Wiki Women Design

The number of female designers represented in museums, archives, exhibitions and on platforms such as Wikipedia, for example, is not proportionate with their actual contribution to the designed environment. The VAi (Flanders Architecture Institute) is therefore launching Wiki Women Design in collaboration with a number of partners, including meemoo, in an attempt to bring the women who have left their mark on design heritage in Belgium out of the shadows of history. Documenting these women on Wikimedia platforms is the first step towards building a more inclusive record, collection development and perception.

Challenge

Archive creators are often male, and research often starts in archives, which goes some way to explaining why female designers have historically remained largely invisible in lots of research. Until today, despite having existed (or still existing) and having influenced (or still influencing) design heritage, there have hardly been any studies on Female designers in Belgium. The Flanders Architecture Institute wants to use sources available on Wikimedia platforms to document these important female designers in order to:

  • make a vital contribution to what already exists;

  • ensure a more inclusive collection and record;

  • stimulate further research with new frames of reference.

Wikimedia is particularly good at highlighting cultural heritage that has so far remained under the radar, and the Wikimedia community has set the goal of improving the gender balance on the platform as part of its 2030 Strategy. Inclusion in the popular online encyclopaedia Wikipedia creates good findability and visibility, and data from Wikidata is used for all kinds of applications, including the Public Domain Tool. This data is further enriched by the Wikimedia community.

'Apart from Charlotte Perriand, Marie-José Van Hee and Claire Bataille, we hardly had any female role models during our studies. Even just being able to find more female names by searching on Google would already be a significant step forwards.'

- project ambassadors Stefanie Everaert & Caroline Lateur

Our role

We’re supporting this project with our experience and expertise on providing broad visibility to digital cultural heritage and unlocking cultural heritage on the Wikimedia platforms. We’re also helping to organise a number of Wikipedia writing sessions, joining the group of experts that is supervising the project, and contributing to a lecture at an international symposium.

Approach

Selection of female designers

A class photo with amongst others Martha van Coppenolle in the Technichal Institute of Sint-Maria in Antwerp, ca. 1930. Collection City of Antwerp, Letterenhuis

Together with a group of experts from universities, museums and archives at home and abroad, we drew up a list of female designers who have not yet been included in Wikipedia or other databases. An important starting point here is the corpus of documentation that is also serving as the basis for another VAi project, namely to develop an assessment framework for post-war design. This corpus consists of several series of documents from the Design Museum, supplemented with sources from the Interieur Kortrijk (international design platform) archive and the Brussels Design Centre. International experts with experience in similar Wikipedia projects will then review this working method and selection.

Data publication on Wikidata

The available data is made publicly accessible via Wikidata in the framework of Wiki’s Women Design, and will form the basis for writing Wikipedia articles about females who have worked in this field.

Educational and participatory process with supervised writing sessions

Publishing data on Wikidata is an important step in documenting designers who have not yet received the exposure they merit. This data needs to be used in Wikipedia articles for it to be brought to life, which is why we are organising writing sessions in Flanders (and Brussels) to allow different target groups to take part in writing their own history. They are given a toolbox with a number of practical guidelines about writing on Wikipedia to help them with this, so they can shape and update the image of their own field of work and particular disciplines.

Partners