Note from Andrea: Today’s blog post comes to us from Krista McCracken, and is all about an upcoming Canadian History Wikipedia edit-a-thon! I was so excited when Krista approached me about this guest post, since you all know how about my enthusiasm for sharing knowledge. And I am super excited to say that my third-year students will also be participating in this event!
Krista McCracken is a public history professional currently working as an Archives Supervisor at Algoma University’s Arthur A. Wishart Library and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. Krista’s research primarily focuses on community archives, residential schools, access, educational outreach and Northern Ontario. She lives and works on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe and Métis people.
Jessica Knapp is a public historian working at Canada’s History Society. In her role as the Online Engagement Coordinator, she creates and shares engaging digital content that directly connects Canada’s History Society with a variety of history oriented communities, such as, teachers, museum and history professionals, and academic historians. She is active in the public history community in Canada and internationally through the National Council on Public History.
In April 2017 Jessica Knapp and I had a crazy idea. We were both attending the National Council on Public History annual meeting in Indianapolis and I was live tweeting about a session on Wikipedia as engagement. Jessica and I started tweeting about the possibilities of a Canada wide, Canadian History themed Wikipedia edit-a-thon.
It was a big idea with logistical challenges. But the more we talked about it the more it seemed like a great idea. As a first step Canada’s History Society and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre hosted a series of webinars focusing on “Wikipedia as Outreach and Activism for Canadian History.” This four-part webinar series highlighted how Wikipedia can be used as a form of outreach and why historians and GLAM professionals should be involved in editing content on Wikipedia. The series also covered the basics of how to get started editing Wikipedia and a technical walk-through of editing your first Wikipedia article.
On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, our idea will be coming to fruition and we’ll be hosting a Canada Wide Canadian History edit-a-thon. We’re inviting folks from across Canada to join us in editing Canadian History content on Wikipedia. Keep reading to learn about what an edit-a-thon is and find out how you too can participate.
Why Edit Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is the fifth most frequently accessed website in the English-speaking world. Wikipedia is a place researchers, students, and the general public visit to find background information on a range of topics.
As of 29 September 2017, there were 102,592 articles on Wikipedia that relate to the subject of Canada, making up only 1.87% of Wikipedia’s total number of articles. WikiProject Canada is an official initiative aimed at increasing this percentage , while also improving existing articles that fall within its purview. This makes up mere 1.87% of the articles on Wikipedia. There is great value in creating Canadian content on Wikipedia that is accessible; Wikipedia is a place so many Canadians turn to for information but there are so many parts of Canadian History that are not covered on Wikipedia. There is also value in disrupting the Western, cis, white male dominated nature of Wikipedia content. Creating new articles and improving existing content on Wikipedia has the potential to impact what the general public knows about a historical event, improve learning experiences, and shape historical narratives.
As historians, GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) professionals, and educators, we have skills that can be directly applied to editing Wikipedia. We know how to write clearly and concisely, we know how to do solid secondary source research, and we know how to build citations. All of these skills can be used to improve Wikipedia content.
Some of you may be wondering about why academics or history professionals should contribute to Wikipedia. Afterall, many of us threaten our students with dire consequences if they use the website as a scholarly source. But the reality is that students, the public, the media, academics, and policymakers – all use Wikipedia, and, further Wikipedia can have a huge impact on public perceptions and understandings of an event or subject. Creating high quality content on Wikipedia can help broaden student and public understanding of history and who better to help create that content then historians?
What is an Edit-a-Thon?
Wikipedia edit-a-thons are planned events, or, with essentially hackathons or content creation blitzes, organized by Wikipedia editors and aimed at improving content on Wikipedia,. These events are often related to specific themes, topics, and goals. In the case of our event we’re focusing on Wikipedia content related to Canadian history – be that national, regional, or local history.
Edit-a-thons can be in-person events or completely virtually, and anyone is welcome to participate. For this event we are welcoming participants to gather at regional host sites or join us virtually. A list of physical hosts is available on the Wikipedia Event Meetup Page and the Facebook event. And if you are interested in acting as a regional host please get in touch!
For more information on edit-a-thons and the logistics behind them check out Danielle Robichaud’s article “Wikipedia Edit-a-thons: Thinking Beyond the Warm Fuzzies”
How Can You Participate?
Below is a list of different ways you can participate in this event. You can also fill out our Google form to receive more information about the participation options and to be connected with other edit-a-thon participants.
- Hosts: These are people who can help facilitate a physical space for experts, contributors, editors, and translators to meet on October 18th. This space can be in a museum, archive, library, or classroom. It should be a place that would be open to the public on this day, have a strong wifi connection, outlets, and comfortable seating. Additionally, hosts should be willing to welcome people of all genders, races, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations, and ability levels. We’ll be providing regional hosts supports, including a draft press release, posters, and other logistical support to get you started.
- Wiki editing experts: If you have experience contributing to Wikipedia, we could use your expertise! Whether you’re into history or not, the more experts able to answer random questions on-site and online the better! You can provide editing support in-person at a regional event or by supporting folks virtually on our event Slack channel.
- Contributors/Editors: No experience necessary! If you don’t fancy yourself an expert on a specific topic there are a number of existing entries on Wikipedia that need your help. From footnotes to copyediting there is something for you. You don’t have to start an article from scratch to participate!
- Translators: Wikipedia articles can be available in many different languages or just one. If you write more than one language, this role might be for you.
- Sponsors: If your organization would like to support this initiative but is unable to provide a physical space, we can connect you with a local host to help you provide what they need. For example, coffee to help fuel a group of local editors.
I’m an Educator, How Can I Involve My Class?
Classes are welcome to participate in this edit-a-thon. Prior to the day of the event we suggest you have your students do the following tasks:
- Create a Wikpieda account before class.
- If you are unfamiliar with editing Wikipedia work through Wikipedia Tutorial. Or if you would prefer a more interactive approach complete the Wikipedia Adventure.
- Add your Wikipedia username to the edit-a-thon participant list.
- Using the list on the Wikipedia meetup page pick an article to create or an article to improve. Do some background reading and research on the article topic before class so you are reading to edit during class.
- Join the Slack channel.
For information on how to develop an assignment around Wikipedia and for instructor tips on using Wikipedia check out the Wikipedia Education Foundation. Wiki Education staff have worked with over 200 universities in Canada and the United States to incorporate Wikipedia into the classroom. Their website contains helpful information for instructors looking to bring Wikipedia into the classroom for the first time, including step by step editing tutorials.
What if I’ve Never Edited Wikipedia Before?
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. We are building in supports for first time editors. You can: :
- Check out these webinars that deal with the technical side of editing Wikipedia:
- Read or participate in any of the tutorials listed in the resources section of the Wikipedia event page.
- Join the Facebook event and ask questions in the discussion section.
- Use the #editCDNhist hashtag on Twitter to ask questions and connect with other event participants.
- Join the #editCDNhist Slack channel for support before and during the event. This channel will be monitored throughout the edit-a-thon by experienced editors who can provide suggestions if you get stuck.
October 18th is going to be a great day filled with historians expanding Canadian History content on Wikipedia. We’re building a supportive editing community for this event and we hope this blog post inspired folks to join us.
Thanks so much to Krista for writing this blog post, and to Krista and Jessica Knapp for organizing this event! I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you did, please consider sharing it on the social media platform of your choice. And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for our regular Canadian History Roundup. See you then! And I hope to see you at the edit-a-thon on October 18th as well!