Editing the Wikipedia Narrative of Women in Art

Torontoist

culture

Editing the Wikipedia Narrative of Women in Art

Wikipedia Wednesday at the AGO aims to write women's lives online.


Chances are you’re unfamiliar with the name Winnifred Kingsford.

She, along with the Group of Seven members, had her work exhibited at the Art Museum of Toronto in 1915, which would later become the Art Gallery of Ontario. The echoes of her artistic influence are all over the AGO, and yet no monogram is written on the life and impact of this accomplished Canadian sculptor, artist and educator.

But tonight at the AGO, people will work collaboratively to capture that history, and will invite others to do the same.

The event is part of a global initiative that AGO Special Collections Archivist, Amy Marshall Furness, hopes will correct the gender imbalance on the topics of art and feminism online, specifically on Wikipedia.

“Love it or hate it, Wikipedia has a lot of influence throughout the world. Women account for less than 10 per cent of editors and writers of Wikipedia pages and we want to address that imbalance and look at the resulting lack of presence in terms of the topics covered,” says Furness.

Billed as Wikipedia Wednesday, the AGO invites participants to choose from more than 100 suggested women artists and curators and begin to write and edit pages about their lives and their contributions to the art world and beyond.

With over 1500 participants at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and more than 75 satellite events around the world participating in Art+Feminism’s second annual Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, the collaborative effort resulted in the creation of nearly 400 new pages and significant improvements to 500 Wikipedia articles.

Jacqueline Bennett, an archivist and art enthusiast, is gearing up to participate in her second Wikipedia rewrite and editing event at the AGO and she hopes she can continue to unearth some neglected or forgotten history of Canadian women artists.

“I am an archivist and to be able to use the AGO’s archives to do research is amazing and it feels great to be able to bring that to a wider audience,” says Bennett.

Although the AGO is now home to Art and Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thons, the event had its first Toronto incarnation at Dundas West’s Art Metropole in 2014.

One of the event’s organizers, Ella Dawn McGeough, believes that although such collaborative efforts can make a significant difference in bridging the Wikipedia gender gap, the under-representation of women on an important online resource must be acknowledged.

“Wikipedia’s gender trouble is well documented. The practical effect of this disparity, however, is not. Many articles on notable women in history and art are absent on Wikipedia. This represents an alarming aporia in an increasingly important repository of shared knowledge,” says McGeough.

Despite the disparity, McGeough assures me that she is already witness to the power of community and collaboration at the event and has a specific sight line on how to affect change.

“First, increase awareness about how content on Wikipedia is generated; Second, to increase gender and hopefully, moving forward, racial diversity within the Wikipedia community,” she says.

Based on the positive response so far, the AGO plans on holding the event on a quarterly basis throughout the year.

The event takes place from 5 p.m.–8 p.m., Wednesday September 16, at the AGO at 317 Dundas West. RSVP.

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