Alexandra Thom created and edited a number of art history articles on Wikipedia. Why? Partly because she sees Wikipedia as an important resource. In her work she encountered gaps in information, stubs of articles, under-represented cultures, racism, and sexism. She’s left us at Pyragraph wondering whether all musuem curators will soon upload their vast cultural repository on the web. We think it might not be so bad if they did.
Last year, Alexandra Thom spent ten illustrious months on Wikipedia. The reason she was there may raise eyebrows for those who see museums as destinations more concerned with attracting warm bodies to their buildings, rather than community-minded resources looking at the larger world. Thom, with a grant from the Kress Foundation, helped fill the gaps about art and culture on Wikipedia using the collection of the Brooklyn Museum and the expertise of its curatorial departments. The project represents a radical attitude towards sharing reliable and expert information that may be more somewhat more common atlibraries and universities, but has yet to fully hit the world of art and museums.
Drawing on the strengths of the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, Thom focused on African art, a field badly represented in the world’s foremost online encyclopedia, and one influential work in the Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party“ (1979).
From January 2 through October 16, 2013, Thom wrote 24 new articles and edited 18 existing articles on African art. She also ensured that the 1,038 women named in Chicago’s room-sized installation were represented — when she started, 92 of them had no entries and an additional 190 had small or incomplete entries, often referred to as “stubs.”