Our guest blogger today is by Anisha Gupta, an intern in the conservation department this summer.
As someone who did not catch royal wedding fever last year, I was still shocked to learn that a Wikipedia article about Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was flagged for deletion. As Slate.com author Torie Bosch explains in her story, an entry about the significance of Middleton’s wedding dress was deemed inappropriate by many Wikipedia users. Some believed that “this is frankly trivial, and surely isn’t notable enough to be on Wikipedia,” while others complained that this was “exactly the sort of thing that made me all but quit as an active user on this project.”Bosch argues that the uproar around this Wikipedia entry exemplifies the gender gap of Wikipedia users. And of course, Middleton’s wedding dress is a valid Wikipedia article — she is increasingly becoming an important fashion icon and her dress is adding to the history of fashion. According to a Wikimedia survey from 2011, only 9 percent of Wikipedia editors are female – 9 percent!
That’s an astonishing low number. Wikipedia states that they would like to increase the percentage of female editors to 25 percent. A leader in this effort and the current Wikimedia Foundation Community Fellow, Sarah Stierch, has organized a couple of “Wikipedia edit-a-thons” where women get together and create new articles about women in history using Smithsonian records.
As I read this article, I tried to think about my relationship with Wikipedia. I have never created or edited an article, yet I use Wikipedia daily. It never occurs to me to add to this great body of knowledge. As a member of the minority on Wikipedia, I feel like it is important to get involved in this process.
Now, let me try to bring this around to art conservation and the museum profession in general.
Though it’s documented that women do not contribute to Wikipedia, it’s hard to know how many female art conservators are contributing – I’m guessing maybe one or two, if any. Anecdotally, I know that most art conservators are female, and that the membership of American Institute for Conservation (AIC) is greater than 3,000, so this seems like a good base to look to for contributors.
I should also point out that AIC created its own wiki site that has some good information in it, but the information in there is not easily found by search engines.
While the AIC Wiki could be useful, I’d like to suggest that art conservators start adding their knowledge directly to Wikipedia. I think we’ll all agree that it is much more reliable than it used to be. Imagine if as a profession we added our knowledge to Wikipedia, how much we could help improve the readily-available information about caring for collections (and we’d be making a significant dent in the gender gap along the way)!
Filed under: Conservation