Why I write about castles on Wikipedia

Photo by Tony Grist, public domain/CC0.
Photo by Tony Grist, public domain/CC0.

Many years ago, I was given a school assignment. Each member of our class was given a different artist’s name, and tasked to research it at the local library that weekend. Some got famous individuals such as Leonardo di Vinci or Van Gogh. Unluckily, I got an obscure early 20th-century cubist painter.
After several hours looking through the library’s very limited stock of books on the subject, I had found two sentences of dull information and a small, grainy black and white photograph of one of his works. I was put off  art history pretty much for life, but I remember thinking at the time that there had to be a better approach to education.
Some years later, the internet arrived.
I became excited at the realisation that we were entering a new phase of human history, one in which every person—and in particular, every young adult—could have access to first-class, well-written, factual material.
I was fascinated by the idea that, given a similar assignment today, a student should be able to find exciting articles that would set them alight with a love of the subject… If, of course, we combined our collective skills to write them. One of the topics I choose to write about on the Wikipedia are our castles.
The United Kingdom, my home country, is permeated with castles. Almost everyone lives near them; we drive past them on our way to work; we’ve named streets and neighbourhoods after them; our head of state lives in one of the oldest in the land. But normally most of us barely look at them, let alone think about them. Their features blend into the landscape, often covered by the grey haze of our inclement weather.
Photo by David Iliff, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Windsor Castle, seen here, is a featured article on Wikipedia thanks to Hchc2009. Photo by David Iliff, CC BY-SA 3.0.

It wasn’t always this way though.
Norman castles formed part of a terrifying new form of warfare, driving their nobility deep up into our Celtic valleys and hills. For the later English kings, they were the “bones of the kingdom”, combining rugged force with royal symbolism. Styles of architecture came and went, some sites being abandoned, others rebuilt time and time again. Generations of women, men and children lived, loved and toiled within their chambers and walls. If you know how to read them, castles are our crystallised history.
We can retell those stories through good Wikipedia articles.
Stones, bricks and earth become ways of reaching out to invaders, traitors, heroes, gamblers, reclusive old ladies, lovers… I remember discovering one day that a small stone tower in the countryside, built by a nouveau-riche wool merchant, was intended to resemble the massive walls of Edward I’s Caernarvon, which was itself designed to imitate the imagined glories of the Byzantine emperors. A Wikipedia article can be the gateway to new horizons and new ways of seeing.
I find the challenge stimulating: the task is both analytic and artistic, in that as an editor you are constantly choosing which facts to select and how best to present the narrative and characters. It is a bit like completing a cryptic crossword, mixed with writing a bit of historical fiction. Producing good castle articles isn’t necessarily easy though: it takes many hours of research, attention to detail and often a willingness to “go the extra mile” by acquiring access to specialist books and journals.
Of course,  it’s made fun by the presence of enthusiastic fellow editors,  and nothing can beat finding out that someone has used an article you’ve written when they’ve visited a site, or as part of their own school project.
That makes it all worthwhile.
Hchc2009, English Wikipedia editor

“Why I …” is an ongoing series on the Wikimedia Blog. We want to hear what motivates you to contribute to Wikimedia sites: send us an email at blogteam[at]wikimedia[dot]org if you know of someone who wants to share their story about what gets them to write articles, take photographs, proofread transcriptions, and beyond.

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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Splendid! 🙂
Thank You for your and every other editor’s hard work. All of which makes Wikipedia and the internet one of the most revolutionary products of human collaboration.
I couldn’t even imagine my life without all the world’s information at my fingertips!

In a nice bit of synchronicity Wikimedia Spain and Armenia are running writing contents in September to improve coverage of castles in their respective countries https://blog.wikimedia.es/2016/08/comienza-el-reto-de-los-castillos/

Just a comment. Is not the term “Internet” a proper name and must be capitalized? Thanks.

[…] Why I write about castles on Wikipedia – I was put off art history pretty much for life, but I remember thinking at the time that there had to be a better approach to education. Some years later … person – and in particular, every young … […]

I wholeheartedly agree with “the task is both analytic and artistic, in that as an editor you are constantly choosing which facts to select and how best to present the narrative and characters. It is a bit like completing a cryptic crossword, mixed with writing a bit of historical fiction.” I have written a few articles about castle remains but I write mostly about old paintings and their painters. Using the word “historical fiction” is on the edge, but I definitely agree with that. As a Wikipedian you need to take the plunge to link the available facts into a… Read more »

thank u so much all d editors, once again thank u for making wikipedia lively.