fellow update: on wikipedia edit-a-thons

from the archives to wikipedia edit-a-thon

A while back I promised a review of the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon that Greta and I hosted for MIT IAP in January. Better late than never, right?

The Basics:

  • Event Title: From the Archives to Wikipedia
  • Info: There are many interesting women associated with MIT who have sparse Wikipedia entries or no presence at all. You can help fix this! Come to this Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to create or edit articles about MIT women using collections from the MIT Institute Archives as well as secondary sources. The Institute Archives collects materials from MIT alumni, faculty and departments. One of the collections we’ll be using for this Edit-a-thon is the Howe, Manning, Almy papers. Lois Lilley Howe, Eleanor Manning and Mary Almy are believed to be the first women to open an architecture firm in Boston.
  • Time: One time, two hour event during MIT’s IAP session in January
  • Place: The IASC Reading Room
  • Meet-up Page

The event went well overall. Many edit-a-thons have themes. As you know from the info above, our theme was improving the representation of women associated with MIT on Wikipedia. Some, but not all, of the women we focused on in our event have materials in our archival collections. Greta spent time sorting through the collections  we selected for this event to identify secondary resource material that would make for acceptable Wikipedia resources (no original research allowed on Wikipedia). The small group of participants – archives staff and a few people from the wider MIT community – improved 8 articles and created 1 new article. You can see the listing of articles worked on via our meet-up page in section 5.2. The archival material we made available was used by  a couple attendees and a plethora of other published books and historical newspaper databases were also used. As far as marketing the event goes – that was all taken care of by the IAP website and our library marketing team. We also hung a few extra posters around campus the week of the event.

The biggest issue with the event was that we made it far too short! Two hours is not enough time for an edit-a-thon and it’s especially not enough for an event that includes archival material. We accomplished a decent amount of editing in two hours, but we rushed through introductions to the archives as well as the norms and general how-tos of Wikipedia. We needed at least an hour for introductions followed up by two hours of editing. I would recommend doing edit-a-thons that last at least half a day. We also ran into an access issue by hosting the event in a space without several public computers. We have one public computer and (of course!) it had issues connecting to the internet that day, so one of our attendees left because she didn’t realize she needed to bring a laptop. It was also extremely quiet during the open editing time — next time we’ll be sure to have some music playing.

This month, Greta and I attended a workshop at Northeastern University Library about using special collections for Wikipedia editing that was really informative and fun. I hope that we can host another edit-a-thon next year and apply all that we’ve learned.

Resources we found particularly helpful:

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