Global History Hackathons Information

About us

The Global History Hackers are academics, cultural heritage practitioners, custodians, and students who want to enable wider creative engagement with archives, libraries, and museum collections. 

In the "Global History Hackathons" project, we aimed to stir up intellectual excitement for global history and to generate concrete ideas for global history research, teaching, and public engagement.

Our project found hackathons to be a great vehicle for crowdsourcing ideas, developing a proof-of-concept, sharing and combining different kinds of expertise and knowledge, and building confidence levels and tacit skills in a positive environment, across the arts, humanities, and social sciences. 

About our partners

The first venue for the Global History Hackers was the Scottish Business Archive. Subsequent Global History Hackathons have taken place at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of GlasgowGlasgow Museums Resource Centre, the Hunterian Museum, and repeat visits to the Scottish Business Archives. The Global History Hackers have also facilitated hackathons at the Mitchell Library and the Widening Participation Summer School.

We welcome new partners: please contact if you would like to get global history hacking.

What is a hackathon?

“Hackathon” entered the English language in 1999. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a hackathon as “a collaborative computer-programming event, typically lasting several days and involving computer programmers, software developers, and hackers.” Hackathons are frequently associated with copious consumption of caffeine and sugar. “Hacking” in this context means working in teams to physically modify original lines of code or devices with the goal of creating a product or prototype.

Each hackathon is different, but most hackathons share the following characteristics:

  • Intensity, often due to time constraints and the emotion of discovery and creation
  • Team-based organisation, bringing together people with different backgrounds and skill-sets
  • Creativity and problem-solving, typically in a spontaneous and playful way, sometimes called "agile" working
  • Attention to users of a product or solution

We improvised and adapted the hackathon format for historical skills and design, carrying over the intensity, team organisation, creativity, and user-focus of the original format. You can read about what we did and how we did it in the Global History Hackathon Playbook. You can read about some of the intriguing and creative ideas generated by global history hackers in our event blogs.

The Five Golden Rules of Global History Hacking

Rule one: Everyone is a global history hacker

Taking part is about being curious and creative rather than your title, training, or GPA. Expert knowledge or technical ability are highly valued—but so too are fresh perspectives. Hackers gain confidence in expressing their creative ideas within teams and to the group.

Rule two: Global history hacking is accessible

Global history research can be hampered by the cost and difficulty of travel to scattered archives, particularly for people with a disability/chronic health condition, dependents or caring responsibilities, and those facing visa and immigration discrimination. Global History Hackathons empower participants to do global history using locally available data and materials, at minimal cost.

Rule three: Be hands-on (but follow reading room rules)

Global history hackathons involved teams of people working in museum labs and archive reading rooms where it was not possible to physically modify the artefacts, many of which were fragile. Nevertheless, learning is anchored in handling and thinking with material objects.

Rule four: Ask, whose voice, whose story is missing? Why?

Global history hackathons aspired to be inclusive of diverse perspectives, from seeking to amplify “hidden voices” in archival documents and metadata, and to identify the structural forces that worked to silence them; to demanding radical transparency around the provenance of museum objects.

Global history hackers reported discovering “how unavoidable global history is, how easily local history is linked to wider global consequences and events” and built a new appreciation of “global events, exchanges, and structures” from specific sources, linking “small details” to “bigger ones” to grasp at global connections.

Rule five: Be kind, listen to each other, and try to make the world a better place

We would like to thank our partners at University of Glasgow Archives & Special Collections, Glasgow Life/Glasgow Museums, The Hunterian, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow for co-creating the global history hackathons with us. It was fantastic to have your support and enthusiasm. We would also like to thank the University of Glasgow’s Learning & Teaching Development Fund for investing in our project.

Finally, thank you to every Global History Hacker who joined in. You and your ideas were brilliant, and we loved hacking with you.

What people are saying

“I was drawn to this hackathon as a technologist - hackathons are common among computer scientists, but I’d never heard of the idea applied to history. I soon realised that the spirit was very much the same: a small team heroically attempting to deliver something impossible in unrealistic time constraints. […] Although those of us at the hackathon were not technologists, our method turned out to be similar, without having received any lecture on what they call ‘agile workflow’. I think this goes to show that the hackathon spirit transcends boundaries of discipline or industry.” Ivo de Vero, undergraduate student, University of Glasgow

“[I]t was good to be in a team with other people who came from different backgrounds, as we all contributed with a different perspective. I also found that it was not as scary as I thought it might be, as I was the only undergraduate on my team, so that was a positive surprise. I think it gave me confidence, because I felt that I could contribute with something – a feeling that I think was facilitated by the make-up of the team and the openness of the questions.” Undergraduate student, University of Glasgow

“The experience of working in a group environment was fantastic. My experience as a historian is of being alone when it comes to primary research and primary sources. This means I am only ever applying the analytical frameworks that I am drawn to in my own research. Hearing what other historians are thinking about as they turn over the same sources expands my knowledge of different ways to look at sources, and provides a novel experience of working with primary material in a collegiate environment.” Member of the public

“One of the most inspiring and refreshing initiatives in team work and research generation I’ve had the pleasure to engage with.” Tony Pollard, History, University of Glasgow

“The @HistGlobal Hackathons have brought lots to light […]. Encountering archives I hadn’t met before @UofGlasgowASC, taking critical insights through to their conclusion, feeling part of a process, and like my views, everyone’s, mattered and were valued”. Eleanor Capaldi, LEADS, University of Glasgow

“There is so much enthusiasm around the initiative. […] This is a great way for us to see the potential in our collections across many disciplines, and can allow students and researchers to find stimulation where they may not have expected it.” Ross McGregor, Deputy Head of Heritage, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow