I recently read that the prefix of Wikipedia, Wiki, comes from a Hawaiian word meaning ‘quick.’ This is an apt description for this online encyclopedia-type site that is often relied upon for fast answers on a variety of topics. Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikipedia, is a non-profit organization that relies on donations to fund the Wikipedia project. The strength of Wikipedia is based on its open content format and collaborative structure, making it possible for thousands of editors to contribute on a variety of topics. The site has taken on its own life and direction based on the contributors, and this is where you come in; when artists offer their insight, they add material that may be missed by people not immersed in the art world. At first, it can be intimidating to contribute, however, once you familiarize yourself with the process, you will enjoy adding to the scope of on-line content related to artists you admire.
Initially, my curiosity propelled me to investigate how artists are added on Wikipedia. While on an artist's page, I clicked the “Edit Source” tab which opened an editable text box with information about the artist. As I continued to explore the page, I clicked on the “View History” tab displaying the entire history of edits made to the page. I learned that it is easy to make a change to a page by editing the source code. As an artist who enjoys dabbling in web design and code, I feel it’s important to show other artists how to contribute. There are three main ways to start: edit an existing article, request an article, or write a new article.
Edit an Existing Article
Making a small edit to an existing article is the easiest way to contribute and the best way to get familiar with Wikipedia. To start, search for significant artists or topics to see if they are listed on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is strict about what constitutes notability, so refer to this page to help guide you.
Martha Mayer Erlebacher is a notable artist, but she only has the start of an article which is called a "stub.” At the top of the article, there is a box saying, "This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed." You can add information about Martha Erlebacher by clicking on the "Edit" tab at the top left of the page. Once you click on it, it opens to a page you can edit.
Any edit you make must be verifiable. Cite the information you contribute by clicking the "Cite" drop-down menu. After making the edit, describe the change you made in the form, and save your changes. These citations will appear as a footnote in the article with a corresponding number. You can refer to this page for help with citing sources.
Request an Article
Another way to contribute is to request an article. I searched for “Women Painting Women,” a movement that has inspired many galleries and to feature special all-women shows, but the search result indicates that “The Page ‘Women Painting Women’ does not exist.” Click on the link “ask for it to be created," to transfer you to a page with several options.
If you have an idea for an article, but no content itself, make a request at “Wikipedia:Requested articles.” You will be able to add your request on that page “by clicking ‘edit’ at the appropriate heading. Give a brief description, with links if possible, for the proposed topic, to aid others in understanding your request.”
Write an Article Yourself
Contributing to Wikipedia is not like writing an article for a magazine. Wikipedia’s purpose is to be a neutrally written source of information. It is a factual reference like an online encyclopedia. The language must be neutral without promotion or “peacock language,” which are words that are showy and promote the subject. Once you have an idea in mind for an article you would like to write, look at other similar articles to get a sense of the content usually included. If you are writing about an artist, one trick is to copy the source code of a similar artist’s profile and use the format as a template. You can edit the article in your “sandbox” which won’t be reviewed by Wikipedia editors until you submit it. Until you become more familiar with submitting articles, use the Wikipedia Article Wizard to help guide you through the process.
There is a need for representational artists to broaden the scope of material on Wikipedia. The more diverse the group of contributors is, the more expansive the scope of information will be. Some of the artists that currently have profiles are David Kassan, Daniel Maidman, Judy Takács, Graydon Parrish, Aleah Chapin, and Alonsa Guevara. I hope you will be inspired to add material significant to you.