HackTheHearst: Revealing the treasures of the Hearst Museum
On September 10, 1901, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the first female regent of the University of California, founded a museum that she envisioned as "a great educator" of the people of California and a cultural cornerstone of the University of California.
Fast-forward to today, one hundred and thirteen years later, and that museum, now known as the Hearst Museum, finds itself in a curious position. Despite being the largest anthropology museum west of the Mississippi, despite having one of the largest and most comprehensive cultural heritage collections in the world, and despite collections that are superlative in many ways, including having:
- the largest and most important California Indian collection in the world;
- the largest ancient Egyptian collection west of Chicago, and the largest pre-dynastic Egyptian collection outside of Cairo;
- the largest and most important collection of ancient Peru in the United States;
- the single largest museum collection of Mexican Saltillo serapes in the world;
- 680,292 catalog records, comprising nearly 3 million total objects from all over the globe,
...we are essentially unknown beyond a small circle of researchers and educators. In part this is because we’ve never had sufficient public exhibition space in which to showcase our collections (the last time we surveyed, we had the smallest ratio of exhibit space to collection size of any anthropology museum in the United States), but we’ve also been held back because until quite recently, our collections documentation was primarily paper-based.
Over the last several years, we’ve focused attention on improving the digital documentation of our collections, an effort which has only accelerated over the past few years. We participated in the design and implementation of our new open source collections management system, CollectionSpace, which provides us with a robust and flexible platform upon which to build new technologies and services. One of these services is a Solr API to allow greater public access to our collections information.
The HackTheHearst hackathon will be an opportunity to dig into the collections data of the Hearst Museum and work with it directly. This culture of building, playing, and “hacking as a way of knowing” is a crucial part of the innovative spirit of the Digital Humanities. The idea that one can acquire a deeper understanding of tools, technologies, platforms, information, and systems through development is a principle that surrounds this event. Furthermore, this event seeks to bring members of our campus and local communities together to work collaboratively and creatively to give back to these communities and to interested people worldwide.
The goal of HackTheHearst is to develop a compelling application and/or user interface for the digital collections data that the Hearst Museum is making available through an API. Each team of participants will develop an app or web interface for working with the Hearst’s collections data (see contest requirements for details). The application or interface should address issues of humanistic scholarship, and show applicability and adaptability to a range of projects and scholarly fields. Suggested applications include:
- A tool to facilitate student (K–12 and/or university) interaction with the collections data;
- A tool to facilitate researcher interaction with the collections data (e.g., planning a research visit, and submitting research products to the Museum);
- A tool to facilitate heritage community interaction with collections data (e.g., allowing searches for objects by user-drawn map polygons);
- A tool to promote visualization of the breadth and depth of the Hearst Museum’s collections (e.g., interactive statistics, timelines, and/or maps);
Kickoff: Wednesday, September 10, 102 Kroeber Hall (UC Berkeley), 4:30–9:00 PM (see schedule).
Judging: Sunday, September 21, 102 Kroeber Hall (UC Berkeley). Judging will be in two rounds: an expo-style preliminary round from 10:00 AM–12:00 PM, and presentations from the 16 finalists from 12:45–3:45 PM. The winning entries will be announced from 4:15–4:30 PM, and the grand-prize-winning team will present their app to the public from 4:30–5:00.
Prizes: A selection of museum-themed experiences as well as tangible prizes will be offered (see prizes).
Dataset: The dataset being made available through the API consists of object-centric metadata for over 700,000 catalog records. This data includes basic identifying numbers and keys, plus a large set of additional fields that convey the 'what,' 'where,' 'who,' 'when,' and 'why' aspects of the objects. There are over 40 fields being made available, so these have been grouped below:
- id & csid (internal keys)
- Museum number & alternate numbers (& a sorting number)
- Object name (& object title, if one exists)
- Description (& object comments)
- Count of object (& count notes)
- Type of object (and its "department" within the collections)
- Field collection place (& place hierarchy & lat/long & elevation & place notes)
- Associated culture (& culture hierarchy & a special audio-recording-specific culture field)
- Name of federal NAGPRA inventory that includes object (if any)
- Object "file code" (indicates the general use of object) (& context of use)
- Object dimensions
- Details of any inscriptions (e.g., coin legends)
- Collection date (verbatim + ISO begin and end dates)
- Production date (verbatim + ISO begin and end dates)
- Acquisition date (verbatim + ISO begin and end dates)
- Accession date (verbatim + ISO begin and end dates)
- Accession number
- Related images
There will be a lot of interesting data to work with!
Questions? Please contact the organizers.
HackTheHearst is a Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology initiative, sponsored by EMC, with support from the Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, Digital Humanities @ Berkeley, and Research IT at UC Berkeley.
Please consider supporting HackTheHearst with a tax-deductable donation, by becoming a financial sponsor, or via a gift in kind. Your support will help make HackTheHearst a success, both for the participants and for the users and communities who will benefit from the apps they create.