This post was contributed by Sophie Archambault, a rising junior at the University of Connecticut. In Summer 2021, Sophie interned with Michael Rodriguez, Collections Strategist, and Rebecca Parmer, Head of Archives & Special Collections, to help increase the visibility and accessibility of UConn Library’s archival collections by adding content, references, and media to Wikipedia.
All through school, I’ve been taught that Wikipedia is a risky resource. Anyone can edit or contribute, and the sources used to build the articles aren’t always reliable. Additionally, though editors are anonymous, the topics covered on Wikipedia are overwhelmingly white male centric. When topics outside of this realm are introduced they are often shut down by fellow editors who claim a lack of adherence to protocol. Recently, however, efforts have been made to diversify Wikipedia editors and content, so that marginalized groups are given more attention. This is what my project with the UConn Archives focused on. I was to find topics covered by archives collections that could use increased visibility on Wikipedia. I generated a list of possible topics and ended up working on four Wikipedia pages, all of them female authors.
After completing a few training modules, I began this project with Grace Lin. I remember reading her books in middle school, so she was a familiar name. Her page was also in a good place for me to jump in as someone very new to editing Wikipedia. The page was already pretty clearly established, but there was obvious room for improvement. After investigating the already cited sources and doing some research of my own, I ended up adding information to the biography section and creating an awards section. Something I had not expected to encounter was references that could not be accessed. A few of the sources for Grace Lin linked to pages that were no longer active. Did that mean I had to remove those sources completely? Find the information that had supposedly come from those sites in different places? I brought the issue up to Rebecca and Michael, who suggested I use the Wayback Machine (yes, that’s what it’s actually called). Using the Wayback Machine site, I could put in a dead link and have access to all previous versions of the page. I could then insert a link to an archived version of the page in the resources section of Wikipedia. Nothing ever really disappears on the internet.
Lin’s page took me a couple of weeks to complete, but it was a good chance to get used to navigating Wikipedia. After Grace Lin, I tackled Magdalena Gómez, a playwright, poet, and social activist based in Springfield, MA; Eleanor Estes, a late children’s book author known for The Hundred Dresses and The Moffats; and Rosemary Wells, whose picture books of animal characters—Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora—my parents read to me. It got easier to edit the pages. I got into a routine of reading what was there, making note of what needed to be changed or added, investigating the already cited sources, and finding more sources if necessary.
One of the main goals of this project was to hopefully increase web traffic to the UConn archives. On every page I completed, I added that so-and-so’s papers were held at the University of Connecticut, and I provided an external link to the specific finding aid. Unfortunately, as it was summer and covid, I was not able to go to the archives and take a deeper look into each of these women’s collections. However, I hope that my small contribution to the vast world of Wikipedia will bring more people to the archives’ site and encourage them to find out more in person. I was inspired by each of the authors I researched and it made me feel good to increase their visibility on a widely accessed site. Hopefully, with edit-a-thons and projects like this one, those who have been deemed irrelevant or unestablished by editors will get the attention and space they rightfully deserve.