‘HacktheHearst’ to Expand Public Discovery of Ancient Treasures

UC Berkeley News Center
Kathleen McClay, August 27, 2014

'The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, may be home to treasures that are thousands of years old, and a museum hackathon that kicks off Sept. 10 aims to make the stellar collection more relevant and accessible than ever.
HacktheHearst is expected to produce new tools, including apps, that will enable easier, open-source exploration of the museum’s digitized collections data and images.
“It would take centuries to physically exhibit everything in our collections, given the size of our sole exhibition space,” said Michael Black, head of research and information systems at the Hearst Museum. The museum’s approximately 3 million artifacts come from around the world, with especially strong collections from North America, ancient Egypt, Africa, the ancient Mediterranean, Oceania, South and Central America, and Asia.
Students were recently working to digitize a large set of Hearst Museum artifacts.  Photo by Michael Black.
Students were recently working to digitize a large set of Hearst Museum artifacts (Photo courtesy of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology).
As a result of the hackathon, said Black, elementary school kids might not have to spend hours on a bus trekking to the UC Berkeley museum for a tour, or rummaging through an old-fashioned education kit that has been offered for years, but instead access much of the collection at their computer keyboards.
“We’re not Ivory Tower experts who want to keep information to ourselves,” Black said. “Our job is to share this data with the public, and to serve as a clearinghouse for new information about the objects in our collections.”'