But despite the country’s rich history in fashion, many language versions of Wikipedia lack detailed coverage of these haute topics. For Italian librarian and fashion enthusiast Virginia Gentilini, the knowledge gap is alarming.
“It’s very strange,” Virginia says. “In Italy, fashion is an important sector. We have traditional textile production too.”
She believes the dearth of Italian fashion articles results from a lack of female writers and editors on Wikipedia—as well as the misconception among some users that fashion is strictly a female issue.
I think Wikipedia is the future because it works. It simply works.
“[If you] think about this history of painting involving art and technique and so on, [the] same thing [goes for] shoes. There’s a history behind them,” she says. “This is a complete field of human knowledge in a way, which is very strict and focused. You can think of it as art or human production.”
Virginia is now stitching international materials together to show the full story of Italian fashion. She’s responsible for GLAM project coordination at Wikimedia Italy, working with museums, universities and other art organizations to increase awareness of Italian fashion history. In 2013, she helped organize an edit-a-thon at a shoe museum. Photographs of museum treasures were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and became part of other fashion edit-a-thons in Sweden and Israel.
Virginia has also written articles on fashion and perfume for the Italian-language Wikipedia. She says it made sense for her to become involved with the site, since her role as a librarian is to reach people and give them the information they need.
“I am interested in giving non-academic, ordinary people information. And ordinary people read Wikipedia, so I had to work on Wikipedia,” she explains. “I think we can fight for ordinary people having… the knowledge to cope with their needs.”
Virginia believes that the preservation of knowledge goes beyond archiving information on paper—that it now needs to be stored digitally, using Wikipedia.
“I think Wikipedia is the future because it works. It simply works.”