On May 23rd, Historypin hosted an evening hackathon at the California Historical Society in San Francisco as part of our Year of the Bay project. The event, in partnership with Pastmapper, explored historic photographs of businesses along the San Francisco waterfront from the SFTMA Photo Archives, the California Historical Society, SF Public Library, and SF Maritime National Park.
What is a hackathon? It’s when a bunch of people get together to use a variety of tools (often technological ones) to solve problems. With this event, we aimed at contributing better historical information and resources that aid in the discovery of historical data. We asked visitors to bring laptops, books, and other materials that they could use for research during the night. The library at the California Historical Society even shared their historic collection of San Francisco City Directories as an available resource.
A group of about 50 worked collaboratively around a handful of photos to see if we could solve some mysteries within them; dates, locations, business information, etc. Participants liked how they could come and not only consume information, but contribute to the conversation. Assigning tasks, collaborating on finding citations, and having hi-res versions of the images readily available to zoom in on were some of the things we were able to adjust and experiment with to best collect data. In addition to looking at the social aspect of collecting information in an event setting, experiments like this hackathon are also serving to inform Historypin user interface development online for capturing and discussing historical metadata in fun and meaningful ways.
With this hackathon and other Year of the Bay community events, we’re exploring how local historical and heritage institutions can involve their audiences and communities more by inviting collaboration around their historical content. This is a chance for like-minded people to come together and discuss local Bay history, with the extra incentive of being able to contribute information to under-researched photographs from local history collections.
To add your own suggestions and comments to the photographs we looked at during the event, follow this link to the tagged pins on the Year of the Bay map. With events like these and with your help, we can enrich the collections of some great local Bay Area institutions and share our findings with the wider online community.