Canadians help build Wiki pages for female artists

Daily Brew

[Photo: Art Gallery of Ontario]

Across the country, people are gathering in art galleries and libraries to take part in a simultaneous effort to include more women artist pages on Wikipedia, one of the most popular websites in the world.

Art + Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thons are events that help promote research and education about the role women play in the international art landscape.

I attended my first Wiki edit-a-thon at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this past weekend, where volunteers and librarians helped provide resources and editing skills that were to be used to build and expand pages for female Canadian artists on the collaboratively built free encyclopedia.

As a Wiki-newbie, the learning curb was steep. Aside from the technical aspect of following the right links and using the proper coding, I also learned about the specific format and sources required to build a page that won’t be taken down by trolls within hours.

While some people, including myself, showed up intending to start new Wiki pages for female artists, we were advised to edit ones that already existed. Librarians were on hand to provide hard copies of resources, while volunteers with yellow tags were on hand to help with any technical problems.  

The AGO was one of 75 locations in 17 countries taking part in that event on Saturday, with many more taking place on Tuesday to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The event was originally started by Art + Feminism, a campaign founded in New York.

Megan Smith is one of the organizers of the University of Regina’s Tuesday edit-a-thon at the school’s library. She says when she first took on the project, it was clear there was a gap on Wikipedia when it came to female Canadian artists, particularly from the Prairies. That became part of the guidelines of Tuesday’s gathering.

“We’ve added this extra constraint, to write about Prairie-based projects or artists or women who are in this area,” she tells Yahoo Canada News.

Fiona Wright, art education assistant at the Carlton University art gallery in Ottawa, says she noticed a lack of condensed information available on Wikipedia about women artists in Canada, compared to books and other literature. That’s part of what inspired her to launch a Wiki edit-a-thon at the gallery on Tuesday.

“I’ve noticed that there’s not as much out there as there is in textbooks or scholarly journals,” she says.

Amy Furness, special collections archivist with the AGO, points out that most of the names on the Wikipedia page for Canadian art are male.

Since the AGO first started hosting the event in 2015, interest has grown and it now takes place every three months at the art gallery.    

Furness says that the best part of an edit-a-thon is empowering the people who contribute.

“Their eyes light up when they realize the difference they can make and are aware of topics dear to them that are not on Wikipedia,” she says. “There’s a greater diversity of names represented.”