Last month, with the help of colleagues, I created a new Wikipedia page for the Henderson’s Directories! This was a project that combined two areas of my work that I never imagined could meet!
City directories were once commonplace. In the late-18th and early-20th centuries, they helped people navigate cities and find residents & services. Today, they give us a glimpse into everyday life in the somewhat-distant past. I think of them as pre-telephone phone books, which are also rapidly becoming a relic of a the slightly-less-distant past!
Henderson’s were published across many cities in Western Canada, including Edmonton. Here at the U of A Library, we’ve digitized many volumes of Henderson’s, and we help people use them all the time. They have become an invaluable resource for local historians, genealogists and curious folks looking into their houses’ past.
But for someone completely new to city directories, it’s really hard to figure out what it even is. In its digital format, Henderson’s are no longer big thick volumes, easy to flip through like a dictionary. There are often pages upon pages advertisements, before you can even find a title page.
To help introduce the concept to new users, I wanted to create a simple introduction, and Wikipedia seemed like a good starting place!
Delving into Wikipedia
I call myself a Wikipedia “newbie”, but it’s not really true. I’ve been reading it for just about as long as I’ve been on the internet. Like many people, it’s my first-stop whenever I encounter a new concept.
The idea of actually contributing to the giant online encyclopedia didn’t really occur to me until I worked with our Wikipedian in Residence.
I’m still a very new Wikipedia contributor. I had attended 3 Wikipedia workshops before getting up the courage to do anything! It’s a little intimidating, knowing how far the reach of Wikipedia is. But Henderson’s was something I really wanted to do; and once I got started, it didn’t take me long to get comfortable with the act of editing.
If you’re reading Wikipedia and notice a mistake, or something missing, I encourage you to fix it. You don’t need to be an expert or be familiar with all the guidelines—in fact, Be Bold is one of the central principles.
If you want to edit with a community, there are lots of cool collaborative projects going on, such as Art+Feminism. I want to especially highlight the projects aimed at countering systematic biases within the encyclopedia.
Edit boldly, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes—someone will likely correct it very quickly!