100wikidays 42 to 46

Sally Field The Flying Nun 1968

The past five days have been a mixed bag, and I’m still feeling the effect of the visualisation steering more towards biographies than museums. The next two articles I identified from Praeger’s Some Irish Naturalists, much like a number of the preceding STEM biographies. I looked at two men, Thomas Antisell and James Edwin Duerden, as they both existed on the French language Wikipedia and I foolishly thought that this might make writing the articles a little faster! And I suppose I could have just copied and pasted in translations of those articles, but that is not really my style. Also, something that I have learnt from my fellow #100wikidays participants is that the different language Wikipedia’s have subtly (and not so subtle) differences in style, layout, references etc. So taking these two articles from the French would have thrown up issues regardless.

As Thomas Antisell had served in the Union Army during the American Civil War I was surprised to find no article for him. This area of American history is generally very well covered, but Antisell had been overlooked. He was definitely a character, but I have to admit that I still don’t find military history articles all that interesting to write. I don’t let that stop me though, as I still think better coverage of Irish biographies and content is important, however I do worry if the quality is lower as I don’t care quite as much. Or perhaps it is better, as I’m not as engrossed in the topic – I have noticed less grammar and spelling mistakes in these two articles. Although correlation does not equal causation!

I started off writing about James Edwin Duerden as he was involved in the Clare Island Survey, and he was one of the many contributors that was a red link. Most of his career was fairly run of the mill for my biography writing skills, apart from travelling a lot there was not much in his biography that sparked huge interest in me. However right towards the end it got a bit weird. The write ups about him made mention of his career in South Africa, and his membership of various scientific groups, only one I found though made me really stop in my tracks. This made reference to a paper and a speech he gave on eugenics and racial divisions in the 1920s. Suddenly a large part of me didn’t want to publish the article, as this was just so distasteful to me, I didn’t want to be associated with it. I then wondered about all the horrific topics that are covered on Wikipedia, famines, wars, genocides, murders, etc. and that people don’t write out of pleasure necessarily, but out of a need to account for all of human experience. It is really in writing about things that perhaps disturb or unsettle that editors are really doing invaluable work, as there may be little to know pleasure in it. Although my discomfort was small in comparison to more harrowing topics, I had a greater appreciation for the nuance of Wikipedia contribution.

Having written more substantial articles for a few days, a lazier Sunday evening called for something in a different gear – which as we know for me means a museum. I opted for National 1798 Rebellion Centre, which much to my shame I have never visited. I do remember a great deal of commemoration at the 200th anniversary in 1998, but this did not figure in it. Again, like many tourist orientated sites, or ones attempting to draw in visitors, finding the bare bones facts of when it opened, visitor numbers, curatorial staff and so forth can be a challenge. So it is a little shorter than I would like, but it was a short article sort of day, so I bit the bullet and marked it as a stub myself. I set it free in the hopes someone will flesh it out in the future.

The next two are a pair, with one following from the other. Firstly James Bayley Butler, another Clare Island Survey person, and then through him I discovered his daughter Katherine Butler. There is an element of symmetry appearing here, as James Bayley Butler was the predecessor of a previous article subject I wrote about, Carmel Humphries. Certain things are beginning to tie together quite neatly! Again as a fairly standard academic, with some military service, building design and inventing thrown in, the article was fairly easy to bring together. These articles use the Dictionary of Irish Biography entry as a backbone, and I then supplement and verify with additional sources. So in writing about the father, I noticed that his daughter also had a DIB entry. After a little initial excitement when one source incorrectly claimed she was the first Irish woman to get a pilot’s licence, I calmed down a little. She was in fact the third woman to get an Irish pilot’s licence – subtle but very different meanings! After this she went on to become a nun and dedicated her life to education. As she had an interest in the sick and those who were housebound, as well as history and writing, she reminded me a great deal of my great aunt which is why I think I enjoyed writing about her so much. I do hope that she survives on Wikipedia, as references are a little scant, but she seemed like a fascinating person and one that may receive more attention in the future.