Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to Promote Marginalized Artists

Wikipedia is a source hailed for its informational scope and critiqued for its accuracy, but critics and supporters alike will both agree that it is widely used. Despite its wide reach, Wikipedia has less information on women and people of color in the arts than it should. Oberlin’s annual feminist Wikipedia edit-a-thon is designed to help bridge that gap. 

The Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon is a national movement that started six years ago. According to the Art+Feminism website, Wikipedia is the largest and most popular general reference work on the internet, yet less than 10 percent of editors on the website are women. Edit-a-thons aim to teach people of all gender-identities how to edit Wikipedia articles, while at the same time spreading knowledge about underrepresented groups in the arts. This is the project’s third year at Oberlin College and its second year as a combined effort between the Oberlin College Libraries and the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 

This year, Oberlin’s edit-a-thon will focus on women, gender-nonconforming people, and people of color in the arts. Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art Kevin Greenwood, along with his assistant College sophomore Leina Fieleke, have compiled a list of Asian artists included in the Allen’s collection. The Wikipedia entries for these figures are in need of expansion or are missing entirely. 

The Ellen Johnson ’33 Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Andrea Gyorody put together another list of underrepresented female artists, and also facilitated the edit-a-thon’s connection between the Allen and the libraries. 

“The AMAM and OCL are invested in centering marginalized voices and narratives,” she wrote in an email to the Review. “The hope is that folks interested in contributing to Wikipedia come to the museum to learn some basics and get their feet wet, and then find themselves — as many people do — addicted to editing, [and] making a contribution to an invaluable source of information accessible to anyone with internet access almost anywhere in the world.”

While the edit-a-thon is a national movement, Oberlin is a particularly fitting place for this event. The Allen and Oberlin’s history of social justice are both well known and important to the community’s legacy. The Allen Memorial Art Museum’s Eric and Jane Nord Family Curator of Education Jill Greenwood, one of the project’s organizers, spoke about how the event is relevant to the issues that Oberlin students are most passionate about.

“Discussions of representation and gender are part of the students’ everyday conversations, thoughts, and lives,” Greenwood said. 

Professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art History and Chair of the Art History Department Christina Neilson will provide extra credit for students in her Methods in Art History class who attend and write an article at the edit-a-thon. The class is mandatory for all Art History majors. 

“I want to empower students so they can participate in art history, and writing an entry on Wikipedia is really doing that,” she said. 

Neilson is also teaching a class called Gender and the Visual Arts in Europe from 1450-1750. She spoke about how the inequities for women in the arts run deeper than just entry-level scholarship on Wikipedia — part of the reason Wikipedia is so devoid of entries on female artists is the lack of existing scholarship on them at all. 

Neilson pointed out that high-caliber female artists, such as Michaelina Wautier and Clara Peeters, have only been recently acknowledged as the artistic masters theywere. There are many more women who have yet to receive the recognition they deserve. Upgrading platforms like Wikipedia is one way to bring these artists to a wider audience. 

The inequities in the field of art history run deep, and a lot of work remains to be done. But Oberlin’s community is ready, willing, and able to tackle the problem the best they can. Oberlin’s Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon is happening Saturday, March 2 in the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s East Gallery, from 12–4 p.m. The event is free and open to all, designed to bring College students and community members together to help Wikipedia become a more equitable space.