On Sunday, January 13th, Team Oakland LocalWiki held our first-ever Local History Editathon! That day, local historians, geographers, San Francisco Bay Area Wikipedians and curious residents of all editing abilities gathered at the Oakland History Room for what became a very successful major first push toward incorporating local historical content onto Oakland LocalWiki.
After a merry social hour at the Brown Couch Cafe, the day’s researcher-editors met up for the main event at the Oakland History Room at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, a local treasure trove of primary materials relating to the history of the East Bay.
Sunday History Room Librarian Martha Bergmann greeted the crowd with a table filled with prime examples of the history room’s collections: from neighborhood-related clippings that volunteers have collected over many decades, to historical photo albums and property maps dating to the 1850s. She had spent the previous evening thoughtfully pondering the event: Which resources would she highlight, particularly given the digital nature of the project?
After her wonderful exhibition on the library’s collections, she lead us to a conference room, where Team Oakland Wiki members Marina and Vicky gave first-time editors an editing walkthrough. After returning to the History Room, the day’s localwikians packed the largest table in the room with books and news clippings, laptops and hand-scribbled research notes, a portable scanner, and an occasional history-excited voice (that the author of this post had to remind to keep quiet).
One of our attendees, Gene Anderson, is the local historian/geographer behind the detailed neighborhood boundary maps that are incorporated into Oakland LocalWiki. He is the keeper of the OurOakland blog, an amazing repository of local history and events. A few years ago, he started an Oakland history wiki on OurOakland as a way to record in wiki format local history that doesn’t meet Wikipedia’s notability guidelines--but the project ended up being too monumental a task for him alone. He now edits Oakland LocalWiki under the name "Gene", and is a regular sight on the "recent changes" tab!
The aim of organizing local history editathons is fourfold in our eyes:
- Engage existing communities: We want to tap into communities of Oaklanders who have the potential to become dedicated editors--in this case, those who are already actively interested in creating and preserving a story to call Oakland’s. We believe (and are seeing!) the potential that this community of active historians holds!
- Make the analog digital: We want to create the opportunity to bridge communicational divides between the analog and the digital and include invaluable information on the wiki that is not readily available on the Internet.
- Promote incremental editing: We want to motivate more people to edit by having a content base spanning the basic history and geography of neighborhoods, people and historic events. This is part of our strategy to include people who may not have the knowledge, time or sense of agency to write an extensive history on a topic, but who through incremental changes could add more value and depth to what’s already presented.
- Enrich our perspective of today’s Oakland: Having basic content on the historical trends that shape and inform today’s Oakland will make an Oakland LocalWiki user’s experience that much more enlightening.
Our Local History Editathon series takes place every Sunday at different libraries, museums and other repositories of local history. Please see the Local History Editathons page for details and sign up for our announcement listserv! More highlights of the day (including photos, content created, and ideas for future events) can be found here.