HAck the archive

Saturday, 24th March, 2018

What was “hack the archive”?

A digital content production and archive hackathon lab project funded by the Arts Council England as part of BMAG’s plan to release an image and sound archive for use by others. Working to ‘hack’ the contents through spoken word, writing and technology responses over a short period of time.

We started with workshops with Beatfreeks: Free Radical and Writing West Midlands which produced around 15 new works, ranging from spoken word and poems to snippets and essays.

We then invited  hackers, technologists, artists and museum enthusiasts to get involved for a day with the writers, where we would build and imagine projects that were  built using the archive as inspiration. These could be for visitors, volunteers, digital or physical purposes.


WWM Workshop

The workshop at BMAG was run by Julia Higginbottom and the wirters were then able to work over the next week on their initial pieces and use them to inspire their team members at the hack day.

Free Radical Workshop

BeatFreeks: Free Radical handpicked a small number of emerging artists for a workshop in the BMAG  This work led to some of those being filmed and performed at the Hack Day.


At the 1 day hack in March, we had 35 attendees ranging from writers, performers to technologist and museum enthusiasts. The worked over the day to plan and prototype or even build some working models.

Archive Assets


New Works

Digital Projects

BMT’s Digital Policy and Plan lays out a vision to release digital assets into the public domain, allowing people to use, remix and repurpose them. BMAG: RMXD is the first step on that road, and I’m excited to see what comes from it! Linda Spurdle

Digital Development Manager, Birmingham Museums Trust

We spoke with Linda Spurdle, Digital Development Manager, about why the Trust is adopting open access policies and what it hopes to achieve.

Link to Article in Europeana

Douglas McCarthy

Collections Manager, Art & Photography, Europeana Foundation

Writing West Midlands Workshop

Writing West Midlands invited a group of regional emerging writers from their Room 204 writer development programme, to take part. Participants were invited to develop new ideas and create new pieces of work in response to the archive (writing across genres).

BeatFreeks: Free Radical Workshop

BeatFreeks: Free Radical handpicked a small number of emerging artists for a workshop in the BMAG .This work led to some of those being filmed and performed at the Hack Day.

RMXD Hackday

Participants were then invited  to share their work as part of a an interdisciplinary Art Hack day, where they were able to collaborate with digital technologists and explore how to develop and share their work using digital mediums. They extended their own skills but also enabled technologists to have content and insights that would have been missing otherwise.

At the end of the event, 12 ideas formulated and presented at the show and tell. These ranged from a twitterbot which used the archive to tweet pictures and writing to a prototype for an archive object that recited words from the writer.


Spoken Word: Dennis

Spoken Word: Hannah

Spoken Word: Funmi

Spoken Word: Sarah

RMXD Trailer
RMXD Hackday Video


Birmingham Museums

The core purpose of Birmingham Museums Trust is to showcase their outstanding collections and venues to inspire learning, creativity and enjoyment.

Free Radical

Free Radical (Beatfreeks Collective) fundamentally believe there is space to craft a new world whilst working to improve the one we haveThat’s why we’ve created a collective of companies using creativity for good; platforms for the art activists and the entrepreneurs..

Rebel Labs

Rebel Labs is a an innovation organisation  run by Comutiny Ltd, and is committed to helping individuals, communities and organisations understand how they can harness the potential of digital to power-up and improve their future.

Writing West Midlands

We support creative writers and creative writing in the West Midlands region. We run workshops, conferences, residencies and networking throughout the year