This weekend, a team of librarians, graduate students and faculty made history at Rubenstein Library.

At Duke’s first-ever HistoryHackathon—which occurred during a 72-hour period last weekend—undergraduate student teams created collaborative research projects using the collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. A panel of experts will rank the top three projects by Nov. 1 and award cash prizes to the winners. The event was designed to expose undergraduates from all disciplines to the Rubenstein collections and allow them to work with graduate students, faculty and librarians, said Ryan Poe, a history Ph.D. candidate and one of the organizers of the event.

“It’s vertical integration,” Poe said. “You have undergrads and grad [students] and faculty and librarians on the same page trying to do the same thing.”

The 19 participants in the Hackathon worked in teams of three to five on projects involving topics such as the history of medicine and yellow fever, mental asylums in the 19th century, police brutality and militarization in the U.S., tourism through postcards and campus radicalism at Duke.

Poe noted that students were allowed to research any topic they wished and were encouraged to be creative in how they presented the topic.

Project formats included documentaries, posters and websites. One team created a video of insane asylums in the 19th century, which focused on definitions of insanity throughout history and the designs of asylums. Another team designed a website that mapped historical travel to Israel using postcards in the second half of the 20th century, overlaying the postcards with modern images to document changes in the region.

The winners will be announced either Monday or Tuesday next week, Poe said.

Several students noted the benefits of participating in the Hackathon.

Junior Kay Zhang explained that she signed up for the event because she thought it would help her in future academic pursuits.

“I’m really considering doing a senior thesis, and I believe this will be a valuable research experience leading up to that,” she said.

Freshman Maegan Stanley—who plans to major in history—said the Hackathon gave her the opportunity to participate in an activity geared toward her strengths.

An important goal of the event was to help students find topics that interest them, Poe said. By presenting their projects, students are then able to bring exposure to topics that might not be well-known.

“That in itself is an interesting, often powerful project,” he said.

Poe explained that prior to the Hackathon, students knew about the collections in the Rubenstein only through their professors—the event was organized as an additional way to introduce undergraduates to these resources.

“There’s something like 350,000 documents in the Rubenstein. It’s massive,” Poe said.

HistoryHackathon was organized by a steering committee that consists of Rubenstein librarians and graduate students. The committee hopes to continue developing the Hackathon for future iterations, Poe added.

“Not only do we want to help undergraduates realize what’s available to them, but we want to help them [use what’s available], and in doing that, show how creative and smart the Duke undergraduates are,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about, and that’s why we’re all at this one place called a University.”