Your back hurts and you’re very, very sleepy. The clock on your computer tells you it’s only a few minutes past 5 AM, then you see that other stopwatch being projected on the wall behind Rodin‘s ‘The Thinker‘ and it shows that you and your friends have been editing more than 56 continuous hours. Your eyes hurt, but you know that your work is important for many others and it’s greater than yourself. So you take a deep breath, have a sip of water, smile and move on your chair before adding that missing reference on the bronze sculpture you saw on the last floor of the museum that became your house two days ago. This is how an editathon feels.
The first meeting between Wikimedia Mexico and the Museo Soumaya Fundación Carlos Slim staff happened on February 4, 2014. We proposed them a GLAM alliance and ever since we’ve raised an amazing relationship where the museum has been eager to share its collection with the world, even those who cannot visit it in person. Wikipedia can bridge geographical barriers, allowing anyone from around the world to appreciate the forms, colors and symbolism of the Great Masters’ works. Hundreds of digital photos and 3 overnight editathons have only reinforced this alliance in which the main benefits go directly towards free and open knowledge, and the entire world after it. Wikipedia is now the digital art mediator of the Soumaya museum.
72 hours of continuous edits is no simple task, mostly because of the details involved. The museum had to oversee the logistics of the actual editing space, media digitizing, food and drinks-mostly coffee-, electrical setup, wireless internet access, bibliographical sources, security personnel and support from the internal research department, so that they could edit and help other editors in their areas of expertise. Wikimedia Mexico, on the other hand, weighed in with its volunteer editors, its shared knowledge on Wikimedia projects and their policies, and the overall enthusiasm we put in every one of our projects towards the largest enciclopedia ever seen by humans. The coordination efforts on this particular project were led by Andrés “Andy” Cruz y Corro, and María Fernanda “Mafer” López, Wikipedian-in-residence and museum intern respectively, both members of the mexican Chapter and now also members of the museum Staff. Kudos to both of them.
Our special guest this time around was Katherine Maher, interim Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation, who said in her that the shared effort between Wikimedia Mexico and Museo Soumaya is an example for the rest of the world and the Wikimedia movement in general: “this kind of collaboration is what allows sharing culture, knowledge and a common heritage; it lets humanity grow closer as a whole putting aside our differences in language, traditions, cultures and general contexts. This gives us a unique form of knowledge“. She adds, with full conviction, that “sharing art will gradually fill gaps in history and culture, allowing these kinds of information to reach the whole world, such as knowledge from indigenous peoples, which will ultimately lead to a major equality in access to culture“.
There’s an element of romanticism in editing about a creator as you’re directly watching his or her work. To write that Rodin was inspired in Dante and Baudelaire to create his monumental Gates of Hell, and then taking your eyes off the screen to actually see it there, tall and imponent, full of lifelike figures, is an invaluable experience. Rodin took inspiration on the Great Masters, and the wikipedists get their inspiration on Rodin. Who will be inspired by our work in the future? We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.
This time around the editathon had stricter rules: every editor had to sign on and off in a physical logbook if they had to be absent for more than 5 minutes. There were also two independent keepers of these logs who had to write down these movements and every article created. The whole event was filmed from start to finish. At the end, we learned the reason behind these limitations: the Guiness World Records, who wanted to have absolute certainty about something that was a fact to us: that we were making the longest editathon in the world. At the end of the 72 hours we learned that, when a GWR representative stood up with a certificate of our effort, declaring us, as their motto says, “officially amazing“.
In our last data dump before the end of the 72 hours we count a total of 2,313 edits in 8 Wikimedia projects including Wikidata, which means 280 new articles only in eswiki, written by 102 presential editors and 5 remote who started at 20:30 on June 9th and ended also at 20:30 on June 12th. Of these editors, 60% are women which is a step towards bridging the gender gap in Wikipedia.
72 hours of continuous editing. The longest editathon in the world. At the end, all of it is a small effort in a world that greatly needs free culture and where the most important thing is to share knowledge while enduring sleepiness and a sore back.