GLAMhack – Where Heritage Meets Digital Magic

  • GLAM
  • Hackathon

The Swiss GLAMhack at the Ethnography Museum Geneva (Musée d’ethnographie de Genève, or MEG) was a delightful inquiry into Open Cultural Data. In this 9th edition of this annual, nation-touring event, more than 60 people participated, with 20 challenges and 11 projects selected after the end of many months of planning and workshops, focusing on a two-day hackathon. This year, we focused on colonial collections, provenance research, as well as the application of the FAIR and CARE principles in data governance. The main event took place on September 29-30, 2023, bringing together a diverse and interdisciplinary group of hackers, coders, artists and researchers who worked together to create solutions for the Galleries Libraries, Archives, Museums (GLAM) sector.

Group picture of the GLAMhack participants. Photo Peter Lämmle.

Previous to the main event, participants were able to explore MEG’s historical and digital inventories, including the inspiring library of the museum, while discussing the challenges of publishing heritage data while respecting indigenous rights. Additionally, the workshop offered insights into Geneva’s ethnographic collections and allowed participants to handle handwritten registers dating back over 200 years.

On Friday morning, participants convened in the vicinity of Geneva’s Plainpalais, at the picturesque Museum d’ethnographie. The hackathon commenced in the auditorium promptly at 9 am. Given the multitude of challenges presented, participants were allocated a mere 3 minutes each to captivate the attention of potential hackers and garner their interest.  Following these brief presentations, participants were free to disperse throughout the MEG’s expansive premises. It is worth nothing that the library emerged as a favored choice for many groups, owing to its profoundly inspiring atmosphere, perfectly complementing the hackathon’s objectives. The Museum undeniably proved to be an ideal locale for this year’s GLAMhack event, characterized by its thematic resonance, and the enthusiasm of the staff. 

Participants of GLAMhack dedicate themselves ardently to their tasks, with work extending late into the night. In fact, discussions persisted even in the hotel lobby, where attendees found themselves acquainted with a short night’s rest, as the early morning of the following day beckoned renewed activity. Teams were granted valuable time to advance their projects until 15:30, culminating in a final round of presentations where they showcased their progress and prospects. The event concluded on a vibrant note, with a DJ set and a regional apéritif to cap off the proceedings.

Inventory of the MEG museum. Photo Peter Lämmle.

For example, our participants tracked down colonial and racist traces in Geneva or worked on interactive provenance research of Chinese paintings. They used open cultural data and digital tools to create new ways of exploring and sharing cultural heritage. They learned about new datasets, provided by various institutions around the cultural sector, tools and methodologies, and perspectives that enriched their knowledge and skills. #GLAMhack23 was not only a hackathon, it was a learning experience and introduction to a global movement of activism for cultural data. It contributed to the digital transformation of the GLAM sector and helped to shape the future of open cultural heritage in Switzerland. 

Picture inside the MEG exhibition. Photo Gaston Wey.

The diverse challenges at GLAMhack aim at exploring the cultural heritage of different regions and communities. As mentioned, this edition focused on colonial collections, provenance research, as well as the application of the FAIR and CARE principles in data governance, and you will find this echoed in the challenges that were presented and addressed during this year’s hackathon. Explore them all at 

If you missed this year’s event, don’t worry! You can still find more information about it on the website and subscribe to our newsletter to be notified about the next GLAMhack in 2024 – the 10th anniversary edition, taking place in the attractive city of Lucerne.