Wikipedia Entries About Female Artists of Color Tend to Be Lacking. So Volunteers Fleshed Out 85 of Them in a Virtual Edit-a-Thon

The National Museum of Women in the Arts hosted the annual event yesterday.

A screenshot of Joyce J. Scott's Wikipedia profile
A screenshot of Joyce J. Scott's Wikipedia profile.

Yesterday, 67 volunteers added more than 17,000 words and 180 references to Wikipedia pages dedicated to female artists of color, including Simone Leigh, Deborah Willis, and Joyce J. Scott.

The drive was part of this year’s Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, an annual series of events organized by the nonprofit outfit Art+Feminism, which sees groups of web-savvy individuals convene with computers in an effort to even out the representation balance on one of the world’s most popular websites. 

Various institutions around the world have mounted Edit-a-Thon’s since they were first launched by Art+Feminism in 2014, including the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, and the Hammer Museum. But no venue has been responsible for more events than Washington, DC’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, which has staged one for seven years straight.

The museum was also the host of yesterday’s effort, which was held remotely and co-sponsored by Art+Feminism and Wikimedia DC. The event boasted the most volunteers NMWA has ever had for an Edit-a-Thon, a representative told Artnet News. Altogether, 85 articles were edited, fleshed out, or corrected, and two new pages were created.

Of the artists whose profiles were improved, many are well-known names, including Zanele Muholi, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Sherald. Others, like French illustrator Théa Rojzman, Indonesian designer Dr. Dwinita Larasati, and Dutch comic artist Andrea Kruis, have smaller online footprints. 

Zanele Muholi at work in a production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Zanele Muholi: Mobile Studios." © Art21, Inc. 2019.

Zanele Muholi at work in a production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Zanele Muholi: Mobile Studios.” © Art21, Inc. 2019.

“While the number of Black women artists represented with Wikipedia articles has been growing in recent years, the number and quality of articles falls far short of the breadth of Black women’s artistic contributions,” said Lynora Williams, director of the Betty Boyd Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, who led the event. “Many of the articles are skimpy and do not rise to the standard of other artists. By simply enumerating the Black women artists whose articles could be improved, we made an important step forward in correcting the invisibility of these artists.”

“The participants in yesterday’s edit-a-thon are pushing us forward, and we hope to continue this project in the coming months and years,” Williams added.

Since 2014, more than 18,000 volunteers have participated in 1,260 Edit-a-Thons across the globe, altering or creating some 84,000 articles, according to Hyperallergic. Another edition of the Edit-a-Thon will be held virtually tomorrow, August 13, by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.


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