Case Study: The Bingham Center’s Women at Duke Edit-a-Thons

Written by Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian, Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture, Duke University

New Wikipedia editors work on articles at a Duke University edit-a-thon.

New Wikipedia editors work on articles at a Duke University edit-a-thon.

Our first edit-a-thon at Duke University took place in the spring of 2014. This event was inspired by similar programs hosted at Mount Holyoke and Barnard College as part of a larger movement to increase the number of women editors and improve content about women in general in Wikipedia.

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture partnered with the Duke University Archives and the Duke Women’s Center to host the first event.

Our archivists and interns worked on generating a list of women and women’s organizations that had connection to Duke University: as alumnae, as faculty/employees, or as women or organizations with papers or records held by the Rubenstein Library. We searched Wikipedia for each item on the list, and anything that was covered minimally or not at all was included on our list of suggested topics.

The 2014 event coincided with the publication of Women at Duke Illustrated by the University Archives, which was great as a secondary source for many of our topics. Author Bridget Booher gave remarks about her own research experiences. We had about twenty or so people attend for the introductory part of the program, and about a dozen stayed to write and edit articles. By hosting this event at the Women’s Center in the evening, we hoped to reach more undergraduates than typically attend library programs. Working with the interns at the Women’s Center turned out to be somewhat less reliable for creating promotional materials and eliciting participation. However, the people who stayed were committed to the cause and we were able to publish a few new articles that night, as well as many smaller improvements to existing articles.

A white board in use at a Duke University edit-a-thon.

A white board in use at a Duke University edit-a-thon.

For the second event in 2015, we asked the Women’s Center to help promote it but Bingham Center and University Archives staff did the planning and the event was held in the library during the day. As in 2014, the RSVPs we received online were very unreliable and we yet again had about a dozen people attend over the course of the event.

The elements of our event that worked particularly well included:

  • Some people worked in pairs with one as the researcher and the other as writer/editor. This helps increase confidence about combining new information about an unfamiliar topic with a new style of writing/coding.
  • We created folders with copies of suitable secondary sources for each topic, either printed out or with links to things like obituaries or biographical articles.
  • Lots of snacks!

Our outcomes included several existing articles improved and new articles created. The actual numbers seem small, but we received positive feedback about the event overall. Our events have received very good media coverage through the Duke News office. In 2015, Kelly Wooten from Duke and Emily Jack from UNC were interviewed about Wikipedia on "The State of Things" radio program. The increased level of awareness about women’s history and the development of the edit-a-thon as a signature event are additional markers of success.


  • Invite people and groups directly in addition to general social media outreach
  • Keep track of articles updated and created. Follow up on these articles after the event, checking on them to make sure they stay posted.