Penn Libraries to open doors and data to PennApps hackathon

On Friday, September 6, the University of Pennsylvania will host PennApps, the largest student-run hackathon in the world. As part of the event, the Penn Libraries will provide work space for 200 hackathon participants in the newly renovated Special Collections Center. A $500 prize will also be awarded to the team that develops the best app using library data.

William G. Crampton

A bookplate displayed in the Penn Provenance Project, found in a Penn Libraries copy of “A memoir of Charles Mayne Young, tragedian.”

The Libraries’ contribution to the data pool will include data from the Penn Provenance Project, which uses Flickr to crowd-catalog images of bindings, bookplates, labels, inscriptions and stamps of items now in Penn’s rare book collections. The possibilities for revealing useful patterns in collection building—and finding the next big thing–are virtually endless.

John Ockerbloom’s Online Books and Forward to Libraries (FTL) projects will also be in the mix. The Online Books Page is “a website that facilitates access to books that are freely readable over the Internet. It also aims to encourage the development of such online books, for the benefit and edification of all.” FTL is a set of tools which enable one-click Wikipedia -> library catalog transitions. This exciting offshoot of the Online Books project was Boing-ed this summer by Cory Doctorow.

For students who want a sneak peek at these projects, here are some useful links:

Penn Provenance Project
Penn Provenance Project photo sets on Flickr:
Flicker API documentation:
Our Rare Book Cataloging blog, which often highlights these images:

Online Books Page
About the Online Books Page:
How to get the data:
Here’s FTL’s GitHub:
And a post at Everybody’s Libraries (Ockerbloom’s blog) on the Wikipedia functionality:

Data will also be made available from the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts and the Early Novels Database.

Will Noel, Director of the Special Collections Center and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at Penn Libraries, believes that “including library data in the hack pool, and encouraging use of that data through a cash prize, will help introduce computer science students from Penn and around the world to the significance of library data.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter kicks off the event Friday evening with an
opening address. Teams working in the Engineering Quad and in Van Pelt will have until
Sunday morning to conceive, code and polish a web or mobile application, which they
will demonstrate at an expo held in the Palestra from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Judges will select
the top 20 applications to advance to the final round. These teams will face off with
demos in a live event in Irvine Auditorium from 2 to 5 p.m., culminating with an award
ceremony that will distribute at least $25,000 in prizes. The top team will take home

Recently from Apps On Tap…


  1. Reblogged this on Rare Book Cataloging at Penn and commented:
    This post about the PennApps Hackathon is reblogged from the fantastic Apps On Tap site. I was thrilled to see that images and data from the Penn Provenance Project on Flickr are going to be used! The event sounds like great fun and I’m looking forward to learning about all of the cool apps that get developed this weekend!

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