Hacking the Smithsonian

about civic hacking, Smithsonian, open gov.

I’ve gone to my first hackathon! Super nerdy! I thought they only wanted coders at these sorts of things, but friends said that designers and UX folks are welcome, too. So off I went…and our team won!

This particular hackathon was the First Ever at the Smithsonian (!), and we were tasked with using the Luce Foundation Center’s newly-opened-on-a-trial-basis API to come up with new interactive kiosks over the weekend. Event info and submissions here.

When I first arrived, I was definitely nervous that I wouldn’t be able to help very much since I can’t do complex backend coding. It turned out that much of the task in this case was coming up with a cohesive strategy, which I could definitely contribute to! How were we planning on interacting with users? How were we bringing American art to the public, and enriching the experience of those physically at the museum?

And…our team won! We did have the largest group with a good range of skills, which meant that we could create a pretty broad prototype. Also, my skills were not as useless as I thought – I ended up being super busy the whole time brainstorming what direction we should go in, coming up with a design, and then coding the design into HTML/CSS for the others to connect to API calls.

Sadly, we never got the main site up and running off local machines. I’ll try to post some screenshots at least soon! In the meantime, here’s

Feature image Center panel from "Construction of a Dam," mural at the Department of the Interior building
Source William Gropper