GLAM/Case studies/Archives of American Art/Edit-a-thon

The Archives of American Art sought to not only broaden coverage of American art history on Wikipedia, but to also strengthen its ties to the community through this residency. In order to do so, the Archives hosted an all day Backstage Pass, which focused around an edit-a-thon which brought 11 Wikipedians to view the collection, have a tour of the facilities, learn more about the archival process and to work with staff and within the archives to create and/or expand articles about 1913 Armory Show artists. The Wikipedian-in-Residence worked with archives staff to coordinate the schedule, the theme, and to obtain funding for a complimentary luncheon which brought together staff and Wikipedians for conversation. The all day event was followed by a tour of the Archives of American Art Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture and a GLAM-WIKI happy hour at a nearby restaurant.

Wikipedians began the day with a welcome from Archives of American Art director John Smith.

Planning process


Picking a date and a subject

Archivist Jean Fitzgerald presents objects from the collection during the event.

The Wikipedian-in-Residence worked with webmaster and Wikipedian-in-Residence coordinator, Sara Snyder, to pick a date which would fall in the middle of the internship, July 29. A Friday was chosen; which would allow staff to be onsite during their regular work hours and make it easier for Wikipedians to attend who might have to request off from work or school. It was decided that 10 Wikipedians would be the maximum for attendance; due to space constraints and to provide a more intimate experience and opportunity for cooperation amongst staff and Wikipedians.

After the date was set, Snyder and the resident worked with staff to chose a subject matter for the edit-a-thon. They settled on the 1913 Armory Show, a major art exhibition which changed the face of art in the United States. This event, which will celebrate it's 100th anniversary in 2013 made for a perfect choice. Since the premise of an edit-a-thon is to contribute new content to Wikipedia, a selection of artists were chosen who not only had finding aids through the Archives website, but also needed either articles created about them on Wikipedia, or needed article expansion. 14 artists were chosen in all.

Coordinating with staff


Snyder and the resident decided to invite staff members to participate in the first half of the day. They reached out to then director of the Archives, John Smith, collections specialist, Jason Stieber, and archivist Jean Fitzgerald. After examining their schedules and deciding on subject matter, the three agreed to participate. Smith would welcome the group upon their arrival; Stieber would share the process in which the Archives collect materials and his experiences doing so; and Fitzgerald agreed to share a selection of rarely seen items and stories from the vaults. Next, they worked with support staff to obtain funding to provide a complimentary catered lunch for the Wikipedians. The Archives also provided coffee and snacks to keep Wikipedians energized throughout the day. This contribution totaled under $200. Snyder then touched base with Archives' staff, informing them of the future visit of the Wikipedians, encouraging staff participation in the edit-a-thon asking them to welcome Wikipedians during the facilities tour. An itinerary was then finalized for the day.

Getting the word out and inviting Wikipedians


After coordinating with staff and finalizing the event plans, the Wikipedian-in-Residence developed an event page on Wikipedia as part of the Archives of American Art GLAM pages. This page would serve as the hub for the event featuring details about the schedule, a sign-up section for Wikipedians interested in attending, a questions and answer section, and a resource for materials for the edit-a-thon. This page would also house a section devoted to the results of the day including new page creations, account creations for new Wikipedians who participated day of, and photographs from the days activities. The resident then developed a template which would serve as an invitation for Wikipedians. This template would be placed on the user talk pages of Wikipedians invited. This invitation could be delivered two ways: having the resident copy and paste the template on user talk pages or by utilizing a bot which determines the location of users through their IP addresses and delivers the template based on their location to the location of the event (i.e. Wikipedians within Washington, Maryland or Virginia). The resident chose to do this manually themselves, using resources such as past meet-up event pages, regional invite lists, and regional and chapter mailing lists. Over 200 Wikipedians were invited, which took about 4 hours to complete. Within one week all 10 slots were filled.

Preparing for the day


As the day of the event grew closer the resident began to explore available resources for the edit-a-thon. She gathered online links to reliable secondary resources and finding aids on the Archives website. Next, the resident gathered books from the Smithsonian American Art & National Portrait Gallery Library, bringing in a vast collection of publications ranging from books about the modern art movement, the Armory Show and artist biographies and artist monographs. Confirmations were sent to the attending Wikipedians and a list of their names (real names requested, but usernames were accepted) were provided to security to make arrival and check-in smooth. A reminder to staff was sent out and media opportunities were finalized for the event.

Day of the event


Sara Snyder and the Wikipedian-in-Residence arrived early to pick up coffee and prepare the conference room for the day. Upon the Wikipedians arrival they were checked in at security and were then brought into the conference room for coffee and a greeting from director John Smith. Programming was then followed by lunch, a tour and the edit-a-thon.


Wikipedians and staff at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery.

The Wikipedian-in-Residence and Snyder began with a briefing of resources provided online for the group - which consisted of 11 Wikipedians, the resident, staff members and interns. They utilized a projector, screen and the Archives laptop for this "tour" of finding aids allowed Wikipedians to become familiar with finding aids and their importance within archives and why they are ideal neutral resources for Wikipedia. The list of artists was then presented and distributed amongst the group - the amount of artists allowed for a small number of Wikipedians to partner with staff and interns. The edit-a-thon then began - and for over an hour Wikpedians worked independently and with Archives staff to develop articles and upload images to coordinate with these articles.

End of the Day


The edit-a-thon wrapped up and Wikipedians and staff lent a hand to help clean up from the day's festivities. The Wikipedians then left with Archives' staff to tour the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the nearby Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. This tour allowed the Wikipedians to learn more about the Archives' role within a museum and view pieces from the collection in an exhibition context. The tour was then followed by a gathering of Wikipedians and representatives from GLAMs from around the region at a nearby restaurant.



The event couldn't have gone better; all of the Wikipedians who attended were energetic and passionate about learning about the Archives and its role within the task conserving and documenting American art history. Staff were supportive and stepped up to the task by volunteering their time to share their work experiences and roles at the Archives, and by participating in the edit-a-thon. Edit-a-thons and backstage passes allow for each institution to make it their own - by sharing their collections and roles within the realm of cultural heritage, and by giving back - an event like this is a win win for both the GLAM and the Wikipedians: it's a way to thank Wikipedians for their hard work and efforts in broadening the institutions mission and the mission of Wikipedia, and a way for Wikipedians to give back to institutions by becoming more familiar with their resources and collections, which can only help to improve Wikimedia as a whole.


  • Learn more about the event outcomes here.
  • Two new articles were created and nine articles were expanded.
  • One new user account was made; by an intern, who is now planning an edit-a-thon about their respective university.
  • Pictures from the day on Wikimedia Commons.
  • Media coverage: