Students dive through GW history to edit Wikipedia pages

Jim Hayes, a member of Wikimedia D.C., and Gaby Makowski, a freshman, updated a Wikipedia page at Gelman Library on Saturday. Camille Sheets | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Katie Willard.

Students dug through the University archives and special collections Saturday at Gelman Library to help edit and create Wikipedia pages on GW history and alumni.

Public services and outreach librarian Jennifer Kinniff organized the event, called the All Things GW Wikipedia Editathon, at which students researched and edited pages such as ones for alumnus and dance professor Dana Tai Soon Burgess and Mount Vernon College and Seminary founder Elizabeth Somers.

“I think learning about it helps students understand that they are part of a great tradition of scholarship and service, and that they may have more in common than they think with students of the 1960s or even the 1860s,” Kinniff said.

This was the first of the four “editathons” that focused on GW history, with previous themes ranging from international topics to labor history.

University archivist Bergis Jules gathered items such as copies of The Hatchet from the 1970s, a GW football letterman sweater and a letter from University creditor and former U.S. President John Quincy Adams to assist students with research.

“The University archives has a wealth of collections, most of which students can freely access to conduct their research,” Jules said.

Dominic McDevitt-Parks, cultural partnership coordinator for Wikimedia D.C., said it was also important for students to know the proper way to use Wikipedia, after briefing the students on how to best edit the pages.

“With events like this, the goal isn’t to make everybody a regular editor – it’s to teach them informational literacy and how to evaluate sources,” McDevitt-Parks said. “Knowing how to evaluate a Wikipedia article is a major skill now, considering how common and popular it is.”

Freshman Jerrel Catlett said he had prepared for the event for weeks as part of his D.C. History, Culture and Politics course. He said he liked the idea of the editathon because it allowed him to share his new knowledge.

“Here you’re actually contributing your information to something larger that other people can use,” Catlett said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.