Why is the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosting a hackathon? - Technical.ly Philly


Mar. 21, 2018 7:48 am

Why is the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosting a hackathon?

Bringing in the tech crowd helps the museum look at its own challenges from a different perspective. It's the third hackathon the museum has hosted since 2016.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

(The Philadelphia Pennsylvania Museum of Art by Olivier Le Queinec via Shutterstock)

In 2016, the Philadelphia Museum of Art held its first-ever hackathon, amid a push to rethink its approach to technology and, of course, get visitors to explore its collections in new ways.

Every year since that first experiment, when participants were given access to over 5,000 museum collection objects, the marriage between the art and tech worlds has continued to make sense for the 142-year-old institution.

The Philadelphia Art Museum Hackathon is back for its third iteration, and it’s kicking off April 4. The push to get local technologists to create innovative gallery experiences will culminate with a showcase of the projects on May 25.

“The Hackathon is part of the Museum’s commitment to strengthening our connection with our community,” said Ariel Schwartz, the Kathy and Ted Fernberger Associate Director for Interactive Technologies at the museum. “We’re inviting visitors, members of the museum, educators and students from the region to engage with us in thinking about innovative new ways to activate our collection and see the art in new ways through technology.”

The winning project will take home a grand prize of $2,000. The crowd at the final event will select the winner of the People’s Choice Award, which will take home $500.

So, what makes the museum want to keep coming back to the hackathon format?

There’s benefit in looking at ways tech can improve their approach to the public, but Schwartz said it also has to do with that ever-present goal of community building.

“For us, having 10 or 11 teams each year focused on a real challenge, and having the benefit of 100 minds working on wild and wonderful new ways of solving it, is a very real benefit,” said Schwartz. “We never know how fresh minds will attack the challenge, and we’ve been rewarded every year with approaches we’ve never thought of. For the participants, many of whom have returned from our previous Hackathons, they’ve developed a connection to the Museum, to the staff they’ve met, and to the mission we share.”

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