My Wikipedia Edits

December 21, 2018 |  Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on My Wikipedia Edits

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 For my final project of the semester, I’ve decided to pursue a small matter of personal importance. This refers to the character of William K. Vanderbilt II, a later member of the Vanderbilt family and a well-known traveler and collector. Having been born 1873 and died in 1944, Vanderbilt had a number of interesting accomplishments in his lifetime. However, one that stands out among them all (to me at least) is the accumulation of a massive ethnographic and natural history collection, which Vanderbilt used to establish a museum on his summer estate. Unlike some contemporaries, who used collections like these for personal status, Vanderbilt established this museum with the intention of educating the public. As such, Vanderbilt’s museum was open to the public free of charge during his lifetime. With somewhere in the ballpark 30,000 marine specimens, the Vanderbilt museum boasted one of the largest private marine collections in the world during his time. Even after his death, Vanderbilt left his museum to Suffolk County with a mission statement that would keep his museum dedicated to the thoughtful education of the public. 

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0   That being said, if you were to look at Vanderbilt’s Wikipedia entry, you would find little to no reference to this collection or his museum. In fact, when I originally accessed the article, the only mention of the museum was made under the “legacy” section. The mention was rather problematic as well, as the paragraph incorrectly cited the museum as being opened to the public over a decade later than it actually had. It’s rather strange, considering that there is a separate page on the museum which is linked to on Vanderbilt’s page, but it isn’t given more attention by the article. As a member of the museum’s curatorial staff, I decided to fix the this issue. 

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The first change that I made was to a section under the “Life as an Heir” section of the article, which briefly mentioned a trip the Galapagos that Vanderbilt had undertaken. This trip was significant, in that it was in this trip that Vanderbilt hired William Belanske, the man who would be the curator of his museum. As such, I added more information indicating that this happened. This also worked well to lead into the mention of the museum. The article had previously noted that Vanderbilt was an avid collector, so I built on that, mentioning the date that the museum was originally built. After that, I amended the “Legacy” section of the article, which wrongly attributed the creation of the public museum to the tragic death of Vanderbilt’s son in 1933. As large of an impact as the death might have made, the documentation showed that the public museum had been in operation since 1922, over a decade before the event. Fortunately, someone had already created a link to 

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 In all honesty, editing the article was relatively easy. While it could be done anonymously, I opted to sign up for an account with Wikipedia for the sake of seeing updates to what I’d done so far. All that was required for that was a name, password, and optionally an email. Once that was done, all that I had to do was edit the article itself, which wasn’t to different from editing a Word document. One notable difference was that, in order to add citations to the text, you had to insert them by way of coding (a quick google search showed me the command I needed to do it.) Of course, it’s always preferable to cite sources, and I included the link to the museum’s history webpage. Afterwards, there is an interesting section that asks you to describe what you did. All in all, the process was fairly straightforward. 

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 As for why I went through the trouble of this at all, I would say that it was a good experience in working with public history. On top of that, it was a bit troubling to see that one facet of Vanderbilt’s life given so little attention on the article. As historians in training, it’s important to remain savvy on how to navigate sources like Wikipedia. Hopefully, if all goes well, my changes will stick, and maybe someone will find them useful in the future!


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