Europeana Awards at Loomehakk, Estonia

We teamed up with Digix and Tallinn University to select and fund up to three projects using cultural heritage material from Europeana in a creative app or service

8February2016Comment

Loomehäkk took place in Tallinn, Estonia, the weekend of 29-31 January 2016. This 48 hour hackathon posed the question "What happens when you mix creative industries with IT?" and brought together over 120 technologists, designers, and media specialists from across Estonia's vibrant creative communities.

The event was run by Digix, the Digital Creative Incubator, and Tallinn University , who also provided the great venue in the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School. Europeana partnered with the event to help and encourage participants to use Europe's rich cultural heritage in their apps and services, with the added incentive of the chance to share a €25,000 prize fund to help them turn their idea into reality.

Starting 3pm on Friday, participants pitched their ideas, followed by a frenzied half hour forming teams. Once again, designers and developers were much in demand! Teams were then allocated rooms and immediately set to work, knowing that in 48 hours they would have to pitch their product to the gathered jury. For the Europeana prize they would also have to address some key points:

  • Must re-use Europeana openly licensed content
  • Demonstrate clear social and/or economic impact
  • Have a viable business model
  • Have a strong team behind them

During the 48 hours there were further sessions with mentors from fields such as business development, app promotion, and technology, plus coaching for the all important pitches. For those teams planning to use Europeana content, I spent time with them at first refining the ideas and suggesting suitable content, then as the first day went on, increasingly giving direct support accessing the content both via the Europeana Collections site (for hand-picked, manual access) and for automated access through the Europeana API. On the Sunday morning, as the hours counted down, time was spent focussing each team on delivering a good pitch and exploring how they would address the key questions for the prize fund. It was clear that some found this easier than others, but as we have seen before it is exactly these issues which will give teams the chance to create a product that has the highest impact and stands a chance of being sustainable.


Participants at Loomehäkk, January 2016

The pitches were some of the best I have seen at a hackathon, with all teams sticking to time, and having real focus in their approach.

And the awards go to ...

After careful consideration, and with much fanfare (livestreamed on Estonian TV!), I announced the three Europeana winners.

Postcarding

Postcarding is an app focussed on discovering the history, people and places on old postcards through transcription and tagging. It was developed by Vahur Puik, the man behind successful geotagging app Ajapaik (Timepatch) and more recent tagging app SiftPics. Whilst there are other tools out there, it is clear that Vahur has a strong record developing products with cultural heritage material and a sound understanding of the content. The opportunity identified was to harmonise these products into a toolset that could be used by cultural heritage institutes for crowdsourcing and enriching their collections.

Vahur Puik says "Postcards are usually collected, consulted and reused for their picture side but where collections have the reverse sides nicely scanned we discovered that these may have small authentic stories, people’s messages to each other there. And also a lot of information can be detected from the stamps, postmarks. But these messages, names, dates, and places exist only as picture, not as searchable text or data. During Loomehäkk we developed Postcarding - postkaart.ajapaik.ee - to 'address' this problem, and also to enhance our existing apps".


Vahur Puik pitching the Postcarding app

VR Quiz

The VR Quiz team brought together an impressive range of technologists and cultural heritage experts with the aim of creating a virtual reality quiz game that could be experienced on the Oculus Rift platform within museums and galleries. They showed a real understanding of the content and the desire to use it to create an authentic and engaging experience. This set them apart from other VR experiences - the prototype developed in just two days included a WW1 environment which included 3D objects sourced through Europeana, but also a back-end powered by the Europeana API where those creating the quiz content could search for items and easily select them. Of course there are questions as to how this can be translated into a viable product, but with some initial funding this is exactly the question that can be explored.

Rain Vagel says "Our app is a Virtual Reality quiz game in which the player will be put into an immersive environment with periodic buildings, objects and music. In the future we want to implement multiple rooms and a kind of treasure hunt element to it. The game also includes a simple to use quiz builder in which people can search Europeana for pictures with the same amount of ease that one would use Google. The event was very interesting, but also quite difficult for us working to short deadlines with VR technology. Before you even realised, it was 6 o’clock in the morning and you weren’t even tired. We had an excellent and highly motivated team who worked throughout the night to make this happen."

Language of History

The Language of History team proposed a tool where people could learn words in other languages through historic pictures. From the first pitch I was sure there were the seeds of an exciting idea, something that could really work. The small team were keen to listen to ideas (for example around crowdsourcing) and showed great enthusiasm, developing an effective demonstration by the time of the pitches on Sunday afternoon. The idea of gathering multilingual tags on the back of creating an effecting learning tool is something that will be fascinating to pursue.

Maria Medina says "History of Language was born from the necessity of engaging with the historical treasures of the European nations through language learning. Loomehakk in Tallinn, Estonia, was the perfect opportunity to explore how to achieve this ideal by designing and implementing an online prototype - tuurkunn.esy.es/europeana/ "

Next steps

So now we will talk with each team and work out what support they need - whether that's business model development, market research, or perhaps technical development - and decide exactly how we will allocate the prize fund.

I look forward to working with all the winners to help them grow their ideas.