Stories of Women and the Past: International Women’s Day 2024

A full day of reflections, information and ideas about women and how they explored the past, punctuated by four specially created stories.

The event is now (15 January) fully booked for in person attendance. However, there is a waitlist and it is also free to join online so do have a read of the programme and sign up.

Since 2021, the team behind Beyond Notability, based at the Institute of Classical Studies at University of London and the University of Southampton in partnership with the Society of Antiquaries, has been working on recovering the names, lives, residences and (most importantly) work of women in the archives of the Society of Antiquaries and elsewhere. Taking inspiration from and drawing on this work, we present a day seminar on Storytelling, Inclusivity and (Re)Presenting Women’s Work in Archaeology, History and Heritage.

The Programme for the day is now available here and includes biographies of the people speaking. There may still be small changes:

Four performances commissioned from storyteller Vanessa Woolf will interpret some of our research around some key women, such as Charlotte Stopes, themes, like folklore, and places, such as Hadrian’s Wall. Readings of these stories on the day will be followed by talks from and with academics, heritage professionals and creative practitioners on how they engage with the past and women’s work in these areas. The day considers storytelling through books, re-enactments, costume and interpretation in heritage sites and museums.

There will be presentations covering theatre and community, AI, the historic environment, museum displays, inclusive re-enactment and research-inspired art from Julia Pascal (Pascal Theatre Co.),  Catherine Clarke (Institute of Historical Research), Jo Badger (historical costume-maker), Pamela Franklin (Caribbean Social Forum),  Jennifer Wexler (English Heritage), Marie Basting (author), Emma Anderson and Bryony Renshaw (Silk Museum Macclesfield), Katy Drake and Kath Van Uytrecht (Society of Antiquaries Artists-in-Residence). Amara Thornton and Katherine Harloe (Beyond Notability / Institute of Classical Studies) will facilitate discussion and reflect on the process needed to engage creatively with the stories and women found in the archives the team has examined.

Join in the conversation online: #StorytellingWomen #IWD2024 #InternationalWomensDay #WomensHistoryMonth

#IWD23BeyondNotables

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator)

On 8 March 2023, the Beyond Notability team and a some keen Wikidata editors braved the snowy weather for the International Women’s Day editathon at the Society of Antiquaries. The introductory talks were in the ground floor Meeting Room, which, as I discovered about 5 minutes before we began, contains a 15th-century wooden painted panel that once hung in Baston House, the childhood home of Elizabeth Branson, one of the women in our database. Branson sent the panels for exhibition at the Society in 1880 and donated them to the Society subsequently – both exhibition and donation are recorded in the Society’s minute books (and included in her entry on our database). As I mentioned briefly in my introduction it was a fitting location, therefore, for the start of our day!

James followed my short introduction to the project and the programme for the day with training on Wikidata editing. He used the Wikidata item for politician and former Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd, who died late last month, to talk through creating and augmenting Wikidata. Both my introduction and James’s training were recorded, and are now available on the Society of Antiquaries YouTube account https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXLDFsIEMz8.

Katy Drake introducing “Illuminating Knowledge” (2023) the print she has created with Kath Van Uytrecht. Photo: A. Thornton, 8 March 2023.

We then reconvened in the Library. Before editing began in earnest, artist Katy Drake gave a brief speech to introduce a new artwork hanging in the Society’s Library, which she has produced with artist Kath Van Uytrecht. It is a large print, inspired by the women included in the Beyond Notability database. Katy and Kath travelled to Sweden to create the print.

Katy has very kindly contributed some explanatory text: “Illuminating Knowledge” is a collaborative print re-imagining the Lamp of Knowledge, a 14th century bronze Sabbath lamp that is the emblem of the Society of Antiquaries London. Kath and Katy have included 164 shapes inspired by clay Roman oil lamps to represent the women associated with the Society from 1870 -1950. Rather than a single lamp emanating from one source, the lamps represent the network of women and the importance of their contributions. By representing each individual they give voice to women’s work previously overlooked. 

Editing commenced after Katy’s short talk, and our attendees drew on a selection of relevant texts which we had pulled together from the Society’s Library to begin augmenting Wikidata. All in all it was a most enjoyable and productive day, despite the weather.

If you weren’t able to make the event, not to worry! You can get involved in editing Wikidata to add women in our database at any time – just view the training session linked above and visit our Wiki project page to get started.

Introducing our International Women’s Day 2023 Wiki editathon

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

We’re gearing up for our second International Women’s Day event next month. This will be a Wiki editathon, held both in person and online (book here!) at the Society of Antiquaries of London on 8th March 2023.

Following on from our collaborative Wiki editathon in December with the Victoria County History and the Women’s Classical Committee, we’re encouraging you to dive into our data once more and help us increase representation on Wikipedia and Wikidata of women active in archaeology, history and heritage. This time, we’re focusing on women who have entries in our database. We’ve built a project page on Wikipedia so we can see how Wikipedia and Wikidata entries for the women in our database grow and develop.

At present, we have over 500 women in the database. Some of them, like Ella Sophia Armitage, are already on Wikipedia and Wikidata. Others, like Sigridr Magnusson, are currently only on Wikidata. Many more, like Margaret Sefton-Jones, are not currently on either Wikipedia or Wikidata.

500 is a rather large number, so we thought we’d make things a bit easier by pulling together some smaller lists. These represent different areas of our database, different places, different activities, and different subjects.

Are you interested in folklore? Here is our list of women who were affiliated with the Folklore Society!

How about women who were freelance lecturers? Here is our list.

Or women who took part in excavations at Colchester? Another list!

And here is our list of women who were exhibiting a broad range of works in a variety of venues!

There’s something for everyone, we hope. So join us on 8th March – we look forward to seeing you there. If you want to take part online, we’re encouraging people working on Wikidata to take part from 8 March until the end of the month, as it is Women’s History Month.

Women of the VCH Wiki edit-a-thon

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability Project)

The Beyond Notability project is collaborating with the Victoria County History and the Women’s Classical Committee for an online Wiki editathon on 15 December. Since its foundation the Victoria County History has employed women as researchers and writers of these important county-level histories. Some of the women working for the VCH are already represented on Wikipedia and Wikidata, but many of them are not.

Attendees of the Wiki editathon will be adding women VCH contributors to Wikidata and Wikipedia, and augmenting entries for women who are already included to reflect their association with the VCH.

There are 21 women who contributed to the VCH currently included in our Beyond Notability database:

Of these 12 (Graham, Taylor, Armitage, Sellers, Bateson, Chapman, Harris, Wood, O’Neil, Stokes, Toynbee and Lobel) are on Wikidata, and 9 on Wikipedia (Graham, Taylor, Armitage, Sellers, Bateson, Wood, O’Neil, Stokes, and Lobel).

The Women’s Classical Committee has been working on adding women working in classics (broadly conceived) to Wikipedia in monthly editathons. There were 5 women involved in writing about Romano-British archaeology for the Victoria County History:

  • Charlotte Margaret Calthrop  – Romano-British Berkshire
  • Sophie Shilleto Smith – Romano-British Buckinghamshire
  • Edith Murray Keate – Romano-British Leicestershire (co-authored with William Page), Rutland (co-authored with HB Walters), Staffordshire (with Page)
  • Margerie Venables Taylor – Romano British Huntingdonshire, Kent (with Francis John Haverfield), Oxford, Shropshire (with Haverfield)
  • Ella Sophia Armitage – Ancient Earthworks for Yorkshire 1 (co-authored with Donald Montgomerie, this includes Romano-British Earthworks)

Of these, 3 are on our database (Keate, Taylor and Armitage), but only Taylor and Armitage are represented on Wikipedia and Wikidata.

15 December 2022: Editathon Programme

Purpose of event

  • Create, improve and enrich Wikidata and Wikipedia entries for women connected to the Victoria County History project
  • Introduce attendees to editing Wikipedia and Wikidata.
  • Provide a supportive environment for learning and sharing.

Goals

  • Create/augment Wikidata/Wikidata entries for women contributors to the VCH
    • If extant, are Wikidata/Wikipedia entries tidy? And do the links work?
    • HARDER Are there missing links to key identifiers (ie WorldCat, Archaeology Data Service) in Wikidata entries.
    • HARDER use “contributed to creative work” property to add VCH work to women’s entries as in this one for Mary Bateson (see her contributing to the DNB) https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q6779021.
  • ONE PERSON TASK Augment VCH entry on Wikipedia to clarify staffing structure, including work of contributors as well as editors
  • Use Beyond Notability database as a trusted source for referencing in Wikidata/Wikipedia entries

Event Plan

3-3.20 Intro talks

3-3.05 Brief welcome (Amara)

3.05-3.10 Intro to VCH (Adam)

3.10-3.15 Intro to BN (James)

3.15-3.20 Intro to WCC (Victoria)

3.20-4.30 Training & Editing

Training on Wikipedia editing (Victoria)

Training on Wikidata editing (James)

Editing

Further Reading/References

Link to VCH Volumes online (not all volumes are available for all counties): https://www.history.ac.uk/research/victoria-county-history/county-histories-progress

Beckett, John, 2011. Writing Hampshire’s History: The Victoria County History 1899-1914, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club Archaeological Society 66.

Chapman, Adam and Townsend, Mike, 2022. Bringing the VCH Past to the Wikipedia Present. IHR Blog.

Elrington, CR (Ed.), 1990. The Victoria History of the Counties of England: General Introduction Supplement 1970-1990 (Oxford University Press).

Pugh, Ralph (Ed.), 1970. The Victoria History of the Counties of England: General Introduction (Oxford University Press).

Acknowledgements:

Special thanks to Adam Chapman, Victoria Leonard, James Baker, Shani Evenstein-Sigalov.