August 11, 2011

How the Smithsonian Is Helping Wikipedia

Wikipedia has detailed sections describing every episode of the television show Seinfeld, but its coverage of art history is more sparse. Often one person will make a contribution on a single work and then it languishes.

To help Wikipedia's art-history offerings grow more robust, a group of volunteers recently congregated at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, in Washington.

They started by writing a series of articles on artists who participated in a key moment for American art, the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art, often referred to as the Armory show.

With the help of archivists and historians associated with the museum, the volunteer "Wikipedians" brought their laptops and, over the course of an afternoon, created pages and bibliographies for artists such as the sculptor Solon Borglum and the painter Andrew Dasburg.

The "edit-a-thon" reflects a broader push by the museum to open up its vast stores of historical material to Wikipedia. This summer was also the first time the museum hired a "Wikipedian-in-residence."

Check out the video for more on the edit-a-thon.