Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at Marriott Library Increases Woman Representation on the Site

By Emily Anderson

Women in the arts have been chronically dismissed from conversations about history, both as participants and topics, according to Jessica Colbert, who is a librarian at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library. So on March 7, they organized a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at the library.

The event was part of the international campaign, Art+Feminism. In 2013, the group wanted to improve the representation of women on the internet. It began organizing Wikipedia edit-a-thons, which spread to institutions across the globe.

“People use Wikipedia every single day — it’s how people can get a general idea about something,” Colbert said. “I, as a librarian, use it to answer research questions I don’t know much about to get a cursory overview of the topic. It’s important to be able to interact with that in a way that’s critical.”

The most recent data on the demographics of Wikipedia editors, which comes from a survey conducted by United Nations University in 2010, shows that only 13 percent of the website’s editors were women, while men made up 87 percent of the community.

Art+Feminism believes as more women have the opportunity to edit and create Wikipedia articles, the visibility of women on the internet will rise.

“There are so many women who have been ignored and left out of history because history is written by men or because things that women did were considered craft instead of art,” Colbert said.

The event at the U had approximately nine participants who edited six articles and made a total of 148 edits. Colbert said the group also worked on creating articles about women who are not already documented on the website — especially local female artists.

Some of the article drafts the group created include sculptor Ella Peacock, multimedia artist and U art Professor Wendy Wischer, mural artist and U graduate Ruby Chacón and ceramic artist and former U Professor Dorothy Bearnson.

Most people who attended the event, Colbert said, had never edited a Wikipedia article and had to spend most of the time on tutorials. They said many plan to use the skill to continue to edit on Wikipedia.

Colbert hopes these individuals will chip in next year when they said the library aims to host the event again around International Women’s Day.

According to Heidi Brett, a spokesperson for the library, the Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon is the type of event the library looks to host. It is an event, she said, that allows the library to engage with the diverse range of students at the U.

“The library is located right in the middle of campus and we see students from all walks of life,” said Heidi Brett, a spokesperson for the library. “Because of that, we want to make sure we offer events that are relevant and meaningful.”

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