in collaboration with museum staff. NMMA hosted the event last year as well and provided some of the research materials, books about local artists and artists who have exhibited at the museum.

Many of the attendees came to the Edit-A-Thon with little knowledge about who they would be writing about. Sheila Burns, a participant writing about Taos artist Barbara Latham, says, “I don’t really know about her myself so I’m learning about her as I go, learning to add information to articles.” The purpose of this event is to bring attention to women artists and many of the participants are women artists themselves who want to raise awareness of this knowledge gap. “It’s really important for people like us to really take these initiatives that are in our own hands,” Moir says. “Particularly in a town as small as Santa Fe and a state with as limited resources as we have. I think it’s really important that if I didn’t know about this person, who else doesn’t know about this person?”

Arlo Barnes and Rebecca Potance are adding information to Wikipedia entires. Photo by Sasha Hill

Some of those attending the event wanted to bring attention to artists that are important to them. “I’m doing Alyce Frank, who is a New Mexico artist who’s not all that well known,” participant Bonnie Binkert says. “I don’t even think her work has been in [NMMA’s] collection. But she’s somebody who’s influenced my own work…She’s not widely known outside of New Mexico. And that’s part of the reason we’re doing this Wikipedia event. To get those artists recognition.” The same was the case with Arlo Barnes who was researching Faith Holland. “I encountered her art recently and I really like Internet art and hers is conceptually pretty interesting.”

The joy of research is what draws most of the participants to this event, even if they already know about the artists they’re researching. “I’m just eager to learn new things and get new skills,” Burns says. “And I’m interested in writing and I love research. So it’s mostly just about kind of enjoying my life. I love to learn new things.” In the current political climate, this event is also a way for people to stand against the privatization of education and information as well as the dismantling of facts. “I’ve always had an interest in academic research and Wikipedia makes that really easy,” participant Arlo Barnes says, “because you have somewhere to put the little things that you find.”