MCN 2016 PREVIEW: ALL THAT JAZZ!

View from MCN2015 Ignite stage

Every year, the MCN conference evolves in response to feedback from the community. This year, we dug into several years of MCN’s attendance data, and discovered that as many as 50% of attendees are new to the conference annually. Wow! This prompted us to rethink our assumptions about how knowledgeable attendees are when they arrive. As a result, we’re trying to be more deliberate about the information we provide, to help ensure everyone–whether new or a long-time attendee–gets the most out of their experience. So here are some of program highlights for New Orleans:

 

First Timer’s Session: Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Are you an MCN newbie?  Be sure  to attend our first-timer’s session to meet new people, and learn everything you need to know to make your first MCN awesome. We loved the first-timer’s session that Emily Lytle-Painter and Margaret Collerd Sternbergh ran at Museums and the Web 2016. It’s time for a similar event at MCN!

Meet the MCN 2016 Scholars! Lightning Talks, Friday AM.

Every year, MCN offers scholarships to 15 qualified applicants from the cultural sector to attend our annual conference. These individuals are chosen based on their ability to demonstrate a serious interest in MCN, explain how they will contribute to MCN community, and their involvement in exciting or innovative #musetech projects.  Scholars are asked to add to the conference experience by capturing important ideas and themes that develop during sessions and events. This year, for the first time, you’ll also have a chance to hear directly from our Scholars about their exciting work during a series of Lightning Talks.

MCN Professional Development Sessions

One of MCN’s strategic priorities is to better accommodate professionals at different stages in their careers. This year, the Program will include a few short “professional development” sessions that will bring together seasoned, mid-career, and emerging professionals to discuss topics related to professional development.  One session will feature tips on presenting at MCN.  Speed networking will also be returning as part of this new thematic track.

We will also have a session addressing how the conference is put together, including insights into what makes proposals stand out. Come along if you’re interested in putting together a proposal for future years, or want to get involved with the Program Committee.

Speak Up! MCN Discussion spaces

We have access to two great rooms away from the main conference hall that make perfect discursive spaces, so we’re going to use these for explicitly intimate or discussion-based sessions. We are not programming these rooms at all times, since we don’t want too much competition during sessions, but we will use them when appropriate.

This is also where we can make room for your conversations. Stay tuned for more details about how you can use or book these spaces for your emergent discussions.

MCN Annual Meeting

Join the MCN Board of Directors for our annual business meeting. This is a great chance for MCN members and other interested conference attendees to hear the latest about the organization from MCN’s leaders. Following brief presentations, there will be time for your questions to the MCN Board.

SIG Meetings

After consultations with the Special Interest Group (SIG) Chairs, we heard that many of the SIGs would like an opportunity for a formal business meeting at the conference. We have blocked off time for these important community discussions.

Other Changes to the Program

We heard your feedback from MCN 2015 that our case study format didn’t work particularly well, so these sessions will now be in 30 minute blocks of paired case studies. Additionally, we received so many wonderful proposals that we’re extending by an hour on the final day to fit a few more in.

All-time Favorite Events

Of course, the program still includes many of your favorite sessions, such as Ignite MCN, and our keynote in conversation with plenary speaker Catherine Bracy. Get ready to dive into a living collection at our reception at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Rejuvenate your motivation while rubbing elbows with MCN newcomers, oldtimers, and otters!

Still want more?

We’re pleased to support the Cultural Heritage and Social Change Summit, taking place just after MCN 2016 and hosted by Southern University at New Orleans MA Museum Studies Program. The Summit invites delegates from across the cultural heritage fields in a two-day unconference to dig deeper into issues of cultural equity and move toward collaborative and concrete strategy. There is a separate registration and application process for the Summit, which can be found at http://chscsummit.net.

 

This is just a taste of what you can expect at MCN 2016 this November. The draft timetable will be online next week, and we look forward to bringing you more updates as the conference gets closer.


Suse Cairns, Jennifer Foley, & Trish Oxford

Program Co-Chairs

MCN 2016 Conference

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The Ultimate Mixtape: Putting Together the #MCN2016 Program

Post it notes with MCN 2016 session proposals written on them.

This week, we sent out acceptances for the MCN 2016 conference program. Whew!

The overall quality of proposals was exceptionally high this year and we are so excited about all the sessions we have lined up. That being said, due to the high number of proposals we received (nearly 300), we have unfortunately had to reject a high number of proposals, so we wanted to provide some insight into the evaluation and selection process.

How it all starts…

The Program Committee is made up of 28 people, each bringing a different perspective from across the sector. Every proposal was assigned for review by three Program Committee members with relevant professional expertise on the topic. Evaluators were asked to provide feedback in three ways:

  1. A recommendation about whether the session was a “must have,” “nice to have,” “ok,” or “not suitable.”
  2. Number-based ratings on a series of criteria, such as relevance to the conference theme and the session’s potential to contribute to the museum sector.
  3. Additional descriptive comments to contextualize ratings, including recommendations to the Program Co-Chairs about things that could improve the proposal.

Putting the program together

Once all of the proposals were reviewed by the Committee, the Program Co-Chairs spent an entire weekend locked in a hotel room putting the first draft of the program together. (This involved a lot of Post-It notes!) Each session’s name was written on a Post-It showing its overall rating, and the three descriptive tags its owner included with the submission.

Our first job was to look for the top-ranking proposals from all of the session types (workshops, case studies, presentations, and professional forums). Then, each session was reviewed to ensure that the comments and recommendations supported the high rankings. From there, the process became a little more complex. We looked at topic representation. Were key topics areas covered? Were there any redundancies? We also considered the diversity of presenters. We wanted a good mix of speakers, including first timers and more experienced presenters, small museums, non-art museums, and sessions that included a gender mix. Next, we looked to include topics relevant to each Special Interest Group (SIG), prompting us to reach out to some SIGs with follow-up questions. In response to the Committee’s comments, we reached out to some of the proposers to ask whether they would be willing to edit a few things. Finally, we assigned sessions to time slots and to conference rooms in the hotel, looking for ways to get the most out of every minute possible.

Getting excited for an inspiring conference in November

This process took around three weeks, leading up to sending acceptance emails on Tuesday morning. Ultimately, the Chairs trusted the qualified opinions of the Program Committee. When tough decisions had to be made, we returned to the language of the original proposals in question and evaluated their merit for ourselves. Each Program Co-Chair brought her own partialities and priorities, but all decisions sprung from open and generative discussions about what kind of experience we wanted to create for attendees. Our goal was to build a challenging and surprising compilation of sessions with real world applications that would, together, create an inspiring conference. We think MCN 2016 is going to be exactly that, and we cannot wait to share the full program with you soon.

If you did receive an offer to the Program, please confirm your acceptance by June 20. If your session was not selected, and you’d like feedback, please contact us at program@mcn.edu. We’ll also be running a short session at the Conference on how the Program Committee works, including some trends we noticed amongst the strongest proposals. Please come if you’d like to learn more or want to register your interest in being part of the MCN 2017 Program Committee.

Thank you to all the members of the MCN 2016 Program Committee for the hard work they’ve done to guide us in shaping the MCN 2016 Program.

Suse Cairns, Jennifer Foley, & Trish Oxford

Program Co-Chairs

MCN 2016 Conference

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