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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Stanley Museum Wikipedia Edit-a-thon boosts diverse voices during Women’s History Month

Iowa City residents and students filled the Stanley Museum of Art Thursday night to develop Wikipedia articles for underrepresented women and people of color.
Shaely Odean/The Daily Iowan
Campus engagement coordinator Alexis Belme helps edit a Wikipedia page during the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the Stanley Art Museum in Iowa City on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

Anyone can edit a Wikipedia article. Despite the distrust of English teachers everywhere, the site is one of the most widely used encyclopedias in the world. However, women only make up around 19 percent of Wikipedia’s biographies.

In response to the historic underrepresentation of women in Wikipedia articles, the Stanley Museum of Art will host a virtual Wikipedia Edit-a-thon throughout March.

The “edit-a-thon” concept is an international movement where people unite to update and edit Wikipedia content relating to art and feminism.

This celebration of women’s achievements also extended to one in-person event, held on Thursday night at the Stanley as part of its monthly “Night at the Museum” after-hours series.

Before the event, a list of several artists — including several women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and artists of color — was posted to the event’s webpage. Throughout the month, participants can look at this page to see which articles need the most development.

Allie Tokarski, the Stanley’s assistant curator of student engagement, stressed that attendees did not need pre-existing knowledge of Wikipedia editing to participate. There are many ways for people to get involved, even beginners, such as finding additional sources and adding citations to edited pages.

“We talked to some of the curators at the museum to see if they had any suggestions, as far as artists who might deserve some more coverage,” Tokarski said. “And we looked specifically for artists who already had pages, but whose pages weren’t super developed.”

The Stanley’s Campus Engagement Coordinator Alexis Belme and Tokarski both faced Wikipedia’s murky reputation as an unreliable source.

“I think that you have to look at Wikipedia through a more academic lens,” Belme said. “Obviously, the pages themselves aren’t the most academically strong, but you can use them to search for more [information] by looking at the works cited. It just depends on if we teach students how to use Wikipedia.”

Tokarski also pointed out that many Wikipedia editors consistently fact-check any new additions to the site.

“That’s something people don’t consider: how moderated Wikipedia is,” she said. “It’s a good starting place. There’s a lot of basic information available there and filling it out will lead people to find better, more reliable sources for their academic purposes.”

The UI student organization Art Hawks and the LGBTQ Iowa Archives and Library partnered with the Stanley Museum to host the event.

Art Hawks President Emily Harkin and other members participated in the event. Harkin stressed that Art Hawks is, first and foremost, an inclusive group open to anyone interested in joining.

“I hope that students who come get to understand the underrepresented people on Wikipedia and can add to the website,” Harkin said.

In addition to developing Wikipedia articles, the Stanley will also offer a Wikipedia scavenger hunt information guide that will “live at the front desk all month.”

This scavenger hunt was created for anyone who wants to explore artists in the Stanley’s galleries and be a part of the event, even if they are not ready to edit real articles online.

“People can advocate for diversity in art spaces by simply engaging in art spaces and sharing the stories of different artists,” Belme said.

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About the Contributor
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.