Develop software tools to explore and engage with the digital data of the Smithsonian museums.

The Digitization Program Office (DPO) invites teams and individuals interested in exploring and engaging with the digital data of the Smithsonian Institution museums to participate of the SIDIGI19 Hackathon. We are looking for software projects that can demonstrate new ways to explore, engage, or enhance the data from the collections in the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. The Hackathon is open to participants from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. The SIDIGI19 Hackathon is part of the 2019 Smithsonian Digitization Conference (#SIDIGI19).

Each team can have one to three members and each participant must be at least 18 years old, preferably enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree. Participants do not need to be in a computer science program but must know how to work with digital data in JSON format, using Github repositories, and open source development. 

Each participant will be invited to attend the SIDIGI19 Conference and the Reception at the historic Smithsonian Castle, where the winner will be announced.

The Hackathon will take place on October 1st, 2019 at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, Washington DC (map). Teams and individuals interested in participating must send their proposals by September 16, 2019.


  • Proposal deadline: September 16, 2019. Proposals can be sent and accepted before.

  • Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis until all teams are selected. Once a team is accepted, participants sign the agreement and can request data samples to start working during the weeks before the main event.

  • Main event: Tuesday, October 1st; 9 AM to 4 PM at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, Washington DC

    • Time for final testing and presentations

    • Relevant SI staff may available for quick questions, stress testing of the products

      • However, this is not a guarantee, depends on availability of museum staff

    • Final submission due by 2:30pm

    • Five-minute presentation or video between 2:30-4pm
    • Participants must bring their own laptops
    • We will provide Wi-Fi, digital projectors, tables, and power receptacles
    • Coffee and lunch will be provided for all participants
  • Winners will be announced at the Reception on Oct 2nd, 6-8 pm at the Smithsonian Castle.

Participants will receive tickets for the 2019 Smithsonian Digitization Conference (October 2-3 at the Freer|Sackler Galleries) and the reception (October 2nd at the historic Smithsonian Castle).

Project Scope and Examples

While the theme is open to any project that uses Smithsonian digital data, some examples of possible projects include:

  • What exhibition or information delivery system would you like to see at a Smithsonian museum?
    • Visit a Smithsonian museum and dream big
    • Design and build a mock-up
    • Should rely heavily on digital data and even promote digitizing more of our collections
  • Visualization of digitized collections
    • More than just navigating an online gallery
    • Mobile interfaces to expand what visitors get
      • Egg example - anonymous and promotes engagement after the visit
  • Data enhancement with other resources
    • UI to allow curators easier data cleaning on a mass scale
    • Enhancing the information, beyond than just linking to the item's Wikipedia page
    • New methods to data visualization and scrubbing
  • Projects for accessibility
    • Projects to help visually impaired visitors to learn more about the exhibits and collections.
  • Systems to build digital-driven stories and resources that can be integrated in school lessons (see examples at Smithsonian's Learning Lab)
  • Systems to create fun and experimental displays
  • Systems to promote fun exploration of the data of items in the collections

Please look at these resources to see the size and variety of data available:

  • National Collections Dashboard - The National Collections are central to the Smithsonian’s core activities of scholarship, discovery, exhibition, and education.
  • Collections Search Center - An online catalog containing most of Smithsonian major collections from our museums, archives, libraries, and research units.

View full rules


Trophy for 1st place team

Behind-the-scenes tours of a DPO project and a museum collection (depending on the availability of museum staff). Recommendation for paid internships in 2020 - These are not guaranteed since they will depend on many factors.

Special mentions for projects that excelled in a particular area

Behind-the-scenes tours of a DPO project and a museum collection (depending on the availability of museum staff). Recommendation for paid internships in 2020 - These are not guaranteed since they will depend on many factors.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:


Participants must be at least 18 years old and in the local DC/Maryland/Virginia area since attendance is an essential part of the team participation. 

Each team must submit a brief proposal no later than Sept 16, 2019 stating their interest in participating of the Hackathon. The proposal must contain:

  • The description of a software project that:
    • Promotes the use of the digital data at Smithsonian by specific groups (academia, data repositories) or the general public.
    • Promotes the engagement of the public with the digital data of the Smithsonian museums.
  • Include a workflow, sketch, or other simple diagram showing how the project will work.
  • Submissions can be by individuals or teams of up to three members.
  • Identify which museum of the Smithsonian is relevant to the project (; sample data can be seen at Collection Search (
  • The project should be relevant to a Smithsonian museum or specific collection.
    • E.g.: "the increase and diffusion of knowledge"; "discovery through digitization."
    • Some collections are partially digitized, don't let this limit your project (learn about the challenges of "dark data" in our collections).
  • Five pages max.
  • The proposed project should be able to be completed in the time available. Small demonstrations of a larger system are welcomed.
  • A statement or links to code samples that demonstrates the team can work with digital data in JSON format and use Github. Not every member must know how to, but at least one should since it is the format the data will be provided. 
  • Résumés of each participant, these do not count for the page limit and should be one page each.

Email your proposal in PDF format to with the subject line "SIDIGI19 Hackathon Proposal."

A panel will select up to ten proposals that will participate in the Hackathon. Proposals will be considered in the order they are received.

Pre-proposals and general questions are welcomed and encouraged. These inquiries will be accepted until Sept 11, 2019. Please contact us via email at: with the subject line "SIDIGI19 Hackathon Question."


On Oct 1st at 2:30pm, submit a written summary of the rationale behind the project, how it works, and limitations, up to 10 pages. Also prepare a short video or presentation (PowerPoint or PDF) that demonstrates the software in use, up to 5 minutes. Do not make a sales pitch but concentrate on how the project can help others to use and engage with the digital data that the Smithsonian has.

  • Prioritize what is new and most exciting about the project, don't dwell on buzzwords or technical details in the presentation.
  • Include the technical details in the written summary:
    • Software needed
    • Limitations
  • The written summary can include ideas on how your project may be expanded with:
    • More time
    • Dedicated funding
    • Specific technology, like access to a HPC or other specialty hardware
    • More and better data
      • Which collection objects/specimens should be prioritized for digitization to enhance the impact of the project?

On Oct 1st between 2:30 and 4pm, the team members must present their video or presentation. All members of each team must be present. You will have 5 minutes to answer the judge's questions about your submission.

Participants should attend the Reception at the Smithsonian Castle Commons on Oct 2nd at 6pm, where the winners will be announced.


To be announced

To be announced
DPO, OCIO, Smithsonian

Judging Criteria

  • Innovation - 30%
    Does the software use technology and the collection's data in a creative way? Does it distinguish itself from existing digital experiences?
  • Feasibility - 30%
    Is the project practical? Is there a demo that shows that, even if it is not perfect, the goal of the team is achievable? Does the technology exist or can be scaled for mass use at SI? How sustainable is the system in the mid- to long-term?
  • Engagement - 40%
    Is the experience engaging and motivating? Does it create new ways to encourage visitors of the museums and online properties to explore the collections? Does it further the Smithsonian mission for "the increase and diffusion of knowledge"?