A solution for historians to engage with the public

Scholars are increasingly looking for opportunities to share their expertise more widely, both within academic communities and beyond. “Many academics enter [their field] to change the world for the better. … [But] most academic work is shared only with a particular [scholarly] community, rather than policymakers or businesses, which makes it entirely disconnected from practice,” writes Julian Kirchherr in the Guardian. Wiki Education presents a solution: we train scholars in the art of Wikipedia editing, thus equipping them to channel their field’s knowledge into the place where the public is looking to learn.

For the field of history, Wikipedia presents an opportunity to make sure the largest free knowledge depository in the world represents the full story. Dr. Rachel Boyle, a public historian who recently completed our professional development course in collaboration with the National Archives, shared the three things she learned through the experience on our blog. Ultimately, she draws the conclusion that “Wiki Education offers a compelling model for how historians can engage with the public.”

This month, we welcome a new batch of participants eager to expand Wikipedia’s coverage of women’s voting rights in the United States. These Wiki Scholars are drawn to the experience for a variety of reasons. Some want to give back to a resource that they have learned so much from. Others are interested in expanding the ways they communicate research in their discipline. And others have a passion for open source information and for learning the skills they need to contribute to the movement. All will help close the gender content gap on Wikipedia and better represent historical knowledge for the benefit of learners everywhere.

As part of our ongoing professional development offerings, we will be accepting applications for this course again in late spring. For more information or to sign up to receive updates, please visit our course landing page.

And now, meet our current participants!

  • Penelope (Penny) Boyer holds a Ph.D. from the European Graduate School | EGS in Saas-Fee, Switzerland; their Atropos Press published her book, My Great High-Roofed House: Homer’s Penelope in 2012. A community arts organizer, she is based in San Antonio, Texas where in 2017 she co-produced the world’s first Solar Mural installation. She avidly contributes content to several Flipboard magazines, including the FemTechNet Digest. However, her interest is in translating this enthusiasm over to providing woman-centered content for the more widely-known Wikipedia.
  • Spring-Serenity Duvall is Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Salem College. Her scholarship focuses on celebrity activism, craftivism, and the use of social media in activist campaigns or movements. She views Wikipedia as a contentious and dynamic space for sharing knowledge and plans to teach media studies students to be active Wikipedia editors.
  • Elisa Law is an Exhibit Designer and currently serves as Women’s Suffrage Centennial Coordinator at the Washington State Historical Society. While developing educational materials for the upcoming centennial, she discovered that the suffrage history of Washington State and its major players were poorly represented on Wikipedia. Through this Wiki Scholars course she hopes to connect existing research and resources on Washington’s suffragists to the wikiverse and improve public access to primary sources on the topic.
  • Eilene Lyon is a Colorado-based freelance writer specializing in historical non-fiction, and an avid genealogist. She relies on online access to historical archives and other open-source materials. Wikipedia is a frequent starting point for her historical investigations. Eilene looks forward to learning how to write/edit Wikipedia articles as a way to give back to society and ensure that accurate information is being presented in a well-written format.
  • Debra Michals, Ph.D, is Director and Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Merrimack College and a 20th century women’s/gender historian. She sees this opportunity as what she calls the “insurgent activism” of public scholars; that is, as a chance to revise the dominant narrative so that US history is more reflective of all the people who helped shape it – women, people of color, LGBTQ Americans, Native Americans. She is interested in writing about the links between suffrage and capitalism, particularly the fundraising efforts and stores launched by suffragists. She looks forward to increasing the voices of, and history about, women on the pages of Wikipedia and to bringing what she learns through this program into her classroom.
  • Susan Nickerson is the founder and owner of Nickerson Research, Inc. which, for 28 years, has specialized in research for media projects such as advertisements, feature films, and documentaries. She loves being able to combine new technologies with old-fashioned detective work and is particularly interested in obscure American history, under-represented groups, and elusive answers. Susan is happily sharing what she learns with her staff, so that all can better understand the inner-workings and process of Wikipedia as well as best practices to contribute factual material.
  • Christy Rishoi, Ph.D, is Professor of English at Mott College in Flint, Michigan, where she teaches composition, American Indian Literature, and other literature courses. She holds a PhD in American Studies, and has published on American women’s coming-of-age stories. She is looking forward to contributing to better coverage of women on Wikipedia.
  • Elaine Rosa is a staff editor and researcher at the Indiana Historical Society. As a public historian and writer, she is a strong supporter of open-content resources and a regular contributor to Wikipedia. By taking this course she hopes to broaden Wikipedia’s coverage of the women’s suffrage movement to include notable women in state and local history.
  • Tammy Vo is an artist and a researcher with particular interest in finding “impossible to find” information. When not creating visual art, she works at Nickerson Research, Inc. as a senior research/clearance specialist. She looks forward to bringing new and reliable information to Wikipedia as well as highlighting the contributions of women of color in the suffrage movement.
  • Michelle Watts, Ph.D, is a nonprofit consultant and educator in Cincinnati, OH where she teaches in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Organizational Leadership Departments at the University of Cincinnati. Her research examines the intersection of leadership and black women’s history. She is excited about working with the Wiki Education team to elevate and amplify women’s stories.

Learn more about our current course offerings at learn.wikiedu.org.

ImageFile:GLAMcamp DC 2012 – National Archives building 4.jpgJarek Tuszyński, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.