False Links and Historical Oversights

In browsing the Wikipedia entries for Bryn Mawr College and Hilda Worthington Smith (as well as for M. Carey Thomas), I noticed that the Summer School for Women Workers is linked in red on the latter two pages. I have often seen these false links on Wikipedia, but I have never before stopped to think about how and why they were created. Who decides what people/organizations/etc. should have their own page on Wikipedia? Furthermore, why would one acknowledge the need for a page, but not bother to create the page itself?

We have talked a lot in class about the selectivity of the historical record. In order to truly understand an event, we must examine it from as many points of view as we can; unfortunately, a large part of these seem to be lost or forgotten in the telling of history. The red links on Wikipedia emphasize such exclusions. Rather than lead to carefully cited encyclopedia entries, they testify to a regrettable oversight and absence of information. It is beyond frustrating to click on a link hoping to learn more, only to be met with a dead end! Ideally, the frustration caused by these false links would inspire further research, perhaps even the creation of the missing page itself. In this sense, the very absence of information can be just as much of a “starting point” as a completed entry. However, the surest way to make a historical topic accessible is to give it its own pageā€”and judging by the number of red links on Wikipedia, there is still much work to be done.

It is also worthy to note that Bryn Mawr College’s own page, which is probably visited more often than the other two mentioned, displays no link of any sort to the Summer School. Unfortunately, this lack of emphasis makes the school more likely to be overlooked by a casual browser of the page. A false link here would certainly be more effective than no link at all.