Wiki-Edit Project

In 2014 the Oxford Food Symposium and the British Library joined forces to set up the Wiki-Edit project aiming to improve and expand Wikipedia’s coverage of food related topics, especially but not exclusively those related to women. The founding group comprised members of the OFS Board of Trustees, a BL curator and reference specialist, and Roberta Wedge, a Wiki editing expert and then Gender Balance Officer for Wikipedia UK.

Let’s join forces at the Wiki Club: since October 2021 we’ve been meeting monthly at the virtual OFS Kitchen Table to improve our Wikipedia editing skills and inspire each other.

The project is part of a broader effort led by Wikipedia to redress imbalances in its current content. Although it’s “free and anyone can contribute”, what Wikipedia discovered about itself is that over 90% of those who actually do so are white men of a particularly computer-nerd bent of mind. We tackle this egregious gender imbalance in the food-arena as a dedicated part of Wikipedia’s effort to improve these statistics across a spectrum of fields. Simultaneously, we embrace the need to more generally address neglected food and cooking personalities and topics as well as to correct popularly received falsehoods that are rife in a field that has only recently received serious scholarly attention.

Since the project started we have held two training events every year – one in London at the British Library and the other during the OFS annual conference. We welcome participants of all backgrounds and experience levels to these events.  Our hope is that by doing so every contributor, from expert to student, can not only learn why and how to contribute to Wikipedia but also initiate an important dialogue between all involved. To date all our Wiki-edit sessions have been lively, fun and supportive. Our group includes leading food scholars as well as students and interested amateurs and is open to anyone.

We interpret “food-related topics” in the broadest sense. We include wine, beer, coffee, tea, and other beverages; table-related objects (“material culture”); and dining institutions and traditions, from cafés to Tupperware parties, into our scope. We also encourage contributions that address women’s roles not only in cooking but also in transforming raw agricultural products into comestible form (for example, grinding corn into flour).

Although our core mission focuses on improving Wikipedia’s coverage about women and food, we welcome contributions about unsung men in this arena as well. In the long-standing tradition of the Oxford Food Symposium, we especially emphasize the expansion of entries about people and cultures that lie outside the usual gaze of the Western press.  A few examples of Wiki entries which the OFS-BL project have improved or created and which illustrate the breadth of topics covered include: edits to an incorrect article on Simnel cake; descriptions of post-partum confinement feeding practices in China; a new article on the American Professor of Food Studies, Amy Bentley; and another on the French restaurateur Madame Prunier.

During the virtual OFS in 2020, Roberta Wedge created this ‘How To’ video.