Wikipedia Editing Resources

Why edit Wikipedia?

Wikipedia has name recognition second only to Google. Since the website's creation in 2001, over 31 million articles have been written. Though anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, one of the most salient criticisms of its content and culture is that the majority of its editors are white men. Women and men of color are underrepresented both in Wikipedia's editorial ranks and (perhaps  as a result?) among the content of its articles.

For most cultural institutions, adding biographical information and links to archival resources in Wikipedia is an active form of conducting outreach and publicity. The political element of adding Wikipedia entries about women is similar to that of the general goal of women's history – to broaden the idea of historical actors, to change the concept of what counts as history, etc. This is particularly true for entries about people of color and from other marginalized communities.

How to edit Wikipedia

Contributions to Wikipedia can be made in a number of ways. You can create new pages where there were none, add information to existing pages, provide links between pages, add photographs or other images, etc. 

The following article suggests we should also pay attention to word choice when creating and editing Wikipedia pages about women:


Writing entries from scratch

The main thing to know going into this is that a Wikipedia entry is like a paper you wrote in 5th grade - you need secondary sources to back up your facts. You should not sit down to write a new Wikipedia page with nothing but the knowledge in your head. A finding aid can be a secondary source, but you’ll need a few more to meet Wikipedia’s normal bar for inclusion. Using online databases of newspapers can be a very helpful way to find more secondary source material about your subject.

A few other “tips” for creating good biographies - add links for within the body of your text to other Wikipedia pages.  Try to place your subject within a social web - this may include editing other pages to include links back to your own subject’s page.

Find a (shortish!) entry you think is well-written and model your own page after it. There is no shame in borrowing formats or copying code in the Wikipedia world.

A helpful online tutorial is here:


Adding links to finding aids

A special collections library or archive can add links to its finding aids or other online guides about collections it holds. This is a great way to reach potential researchers. An example of this can be seen in the "external links" section of the following biography:


Other interventions

If you don’t have time to write biographies but you can see that there are people for whom they should be written, you can tag names in order to suggest they receive an entry:  make space for the articles and topics you'd like to see.

An example of an entry with names tagged for future entries is:

all links that show up in red are tagged for future entries. If you click on them, you are directed to a page that asks if you want to write the entry.  


How to host a Wikipedia editathon event

The Luce and Lunder Edit-a-thon at the Smithsonian American Art Museum provides an excellent template for thinking about what your edit-a-thon can look like and what it can accomplish.

More in-depth instructions about planning an edit-a-thon can be found here: Wikipedia: How to Run an Edit-a-Thon  and see also “quick 5 steps” below.

Because writing articles from scratch into Wikipedia requires some research and secondary sources, you might also consider structuring your event so that attendees have half an hour or so of dedicated research time on chosen topics before they start to engage with the Wikipedia templates.  

It’s a good idea to have some Wikipedia editing under your belt before you invite others to do it with you. You can also go to a local WikiMeetup and solicit a volunteer editor to help you out. Find a local group meeting here: 


Plan an edit-a-thon in 5 steps:

1. Create a project page for your edit-a-thon.

A subpage of Wikipedia:Meetup is the easiest choice, but there are other options depending on the location and topic of your event. If it's at an institution such as a gallery, library, archive, or museum, a subpage of WP:GLAM may be appropriate. In any case, the important thing here is that having documentation on Wikipedia itself is a must-have for a really successful edit-a-thon.

An example wikimeetup page for a (past) event is here:

2. Decide on a date, time & venue

  • Suggested duration: 5 hours (At least half a day OR a full day for the event)

  • Open & stable Wi-fi

  • Coffee and snacks are not technically necessary, but always welcome

3. Publicize the event

4. Make two lists

  • A list of suggested new topics: generally discrete factual topics like people, places, events, or organizations is easier to start. Again see the Luce and Lunder Edit-a-thon for an example To Do List of articles to create or flesh out.

  • A list of secondary sources on your suggested topics: links to blog posts, newspaper articles, finding aids, and other sources.

5. Recruit two people from your staff to help on the day-of

  • A behind-the-scenes tour of your collections and facilities, with your expert curators, archivists, conservators, and other subject matter experts to explain the importance of your special collections.

  • A staff person (or persons) to coordinate and participate in the edit-a-thon (this can be the same person as your tour leader, or a different person)

Here is a sample schedule for a half-day event:

  • Welcome and behind-the-scenes tour: 1.5 hours

  • Brief tutorial from Wikipedia editor: .5 hours

  • Edit away!: 2.5 hours

  • Wrap-up, including collecting your results: .5 hours