Brooklyn College student Gillian Kramer’s interest in Theater History compelled her to enroll in Dr. Amy Hughes’ two-term class on the subject in the 2014–15 academic year. Dr. Hughes asks students to improve articles on Wikipedia as a class assignment, so Gillian’s become good at writing theater history articles on Wikipedia.
In the first term of that course, Gillian contributed to the article on Spanish Golden Age theatre.
“I was very nervous to begin my first major edit,” she admits. “I felt like I couldn’t possibly be qualified to edit information that anyone in the world might read and believe. I had no idea how the coding worked, or how to do basically anything. As I went through my first course I learned a ton!”
By referencing other high-quality articles, training videos, and other resources, she started revising. In the end, she added ten new sources and new sections on themes, playwrights, actors, costumes, and cultural relevance. You can see the article before she tackled it, and after.
Having climbed the learning curve on her first article, she wanted to tackle her next subject from scratch.
“Starting from nothing gave me great freedom to make it any way I wanted. I looked at a lot of highly rated articles on similar subjects to figure out how I wanted to structure the new article,” she said. “I worked in my sandbox to make sure that, when I put up the first major portion, I felt good about it. Beginning the second article, I felt excited and confident. I couldn’t wait to do the research.”
Gillian chose to create the article on sentimental comedy, a movement responding to a perceived immorality of theater in the 17th and 18th centuries.
“The biggest challenge was finding reliable, citable information,” she says. “Sentimental comedy is an obscure topic that few scholars write on, and even fewer agree on. I wanted the article to be comprehensive but struggled to find the details I knew I was missing.”
To find the 18 sources she’d use as the foundation for that article, Gillian found herself chasing after information both online and in her library.
“I tried to follow the trail back through sources — by looking at books and scholarly materials mentioned and referenced in less reliable, but easier-to-find sources. Then, I’d go through each lead to see if it had any worthwhile information, or any other useful sources that I could look to next. It was like solving a mystery and I found it fun!”
Those 18 sources became the backbone of a deep and comprehensive summary of the topic. And it’s clear that the experience has given her a confidence and joy in finding and sharing her research.
“I’m quite curious and value factoids, but had never imagined that I had what it takes to be an editor before I was assigned this project in the fall,” she says. “Instead of the audience being just my professor, it was the entire world. Knowing that somewhere an article I edited might help bring theater and information to a new viewer is so rewarding, and really inspired me to give my all to the project.”