Scottish Women on Wikipedia

Bridgeton Library exterior
Bridgeton Library

I’ve often dipped into Wikipedia, but I didn’t start to take it seriously until a couple of years ago when I attended a Teachmeet at which one of the presenters changed my mind. He convinced me that Wikipedia was more accurate than I had thought – and where it isn’t accurate, it says so. It tracks and discusses revisions so, rather than banning students from using it, they should be taught to use it responsibly. However, it never occurred to me to become an editor until Glasgow Women’s Library, where I volunteer, was approached by Graeme Arnott with a proposal for an “Editathon” on Scottish Women on Wikipedia. The title had two implications – to get more Scottish women editing Wikipedia, and to increase the content about Scottish women. Graeme, myself and Laura Dolan of GWL made some plans and the event took place at Bridgeton Library on Saturday, assisted by Ally Crockford, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland. We ended up with eight potential new editors, two complete articles (so far) and several in preparation.

Although advertised as a drop-in, most people were there all day. We spent the morning learning the basics from Graeme (a very patient teacher) and were then let loose in the afternoon. I’ve been blogging for a long time and use several social media platforms, but I found Wikipedia harder than all of them because you have to do more of the formatting yourself. However, once you’ve mastered a few rules and realised you can basically copy the code from other articles it becomes easier – but still very fiddly. It’s not something I can see myself wanting to do everyday, although I am keen to do more. We had all brought along some information that we wanted to make available, and I just managed to get my pre-drafted article on Isabella Elder published before we closed at 4pm. I was very proud to be the first! Jennifer Higgins finished her article on Jude Burkhauser the following day. Check out the articles to find out why these women are important.

It was also a pleasure to work in the recently opened Bridgeton Library which has moved from its old, Carnegie premises (now occupied by GWL) to the refurbished Britannia Building, a former theatre. It’s bright and modern with good computer facilities and a café which, sadly for us, doesn’t open on Saturdays. Like many Glasgow Libraries, the children’s area is particularly colourful.

GWL still has a substantial list of women who feature, for example, on their Women’s Heritage Walks but who are not on Wikipedia (or only briefly) and I have started my own list of possible subjects. I’ll be looking out for more Editathons too – watch this space!

Some related material on Wikipedia and Editathons:

BioFluff – post about an Editathon in Manchester which also highlights the gender disparity

FemgineerCalling all women: contribute to wikipedia

MIT Technology ReviewThe decline of Wikipedia. (Huh?)

JISC WebinarTales from the Wikimedian in Residence at the NLS

Storify – about this event

THE – report of an editathon on women scientists

Wikipedia gender – graphic showing the ratio of female to male editors (1:6.7)

Wikipedia:GLAM/National Library of Scotland

Youtube: Sarah Stierch – various presentations on Wikimedia, including the gender gap

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Anabel Marsh

I'm a proud Glaswegian who loves to go gallivanting both at home and abroad. Join me in my travels, both historic and current. Credit where credit's due: photography mostly by my more talented other half, John.

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