AA XX 100 Wikipedia-a-thon: Women in Architecture

AA XX 100 Wikipedia-a-thon: Women in Architecture

The AA XX 100 team hosted an edit-a-thon on the 15th October as part of an international campaign to enhance and create pages related to women in architecture on Wikipedia. Other participants included the Guggenheim Museum (New York), and the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles).

Wikipedia knows that there are too few articles on notable women, and that few contributors to Wikipedia are women, so this was an opportunity to help adjust the stats!

AA XX 100 were pleased to join in, as a way of recognising the role of AA women in the architectural profession and beyond. We were fortunate to have Stuart Prior and Karla Marte from the Wikipedia UK chapter to help with training and a review of the editing basics. Paul Wilkinson, an experienced editor, also helped with training and advice, and Joe Filceolaire supported us in getting started.

We decided to concentrate on women who had been the first cohort of female students at the AA, focussing on those who graduated in the 1920s and 30s. We felt it was easier to concentrate on people who had passed away, partly because there might be more written about them (not always the case, I know), and there would be less conflict of interest than writing about living people.

We took existing entries, such as those on Elisabeth Scott and Jane Drew, as exemplars. In terms of editing skills, we learnt how to do citations and references properly, and how to structure an article. There were also some surprises, like the Wiki preference for secondary sources over primary ones. The edit-a-thon gave us all confidence in creating and amending articles in Wikipedia, which was one of the main objectives of the event, including dealing with maiden and married names.

The session was open to all and no Wikipedia experience was necessary. Fourteen people attended the event over the afternoon including architectural historians, architects, students (including Helene Solvay, who also designed the poster for the event) and staff. Seven new articles were started including ones on Elisabeth Benjamin, Gillian Harrison, Marian Pepler, Diana Rowntree, Ann MacEwen, Elizabeth Chesterton and Enid Caldicott. In addition, amendments were made to existing articles on Ruth Gollancz (neé Lowy) and Minnette de Silva.

Doing the research was fun and we enjoyed sharing each other’s knowledge. I was told that Enid Caldicott, the AA Librarian from 1928-1963 who had trained at the AA before becoming the Librarian, designed a house in Chobham, Surrey (now demolished), which was news to me.

Women-as-architects-AAJ-March-1918-cropped-360x174

‘Women as architects by a woman student’ (W. Ryle), The Architectural Association Journal, March 1918, page 108: the page shows silhouettes of the four first female AA students. Winifred Ryle is thought to be on the far left, with Ruth Lowy (Gollancz) second from left and E.G. Cooke (Edith Gillian Harrison) second from right (AA Library)

In the article on Edith Gillian Harrison née Cooke, one of the first four female students at the AA, we added the fact that she was to become the first woman Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in 1931. To help people write the articles I put together a list of references including book titles, journal articles and website resources, especially newspaper obituaries.

Names of AA women were also added to the ‘Notable Alumni’ list on the AA School of Architecture Wikipedia page, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architectural_Association_School_of_Architecture.These appear in red when there is no article, so it was easy to establish who to write articles on (the size of the group also meant it was simple to check with everyone around the table that we weren’t duplicating entries). A number of books and journals were borrowed from the AA Library to help with the research and writing.

The event was enjoyable and we hope to have provided a few core entries which can be built upon in the future. If we hold the event again next year (there are plenty of other AA women that should have articles in Wikipedia) we will look into remote access, as we had enquiries from people who couldn’t get to the AA and wanted to participate.

AA-XX_Wikipedia-Edit-a-thon_Women-in-Architecture_BB_15-10-15_007-360x251

AA XX 100 Wikipedia edit-a-thon, New Soft Room, AA, 15th October 2015 showing the group hard at work (Byron Blakeley/Architectural Association Photo Library)

See also: The Architectural Association on Wikipedia