Week 2: Dewey Decimal 100-199 "Philosophy"

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Sunday, June 11, 2023


MJ Keller

I've heard it said (mostly by philosophy majors) that philosophy is the study of knowledge. I'd like to counter that. Successfully editing Wikipedia is the true study of knowledge.

Or, at least, that's how it seemed this week.

The culmination of my time so far came on Thursday, when NBLA hosted the SPS Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon for AIP staff and SPS interns. Over a dozen people turned out to the hybrid event, between the Zoom call managed by Audrey and the in-person event in ACP's conference room (see gallery) managed by Corinne, Chip, and yours truly.

If you're reading this blog and wondering if it's worth it to learn how to edit Wikipedia, let this be your sign. After a half hour training that covered the basics such as how to add information, how to add links between pages on Wikipedia--important firstly for Wikipedia Races, and secondly for connecting between related people, places, and topics--and how to add images and oral histories from AIP's Digital Collections, we were ready to edit. Armed with donuts, coffee, and laptops, we dove in. Over the span of the event, we added 50 references and nearly 4,000 words to the pages of 30 underrepresented physicists and astronomers, and no one's stopping there.

For me, this was a hugely successful event. Not only was it the first "big" thing I did as an intern, but having most of the other SPS interns show up to learn how to edit and support felt like I was a part of something a little bit bigger than I was expecting. Getting to help friends work with copyright and explaining how to add references to increase Wikipedia's verifiability was important for improving the reliability of the world's largest online encyclopedia, but it was also important for me, personally, as a chance to grow as a public speaker, researcher, and a part of the 2023 SPS interns.

Thursday's Edit-a-Thon wasn't the end of Week 2's quest for more knowledge. Emily and I decided to have a museum-themed "double feature"... but not in the traditional manner. We paired the Smithsonian's American History Museum with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian for a morning full of seeing new things and an evening full of seeing those same things in a movie.

The American History Museum is three stories of pretty much all of the notable topics from America's history, hitting entertainment (with the original Kermit the Frog), past Presidents, and, of course, food (see gallery below for Julia Child's real kitchen)! Emily and I, joined by Daniil, spent three hours navigating the museum and absorbing more in one go than I thought was humanly possible. Around lunchtime, Emily and I tapped out, leaving Daniil to keep filling his head with information.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is one of those movies that gets better every time you watch it. This time, it got better because we could point at Kahmunrah wearing Muhammad Ali's robe and go, "WE SAW THAT!" Next week, we'll tackle another museum, see more things that made it to the silver screen, and I'll learn exactly how to write a teaching guide for NBLA. Until then!

MJ Keller