Digital scholarship blog

04 May 2020

VisibleWikiWomen 2020 Campaign

May the 4th be with you!

When I think of Star Wars, one of the first characters that comes to mind, is brave, quick witted and feisty Princess Leia, General of the Resistance, played by the unforgettable Carrie Fisher. Leia is a role model for nerdy girls throughout the galaxy! Sadly I don’t have any photos of the time I went a friend’s fancy dress party as Leia, wearing a long floaty white high necked gown, and sporting the cinnamon bun hairstyle (this was when I had much longer hair), but I remember having an absolute blast pretending to be one of my heros for an evening :-)

However, we don’t have to look as far as the fictional planet of Alderaan to find female heros and role models. #VisibleWikiWomen is an annual campaign to make all women, especially black, brown, indigenous and trans women, visible on Wikipedia and the broader internet. This global campaign brings together Wikimedians, feminist and women’s organisations, and cultural institutions in a worldwide effort to reduce the gender gap and the lack of images of women in the biggest online free encyclopedia.

#VisibleWikiWomen campaign logo image; silhouette of a woman taking a photograph with a camera
#VisibleWikiWomen campaign logo image

Due to COVID-19, the world is going through a collective experience of deep anxiety and uncertainty. It is a deeply important time for collective solidarity and support. The work of female artists, actresses, writers and musicians is entertaining us and lifting our spirits during the long days of lockdown. However, we often miss “seeing” and appreciating the women who are part of the critical infrastructure of care that keeps us going in times like this: health workers, carers, cashiers, cleaners, cooks, activists, scientists, policy-makers and so many more. 

Next weekend, 9-12 May 2020, is the #VisibleWikiWomen Edit-a-thon: Women in critical infrastructures of care. To acknowledge, affirm, support and raise awareness of these incredible women. During a time where we isolate ourselves physically, #VisibleWikiWomen is an opportunity where we can come together virtually, to introduce and celebrate online, the faces, work, and wisdom of women who have often been missing from the world’s shared knowledge and histories. 

The goal of this online event is to gather and upload, good quality images of women, which are in the public domain, or under free license, to Wikimedia Commons (the image file repository for Wikipedia) under the VisibleWikiWomen category and have fun! These images could be photographs or drawings of women, as well as images of their work, with proper consent. If you are not sure where to start, there will be some online training sessions on how to upload images to Commons and also group conversations, where participants can ask questions and share their experiences participating in the campaign.

The Edit-a-thon is being organised by:

Schedule for the online event is:

  • May 9 (Saturday) - online training at 12pm UTC (English session) and 3pm UTC (Spanish session). Each session will be a 1:30 hour video-call
  • From May 9 to May 12 - uploading images to Wikimedia Commons at each participant's preferred time
  • May 11 (Monday) - Q&A online session for troubleshooting and discussing issues, at 2pm UTC (English session) and 5pm UTC (Spanish session)

Many other organisations have joined as institutional partners, including Wikimedia UK and the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) Consortium, who have asked their member institutions, including the British Library, to identify and encourage reuse of openly licensed digitised images that fit the criteria for this campaign. For more information, check out the “Guide for Cultural and Memory Institutions to make women visible on Wikipedia” created by Whose Knowledge?. If you use any digitised British Library images, please let us know (by emailing digitalresearch(at)bl(dot)uk), as we always love to hear how people have used our collections.

Logo images of the VisibleWikiWomen partner organisations
Logos of some of the VisibleWikiWomen partner organisations

In the British Library we have some experience of running Wikipedia edit-a-thons to help address the gender imbalance; we have held a number of successful Wiki-Food and (mostly) Women edit-a-thons, led by Polly Russell. Also, for International Women’s Day in 2019, the British Library & Qatar National Library Partnership, organised an Imaging Hack Day, which produced interactive photographs, story maps and a zine.

People editing Wikipedia pages
Photograph of the second British Library Wiki-Food and (mostly) Women edit-a-thon on 6th July 2015

Our landmark exhibition, Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, was due to open in the Library last month. Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the on-site exhibition is postponed. However, in the meantime, we are exploring women’s rights via our online channels, alongside writers, artists and activists. Our first offering is a tribute to writer Mary Wollstonecraft, a podcast featuring historian Dan Snow, Lady Hale, campaigner Bee Rowlatt, scholar Professor Emma Clery, actor Saffron Burrows and musician Jade Ellins, paying homage to the foremother of feminism.

Good luck to all those taking part in the #VisibleWikiWomen 2020 campaign, May the FORCE be with you!

This post is by Jedi Librarian, Jocasta Nu, sorry I just wanted to link to Wookieepedia! It is actually written by Digital Curator (which is a just as cool job title as a Jedi Librarian) Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom