U.Va. to host Black Stories Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

Event aims to help close information gaps

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Marshall Bronfin | Cavalier Daily

Common Good, the University of Virginia Library and WikiDC are working together to host a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon focused on Black Stories at the University.

The Edit-A-Thon is a Wikipedia sponsored event aimed at improving the quality of the online encyclopedia and to teach people how to properly edit the website. The event will take place all day Wednesday Nov. 4

The session at the University will center around publishing more information about people of color associated with the institution, Common Good Co-Chair Maggie Nunley said. It will include editing existing pages along with creating new pages about important events that may not already exist on Wikipedia.

“[We want] to create opportunities and events to invite everyone at U.Va. to learn more about a topic related to student life and higher education,” Nunley, also the University Teaching and Learning Librarian, said.

Funded entirely by the University library system, the Edit-A-Thon will be hosted in the Harrison Small Auditorium, where participants will have laptops and instructions for creating a Wikipedia page, as well as personnel who can assist with research.

Two Wikipedia representatives from WikiDC will be at the event to help volunteers and provide guidance for the event, meaning no prior experience or knowledge is needed, Common Good Co-Chair Matthew Vest said.

“People don’t have to be afraid about not having any expertise on Wikipedia at all,” Vest said.

The research on Black Stories at the University of Virginia is meant to be open-ended so that participants will have the flexibility to learn the process, Nunley said.

“We are keeping it very amorphous and undefined, because our goal is to create the opportunity for the event and then to hand the event over to the community and have them decide what conversation will be held,” she said.

Vest said the event topic was chosen based on a discovery of the lack of information about different black figures and organizations associated with the University.

“The kernel of it came out of reading an article about the naming of Gibbons Hall,” Vest said. “He [Gibbons] was incredibly famous in his lifetime, but that we have this lack of information about people and organizations who have a relationship to U.Va..”

William Gibbons, a University slave who later became the first African-American minister at the Charlottesville First Baptist Church, does not have a Wikipedia page, nor does the first black student to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University.

These are examples of the information gaps that the Edit-a-thon hopes to mitigate, Nunley and Vest said.

“It’s going to be really fun to see what we find and what we uncover,” Nunley said. “We’re excited about who will come out and what conversations will be started.”

The Edit-A-Thon will rely on materials from the Special Collections library, Encyclopedia of Virginia and Cvillepedia, as well as scholarly databases that the library purchases access for students, faculty, and staff to use.

Volunteers can register on the Wikipedia website.

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