Using a Hackathon to Foster a More Open and Innovative Organizational Culture

By     Dec 14, 2012
Former Director of the Walters Art Museum

Gary Vikan

The Walters Art Museum is renowned for its wide-ranging collection of art, from pre-dynastic Egypt to 20th-century Europe. It’s a museum with over 100 years of history, yet they are also becoming known for their forays into the digital world. In 2012, they hosted a hackathon (Art Bytes) – an event that invited folks from the region’s technology and creative communities to the museum to work together for one weekend to build programs and applications inspired by art or to address specific challenges faced by museums. The Walters hoped to gain concrete ideas for improving access to their artwork and new ways to bring to life the works on display. But, they were also looking to use the event to help the organization take on an increased level of openness and engagement.

Gary Vikan, the museum’s director, noted that the hackaton gave the organization something to measure future projects against. Their goal is to not only use this information to create other events like Art Bytes, but to do everything a little differently.

Learning objectives:

To illustrate the power of outside ideas and show how an organization can use an experimental event to help effect a broader shift in their own culture