Hackers produce application to help Archives track cultural journeys

Media release: Friday, 7 June 2013

The National Archives of Australia's passenger arrivals data came under the heavy scrutiny of over 900 hackers at GovHack 2013. Hackers "mashed" data on passengers arriving in Australia to produce an application to explore the nation's multicultural heritage.

The Brisbane-based group 'Hack the Evening' was awarded $1000 for their project "One, but many" which took information from the Archives' popular Passenger Arrivals Index (PAI) and combined it with historical statistics to create an application to help users learn more about Australia's migration history.

The application used a virtual map to show migration departures from ports around the world during the period 1921-1949. Using additional high-band video footage, Wikipedia information and historical data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the group aimed to show what events might have influenced migration patterns, including those to Australia.

The Archives judges awarded the prize to Hack the Evening based on the originality of the project, its usability and social value.

"One but many visualisation is original in its focus on the point of departure rather than surname. The immigration statistics add an interesting and engaging presentation of the many different countries that migrants to Australia have come from," said the judges.

The Archives' judges also helped select the winner of the Best of Digital Humanities Prize. The $3000 prize was won by Old Folks United for its project "Brisbert". This clever project created a virtual character Old Man Brisbane, who users connect to via his website www.brisbert.com.

Using data from the Queensland Museum and photos from Picture Queensland Old Man Brisbane puts his own spin on the sites of his home town. You can also communicate with the character through his twitter account @brisbert – an auto-generated service that picks up on target words in your communications and responds accordingly.

"BrisBert provides an innovative spin on traditional communications from cultural institutions. The creation of a wise but cranky and funny old man provides an engaging way to encourage new audiences to investigate the hidden data behind characters quip whips. The twitter account is likely to be one of the most innovative story tellers to come out of GovHack 2013," said the judges.

Hack the Evening and Old Folks United were two of 134 teams from around the country to participate in GovHack 2013, which concluded in Canberra yesterday (June 6).  This is GovHack's second year bringing together passionate data specialists to brainstorm ways of improving government services. Entries for GovHack 2013 can viewed at http://hackerspace.govhack.org and www.govhack.org

Contact information

  • Katrina Iffland (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3903 e katrina.iffland@naa.gov.au
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