Tweeting 200 years of University of Michigan images

Update 6/27/17: The Bicentennial Bot has been taken offline. 

Joining the celebration of the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial, the University of Michigan Library’s Shapiro Design Lab teamed up with the Library’s Special Collections department , the Bentley Historical Library, and Library Information Technology to launch the Bicentennial Bot, a Twitter bot that automatically and randomly tweets images from the past 200 years of the University’s history. Some of these images come from famous works the Library owns, such as James Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds, one of the first books purchased by the University of Michigan, while others come from the many events, conferences, matches, games, and more that have happened at the University since 1817. There’s even been a Harbaugh sighting in one of its initial tweets!

The process of making the bot was pretty straightforward. It utilizes the Twitter API (application program interface), which allows for people to freely create their own applications with Twitter. The initial inspiration for the Bicentennial Bot came from Mark Sample’s DPLA Bot, which automatically tweets out an image from the Digital Public Library of America. Mark made his Python code open source on Github, and Shapiro Design Lab Intern Amy Zhou (a junior majoring in Computer Science) worked with Library Information Technology staff to adapt the code to work with our own system. Next, we identified public domain (meaning no rights restrictions) image collections and generated a spreadsheet with the information you see in the tweet (title, description, and link to it within the catalog) and the URL for the image itself. Finally, Rob McIntyre, Roger Espinosa, Kat Hagedorn and the Architecture and Engineering group from Library-IT wrapped it all together and set it happily tweeting away.