Wikipedia “Edit-a-thon” Event to Improve Knowledge of Utah Art

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The Utah Museum of Fine Arts and J. Willard Marriott Library have teamed together to hold a Wikipedia “Edit-a-thon” as an effort to create better, more in-depth coverage of Utah art online.

“The Wikipedia Edit-a-thon is a chance to hone your research skills and participate in a global conversation about art,” said UMFA Coordinator of Campus Engagement, Iris Moulton. “It’s a nice way to get to know the amazing art we have here on campus, which feels really important right now because the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is temporarily closed for renovations.”

The event is free and you don’t need to be an expert to join the fun. Resources and training, as well as pizza and snacks, will be provided.

“I was so surprised when I started looking in to how to edit and create pages that it is so easy — I think if the first time you’d ever seen a computer in your life was at this event, we’d have you editing like a pro within ten minutes,” Moulton said. “It’s a great chance to practice researching — sometimes it’s almost like detective work.

According to Moulton, the Edit-a-thon is an opportunity for students to “connect the dots and make the pages of artist and artworks more complete.”

“For years I’ve had visitors to the museum, but especially students working on papers or other research projects, point out to me that the artist they know who has a prominent place in the UMFA or Utah is [not mentioned] on Wikipedia pages,” she said.

Associate professor of art and art history, Elena Shtromberg, has integrated the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon into her ARTH 4000, “Good Looking” course.

“It is a course on methodologies and writing in art history,” she said, “and I have incorporated the event as part of a week where we are looking at canon construction and students also get to participate in having a voice and contributing to how and which artists are represented in Wikipedia. I thought it would be a unique experience for students to understand the production of knowledge in a forum that is very widely used globally.”

As assistant art librarian at the Marriott Library, Luke Leither receives a steady stream of questions from people interested in Utah art.

“The U and some other university libraries around have really extensive collections that are sometimes not easy to discover. I kind of have to know where to look,” he said. “That’s where I can be helpful, but if we can tie from some of these Wikipedia articles, it makes [the information] discoverable for more people. Which is the mission of doing something like this – to improve the quality of information on Wikipedia pages and also improve the visibility of Utah arts and artwork.”

The free-content encyclopedia’s openly editable nature was created with the idea that its contributors could choose what area to write about, which, in theory, means the content is produced by qualified contributors. But this also calls into question about the accuracy.

Leither hopes the Edit-a-thon will help students notice fallibility of information often found on Wikipedia.

“Anyone can go in and edit a page,” he said. “There are a lot of safeguards to keep the information correct, but my hope is the [Edit-a-thon] will show them that this is a process, we can improve it and they can be part of it.”

You can take part in the Edit-a-thon Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the J. Willard Marriott Library, computer lab room 1735.

e.west@dailyutahchronicle.com

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