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Wikipedia Congressional Committees Edit-a-thon Event Recap

On April 7th, the Law Library of Congress, the National Archives, Wikimedia D.C., the Senate, and the Smithsonian cohosted a Wikipedia Congressional Hearings Committee Edit-a-thon in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress. The purpose of the event  was to improve articles in Wikipedia that describe U.S. Congressional Committees.

The Law Librarian of Congress speaks to the Wikipedia Congressional Committee Editathon. Photo by Andrew Weber.

Law Librarian of Congress Jane Sánchez addresses the Wikipedia Congressional Committee Edit-a-thon. Photo by Andrew Weber.

We kicked off the day with a presentation from the Law Librarian of Congress, Jane Sánchez, who welcomed everyone to the event and provided an introduction to the Library of Congress. Jane was followed by the Deputy Librarian of Congress, Robert Newlen, who described the importance of Wikipedia as a popular entry point for gathering information on an unfamiliar topic, including many aspects of our federal government. Robert stressed that events like this one are vital for delivering information to patrons at their point of need, combining the accessibility of Wikipedia with authoritative references drawn from the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

Next, Katherine A. Scott, associate historian from the Senate Historical Office, provided us with an interesting overview of the history of U.S. Congressional Committees. Natalie Rocchio, an archive specialist from the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives provided us with a presentation on resources offered by the National Archives that could be used to improve Wikipedia articles. I then concluded the morning presentations by describing Library of Congress resources, such as Congress.gov and Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, that the editors could use to develop their Wikipedia articles.

After the morning session presentations, we took a short break to allow our guests to tour the Law Library’s Reading Room and enjoy a display of rare Congressional materials hosted by the Law Library’s Senior Legal Information Analyst, Jim Martin.

Photo of a drawing of a Native American in the U.S. Serial Set.

Photo of a drawing of a Native American in the U.S. Serial Set. Photo by Robert Brammer.

After the break, Sara Snyder, chief of the Media and Technology Office at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, provided an excellent presentation on the process of editing Wikipedia. After Sara’s presentation, the attendees worked the rest of the afternoon editing Wikipedia articles. The event concluded with Professor Andrew Lih’s fascinating presentation on the future of Wikipedia, including the application of big data to Wikipedia articles and attempts to create games that allow users to quickly and easily add content to Wikipedia.

We were excited to host 63 attendees, who joined us both online and in person. In total, the event edited fifty-nine articles, and we hope you will keep up the momentum from the event by continuing to improve Wikipedia’s Congressional Committee articles. We want to thank everyone who made this event possible, including the National Archives, Wikimedia D.C., the Senate, the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress. Please join us, either in person or online, for similar events in the future as we work to make authoritative information resources more open and accessible.

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