If you have ever tried to research women artists on the Internet, you know that it can be a frustrating process. Younger women artists may have websites, but many women artists from previous generations or from countries with limited Internet access cannot be found online at all, and others have very short entries that do not reflect the full scope of their work.
Art + Feminism invites women around the world to take charge of this situation by adding as many entries to Wikipedia as possible. On February 1, 2014, they staged the first-ever Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Centerin New York City. The goals of the event were to create more Wikipedia entries about women, art, feminism, and related topics and to encourage more women to add their voices to Wikipedia.
The 150 New York participants were given training about creating Wikipedia entries, free childcare, and refreshments. Experienced Wikipedia editors were paired with beginners to guide them through their first entries and cheer them on. The New York group was joined by another 500 people in 30 satellite locations in 6 countries. Together they created over 100 new Wikipedia entries focused on women and the arts.
This work is extremely important because Wikipedia is the ninth most popular site on the internet with 117 million users. According to a Pew Research Center Study, 53% of American Internet users look for information on Wikipedia, but most of the information they are finding is written by and for men. According to a Wikimedia Foundation study, 9 out of 10 contributors to Wikipedia are male.
Many women’s arts organizations have worked to increase the visibility of women artists online. WomenArts created our online directory of women artists, the WomenArts Network, in 2003 because we wanted to encourage women to increase their presence on the web. Any woman artist can create a free profile page on our site, and we currently have about 1,600 active profiles. We have also compiled a list of other directories of women artists. If you know of a directory that should be added to our list, please contact us.
It is important to keep adding information to our women-controlled websites, since Wikipedia has rules and a culture that will be challenging for some women artists, but we agree with the founders of Art + Feminism that we need to make sure that women artists are fully represented in this online encyclopedia that so many people are using.
Documenting women artists worldwide in all art forms is a huge task that will require input from thousands of women, but it is something that all of us can work on – either on our own or in groups. If you are looking for something to do with your friends this year on SWAN Day, this could be a great choice. If you are a teacher, this could be a great project for your students.
Art + Feminism has created some excellent Wikipedia articles to help you get started. There is an article about how to organize an edit-a-thon MeetUp group, and their own Wikipedia Meet-up page has links to upcoming events and helpful articles about creating and editing Wikipedia listings.
Thanks so much to the organizers who came up with this idea – Siân Evans (Art Libraries Society of North America – Women and Art Special Interest Group), Jacqueline Mabey (The Office of Failed Projects), Michael Mandiberg, Laurel Ptak (Eyebeam Fellow), Dorothy Howard (Metropolitan New York Library Council), and Richard Knipel (Wikimedia NYC).
It is wonderful to think about what we can accomplish if women all over the world start writing about each other online. There is so much that needs to be said!