Submissions:2021/2Rāth: To Digitally Preserve Arab Literary Heritage

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2021.


2Rāth: To Digitally Preserve Arab Literary Heritage


Global & Local, Inclusion & Diversity

Type of session:



This presentation is on 2Rāth that seeks to educate students in digital composition and to enhance Wikipedia's content on Arab authors. 2Rāth or Turāth is Arabic for heritage, legacy, tradition, or patrimony. I chose to write it with #2 to change it to verb form. To rāth is then to preserve our heritage. With help from Dr. Matthew Vetter from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and in collaboration with Dr. Helaine Blumenthal from Wikipedia Education, I launched this project in 2019 to help digitize Lebanese and Arab literary heritage. This project started by recognizing a need to create articles about Lebanese and Arab authors, poets, and literary figures from Lebanon and the Arab region who have little to no presence on the web and are at risk of becoming forgotten in today's digital age. Students create articles in English and sometimes translate a few from Arabic or French if the articles are available in these languages.

Every Fall semester, students enrolled in composition classes at the American University of Beirut are invited to take part in a rigorous training with Wikipedia Education in how to edit and create Wikipedia content while abiding by the strict Wikipedia regulations on plagiarism and notability. In addition to improving encyclopedic content and working on preserving Arab literary heritage, this project also enables participants to practice crucial skills related to critical thinking, digital literacy, online source evaluation—determining which sources are most authoritative (considering publishers, formats, dates of publication, and author bias), and writing for a global audience. Since most AUB students are multilingual, they also translate Wikipedia articles from Arabic and French to English and edit articles in various languages.

In the fall semester of 2020, students managed to create 12 articles that were viewed 14.5 million times by Wikipedia readers around the world in under two months. These students also participated in IUP's fourth annual Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in collaboration with the English Department at IUP, IUP Libraries, Women's and Gender Studies, and the Center for Digital Humanities and Culture. Additionally, students worked on bridging the gap in Arab women representation on Wikipedia.

The plan for 2021-2022 academic year is to expand this project by involving more faculty from AUB and other universities to participate in creating content about Arab authors and in particular Arab women and other marginalized or underrepresented groups in the Arab world. The plan is to get at least one person from each English-speaking university involved. These universities include the Lebanese American University, Notre Dame University, Rafic Hariri University, and of course, AUB. I plan on liaising with AUB librarians and reaching out to other faculty in various departments, especially those in the social sciences, to involve them. My aim is to create a small community of knowledge production that will continue involving students in the preservation of literary heritage and representation of Arab voices in Wikipedia. Since the Emirates Literacy Foundation has expressed an interest in collaborating with AUB on this project and aims to create 15,000 articles in two years with the help of Google, I will work on nurturing this and other collaborations to create a focused community of knowledge production that engages many participants.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Abir Ward

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

American University of Beirut

Estimated time:

20 minutes

Special requests:


Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

2019 in Kuwait at the American International Consortium of Academic Libraries

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)