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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

2013 Hackathon

View a detailed report of the hackathon (PDF).

Hackathon participants

On November 16 and 17, 2013 the Smithsonian American Art Museum held a "hackathon" to reimagine the digital interpretation in the museum's visible storage facility, the Luce Foundation Center for American Art. The Luce Center displays around 3,000 artworks from the museum’s collection in floor-to-ceiling glass cases. Visitors can currently access information about the artworks and artists through ten computer kiosks in the space. These kiosks are several years old and in need of a refresh, so the museum invited developers, programmers, and designers to delve into its data and create new concepts for the space.

Twenty-three people participated, spending the weekend in the MacMillan Education Center with museum staff and Smithsonian IT experts. On Sunday afternoon, each team or individual had to submit a 2 minute video of their concept and make a presentation to the group. The museum is exploring all of these concepts and protoptypes to develop a new digital plan for the Luce Foundation Center. Descriptions of the projects and links to the videos and prototypes are below. You can see photographs from the event on Flickr, and read a more detailed overview of the event on the Data Community DC blog. Be sure to check out the Art Game, too, which was created by Diego Mayer-Cantu, Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Smithsonian and one of the hackathon judges.


1. People's Choice: Once Upon a Time - The fu

Team members: Diego Paredes-Vincent, Mateo Paredes-Vincent, Andres Paredes-Vincent, and Martin Paredes.
Project description: What would you do if every surface was a screen?

2. Judge's Choice (Overall Winner): Team Back Left - Luce Interact

Team members: Leah Bannon, Michelle Hertzfeld, Andrea Gallego, Shannon Turner, Wesley Cho, Min Nguyen, and James Lane Conkling.
Project description: Bringing the Smithsonian to everything else, and everything else to the American public. Goals: Enrich the experience of museum visitors; Bring the collection to people not at the museum; Create a robust feedback loop with museum-goers; Link to other collections -- especially other Luce Centers

3. Runner Up: Kiosk of the Future - Luce Center Art Explorer

Team members: Mollie Ruskin, Ben Willman, Jason Shen, and Erie Meyer.
Project description: The Luce Center Art Explorer is an open source, responsive tool which works on a desktop, phone, tablet, or kiosk, to find or contribute more information about works of art. Users can find the art by using traditional search, clicking on a piece of art in relation to where it's actually hung in an aisle at the museum, or by browsing based on interesting tours, artists or topics. If you love something, you can dig in and learn more, send it to your friends, "star" it as a favorite, and more.

4. Best Use of the API: Team GeoSafe - Grid 2.0

Team members: Moshe Gutman
Project description: Our theme is to let "art be the star". Every view of the kiosk highlights the wonderful collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The kiosk is designed around 3 major categories: Artwork, Artist, and Collection. Each "hub" allows you to freely browse between each category.

5. Most Franchise-able: ArtPASS - ArtPASS

Team members: Francis Acupan, Matthew Duran, and Martin Smith
Project description: ArtPASS is your personalized museum guide. It's the seamless merging of physical museum space, new technology, and user experience. Touch stations placed within exhibits add interactive media and text to the space. Museum visitors can use printed cards or a smartphone to check in at these stations, save favorites, and get personalized recommendations. Visitors can take their cards home and retrieve details of their visit, share with friends, or continue research across multiple visits.

  • Video
  • Demo (webcam does not work on Safari)

6. Most Unexpected: Sohaib - VirtuArt

Team members: Sohaib Akhter
Project description: A 3D Game of the Museum.

7. Honorable Mention: Patrick - Entry Points

Team members: Patrick Murray-John
Project description: The physical space of the Luce Center is beautiful -- once you get in and have something to look at. My project is to 1) play with ways to data in a web page, and on mobile devices, to make a connection between the physical space and the data in order to offer people on-site an immediate destination object, then, when they are in front of it, get the richer interpretation and data. A second entry point is the people on-site. The stories, interests, and insights of the staff, now currently captured in the walking tour, could be made into data that lives parallel to the more official curatorial data to provide visitors an additional entry point. While running the site on a mobile device as you walk through the physical space is fundamental, desktops and --inside the center, kiosks -- also have a place. The site should behave differently based on whether the device is physically within the center. At a desktop away from the center, for example, more browsing and searching options should be available. When people are away, the site should encourage them to sit down and read in depth. When in the center, the site should encourage movement around the center. Kiosks can do a lot there, by suggesting an easy destination, and by being visible at the physical entry points to the center and to each floor.

8. Honorable Mention: Muneeb - Art-Hackline

Team members: Muneeb Akhter
Project description: Call the Smithsonian website/API for audio information about artworks and artists. Call 202-738-5102 and enter each part of the object accession number as instructed. The system will read the information on that artwork back to you. To test, press "2 0 0 0" then "2 7 #" and then "#".

9. Honorable Mention: Megatherium - Tapestry

Team members: Nathan Verrill, Phoebe Elefante, and Nick Elefante.
Project description: The tapestry is a nine tile casual game and user-interface that can be accessed through the website, mobile app, and on-site through upgraded touchscreens. Users view the 43,000 works in the collection and create a personal tapestry from the 9 items they select through the game UI. Achievements based on existing data sets reward players for creating unexpected - and sometimes serendipitous - connections between works as they complete their tapestry. Once each player's tapestry is finalized, they are able to dive deep into the information available on each piece. Customization, knowledge, and rewards help to generate meaningful connections to those pieces. On-site, touch screens at the end of designated rows in the Center will replace the kiosks. There a person can see which pieces are currently on display in that section, search for works based on the accession number, tap each tile to unfold the image for more information, access A/V content on each piece, vote to replace pieces that are on loan, see upcoming events, play games, plan tours within the collection, and share their customized tapestry through social media. The browser and app-based experiences give off-site users the same access and functionality as the touch screens in the museum. The Tapestry can also be leveraged as part of an enhanced visibility campaign for the Luce Center. And the Tapestry UI can be scaled to encompass the collections of the entire American Art Museum, other Luce Center locations, and the entire Smithsonian Institution. The tapestry turns all players into artists, and tapestries into "citizen art".