MCN: It’s all about the people

Ben Fast (@benfaster),

Programs & Member Services Coordinator, BC Museums Association

 

 

MCN is all about the people. Dont get me wrong, the learning experiences available from the remarkably diverse sessions and the fun times visiting local museums and galleries are great, but it all comes down to who you meet.

From Day 1 it was easy to tell that MCN was centred on the people. Whether they knew you or only sort of knew you (hey, I know you from Twitter), MCN attendees were friendly and welcoming.

As a first timer from north of the border, sitting down with or taking an elevator with people from the Guggenheim, Smithsonian, or Getty (who each have staff larger than most BC towns) provided great opportunities to talk museums and learn about new trends from the people at the cutting edge. They are the gods of the Twittersphere, those names you see on blogs and that you think must be so much smarter and more capable than you. Or who at least have bigger budgets.

Being an MCN Scholar gave me the opportunity to meet these people who seemed so distant from my experience and professional context. It was the people themselves, however, whose genuine interest and friendliness revealed more commonalities and shared passions than I ever believed possible. And they sing just out of tune at karaoke, who knew?!

The 2017 MCN Scholar group was no different, 14 other museum professionals whose passion and innovation astounded me but whose friendliness helped create what Im sure will become long-lasting professional connections.

As an MCN Scholar, I also had the chance to meet with many MCN Board members whose encouragement and interest made us Scholars feel like an important part of the conference.  Thank you for supporting us in our presentations—it was great to see some of you in the crowd—and for supporting this meaningful scholarship.

At MCN we met our idols, we made our friends, and we were inspired.  And yes: we will be back!

Some MCN Scholars (and Marilyn Monroe) toasting MCN’s 50th at the Andy Warhol Museum.

Some MCN Scholars (and Marilyn Monroe) toasting MCN’s 50th at the Andy Warhol Museum.

 

The 2017 MCN Scholars meeting up for our first (of many) group photos. It was great to have a group of like-minded first-timers who also had to present and were also loving every minute of conference!

The 2017 MCN Scholars meeting up for our first (of many) group photos. It was great to have a group of like-minded first-timers who also had to present and were also loving every minute of conference!

 

Getting ready for our MCN Scholar Lightning Talks. Our group was so large we needed to rotate through the presenters’ table, but it made it look like there were lots of keep attendees right up in the front row. Can you spot some MCN staff and board members in the background? Thank you for coming and hearing our presentations - it was great to have your support!

Getting ready for our MCN Scholar Lightning Talks. Our group was so large we needed to rotate through the presenters’ table, but it made it look like there were lots of keep attendees right up in the front row. Can you spot some MCN staff and board members in the background? Thank you for coming and hearing our presentations – it was great to have your support!

 

Celebrating the end of our MCN scholarship talks with a trip to the Mattress Factory’s 40th anniversary party. Here some of us are in a roof selfie in the Kusama exhibit. Thanks MCN for putting us friends together and offering us such interesting cultural experiences too!

Celebrating the end of our MCN scholarship talks with a trip to the Mattress Factory’s 40th anniversary party. Here some of us are in a roof selfie in the Kusama exhibit. Thanks MCN for putting us friends together and offering us such interesting cultural experiences too!

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Eye Opening Inspiration

By Kat Quigley, (@kathryncquigley)

Senior Producer and New Media Lead, Lawrence Hall of Science

 

 

Attending MCN this year as a Scholar was not what I expected—and that’s because I really didn’t know what to expect. MCN 2017 was my first time attending a museum conference of any kind. Although I’ve been working at a museum for 5+ years, my work has mainly focused on our science curriculum efforts. In the last six months I’ve been shifting to the museum floor and when the MCN Scholarship opportunity came on my radar, I jumped at the chance to learn more.

My first impression of the conference was just how down-to-earth and friendly everyone was. The senior level people I sat next to at my Tuesday workshop Digital Storytelling for Museums  made a point to introduce themselves and make me feel welcomed. I was also struck by the depth of community that’s been grown. By day two, MCN felt familiar—the closest thing I can compare it to was the feeling I had going away to summer camp as a kid. I even sang with two other MCN folks at an open mic one night! But if MCN is camp, then it’s a camp full of genius do-gooders ready to tackle systemic problems and questions with the gusto that makes me think real change is actually possible.

Left to right: Ben Fast, Kat Quigley, Jessica Miller

Left to right: Ben Fast, Kat Quigley, Jessica Miller

Finally, I really couldn’t get over how directly relevant so many of the sessions were to the exact projects I had waiting back home on my desk. For example, I am working with a group of UC Berkeley students on making a VR learning simulation about fin whales…there was a session License to Krill where the Royal Ontario Museum shared their experience making video game about blue whales! Even the things that seemingly didn’t relate to my particular work stream, like chatting with businesses helping with museum asset management, were eye opening and helped me get a more holistic picture of the museum ecosystem.

I came to MCN a little nervous and slightly pessimistic about my career options and left with new friends and a fresh perspective on the museum world. A few weeks out and I am still glowing with gratitude for the opportunity to experience this wonderful community and hope to continue for years to come.

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MCN 2017 PoC Dinner

By Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler (@musarian)

 

MCN took a bold step forward this year with three African American speakers, two of them women, on stage to keynote the conference discussing race and equity. Woah. See, lots of people talk the talk, but this year MCN wove the themes of reconciliation and equity throughout the conference. A group of attendees also made progress in the field, although perhaps less visibly to the outside world.

Like so many things at MCN, this started on Twitter.

A few weeks before the conference, Karen Vidángos posted about being nervous and excited to attend her first MCN. Several people replied about the comradery of the conference and not being scared to say hello. I jumped in and said I’d like to meet some of those in the thread; several were fellow people of color (POC) whose work I admire. This was the beginning of the best part of MCN 2017 for me.

nikhil trivedi had the wisdom to turn that Twitter thread into dinner plans after MCN Ignite. Word spread. Nine people, who for the most part had never before met in person, showed up. Nine minorities. Nine people of color. I saw myself reflected across the table for the first time at a museum conference. I found my tribe.

The group lifted my spirits during exhausting discussions about values, museums, and bringing our whole selves to work. I knew I didn’t have to explain the difficulties of fighting for space in institutions that haven’t welcomed me as a visitor or employee. After introductions at dinner we discussed how museums are not neutral, and it’s time to stop talking about the well-documented issues in the field, and start talking solutions. We committed ourselves to be there for each other.

Lanae Spruce, was “able to shut up and listen to others talk about what they’ve done to increase equity in their institutions, or across their digital projects. It felt good. It gave me hope for the little queer brown girls who will get to see themselves reflected in culture at some of the best museums in the world.”

For nikhil, who has attended MCN since 2012, “connecting with a group of POC museum workers was such a great way to kick off the conference. It created a home base that I carried through the rest of the week. These types of spaces are rare for a lot of us. There have always been other people of color at the conference, but it was amazing having a critical mass enough where we could coordinate something like this.”

Starting the conference this way helped frame so many conversations. It also helped to find familiar faces to support and amplify each other throughout the week. And it gave me hope that enough of us are beyond talking and are truly enacting change, no matter how small. Taking up space and meeting each other is one small step forward.

Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler

 

Thank you to my colleagues and friends who contributed and formed a community.

Andrea Ledesma (@am_ledesma), Andrea Montiel de Shuman (@AndreaMontielS), Ravon Ruffin (@afroxmericana), Mimosa Shah (@mimosaishere), Tina Shah (@tshah), Lanae Spruce (@_BlackMuses), nikhil trivedi (@nikhiltri), Karen Vidángos (@latinainmuseums), Amelia Wong (@amelialikespie)

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More Than a Conference: A Place that Informs, Engages, and Inspires a Community

By. Castle Kim (@HelpingCastle)

Doctoral Student, iSchool at Florida State University

 

One of my favorite artwork is Irises by Vincent van Gogh, displayed at J. Paul Getty Museum. What I love most about the painting is the story behind it. Van Gogh did not truly ‘complete’ the painting, for him the painting was a study. A work that he could immerse himself to inform, engage, and inspire within, much like what I’ve experience at MCN this year.

Irises by Vincent van Gogh

Irises by Vincent van Gogh

 

As I was coming to Pittsburgh for MCN2017 there was a lot going through my head. MCN was my first ever academic/professional conference; I would be giving my first conference presentation and doing a 5-minute lightning talk presentation as an MCN Scholarship recipient. On top of it all, I was a little nervous because I’ve had little professional experience in the museum world. Yes, I worked in the education department at Seattle Aquarium, and I want to collaborate with museums in my doctoral studies, but there was a tiny voice in the back of my head that I might not fit in.

 

After attending my first session and the Ignite Reception, I quickly understood what Dr. Marty, my advising professor, told me about MCN—how it is a fun and unique conference. Quickly the tiny voice in my head disappeared. I was actively experiencing MCN—a community of people engaged to inspire each other, to learn from one another, and to strengthen their knowledge, work, and love in museums. From the buffet of sessions I’ve attended, the museum information technology professionals I’ve networked with, and the conversations I had with other MCN Scholars made me realize I was not an outsider. I had a voice. I was part of a larger community asking questions that supported each other. We were concerned about our messages, resources, collections, education outreach, and how to connect with people through emerging technologies. As I shared my study interest of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and user-generated content to the MCN community, I felt the support and validation in the work I am doing.

A favorite learning moment came as an unexpected surprise during “All Roads Lead to the Bathroom: Human Needs Paving the Way to Awesome Digital Experiences” session led by Elissa Frankle Olinsky. By adapting Abraham Maslow’s human motivation triangle, Elissa reminded us with museum user experience design that it is important to address visitors’ physical needs, such as bathroom locations. Most importantly, telling the visitors that “you cannot fail a museum.” I think it is same with research. As a researcher, I need to make sure that my research is not about people failing but about the people helping me make things better.

Frankle's hierarchy of Visitor Needs

 

MCN is no ordinary conference or an organization, it is something more. MCN is a collection of individuals that are part of a community of practice to inform the users, engage professionals, and inspire a community. Like van Gogh’s Irises, MCN isn’t perfect or complete, but the 50 years of co-evolution with its members and community shows vividly.

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Looking for MCN 2018 Program co-chairs!

Hello, MCNers!

I hope everyone has had the opportunity to Look Back at a great MCN 2017 and 50 years of MCN history in the amazing MCN50 Voices series of interviews, Take Action at their institutions and in their communities, and … Think Ahead about MCN 2018.

The past year has been such an amazing experience as one of the Program Co-Chairs, along with Jennifer Foley and Trish Oxford. With Jennifer and Trish stepping down after their two-year terms have concluded, MCN is looking for two people to take their place and, with me, help plan our annual conference in 2018, then taking the lead for 2019.

It’s a lot of work, but you’ll be part of a sizable leadership and management team of MCN colleagues, as well as a field full of people who want to speak at, attend, and contribute to MCN 2018.

Here are 10 highlights of my first year as Co-Chair:

  1. Finding out just how much I already knew about the museum field—and how much there still is to learn.
  2. Working with the committee of local museum technology professionals in our host city and finding out the amazing work being done there.
  3. Crafting the theme, which starts pretty much right away and gets the Program Committee off to a rollicking start.
  4. Developing Keynote speaker(s) ideas, also with the Program Committee. This year we had some innovative ideas and it was great to see them realized.
  5. Calling for proposals in the spring—watching them trickle and then pour in, sending them out to the Program Committee for review, and then working together, with the help of a few hundred sticky notes, to turn them into a program.
  6. The weekly Co-Chair conference call.
  7. The conference itself, of course, which is a very different experience when you see it come together rather than just presenting.
  8. And yet presenting was still a joy.
  9. Developing the “other format” idea and receiving over two dozen proposals beyond the usual case studies, panels, and presentations.
  10. My favorite—being able to say to people, “You should really propose that as a session!”

The official call for Co-Chair applications is below. Applications are due to program@mcn.edu by December 22; I’m happy to answer any and all questions. Thanks,

Rob Weisberg
MCN 2018 Conference Program Chair

Trish Oxford, MCn2017 Program Co-Chair

MCN Program Co-Chair 2018 & 2019
Position Title: Conference Program Co-Chair

Period: 2 years
Start: late January 2018

Commitment: 3-5 hours/week throughout the year, increasing as the conference nears, with milestones in May and September, available full-time during the conference. Available one weekend in late March or early April for a site visit to that year’s conference location (paid for by MCN).

Compensation: the Conference Program Co-Chair is a volunteer role and is therefore not compensated; however, MCN does offer complimentary registration to the annual conference during the year(s) you serve.

Location: MCN’s Annual Conference is a North American based-conference that supports global involvement and has an emerging international following. The successful candidate is required to attend the Conference in person, as well as participate in regular phone or online meetings.

MCN2018 will take place in Denver, November 13–16, 2018, when the location of MCN2019 will be announced.

Deadline for applying: December 22

Description: MCN is looking for two thoughtful, motivated, and dynamic museum professionals to serve as MCN Conference Program Co-Chairs for a two-year term starting in January 2018. This is an opportunity to help shape a major museum technology conference now and in future years, immerse yourself in cutting edge developments in the sector, broaden your networks on a national level, and to gain experience and professional development in event programming.

The Conference Program Co-Chairs provide leadership for the annual MCN Conference, creating the program through the conception and organization of workshops, panels and presentations in many different formats, experimental programs, keynotes, special events, and innovations not yet imagined. With current Conference Program Chair Rob Weisberg, the newly appointed Conference Program Co-Chairs will work as a team to develop an experiential conference program that serves the evolving needs of the MCN community and then serve as lead Conference Program Co-Chairs for the 2019 conference.

The ideal candidate will be passionate about the intersection of museums and technology and interested in developing an innovative conference program featuring proposals from participants from a wide range of institutions, backgrounds, and perspectives. They will be knowledgeable about MCN and the conference, having attended MCN several times in the previous five years. They will have existing networks within the sector, a strong understanding of the issues confronting museums with regards to technology and the practice of digital, and appreciate the challenges facing their colleagues from many different kinds of institutions and departments in the field. They will be active in the museum or cultural technology community and knowledgeable of trusted sources of information, and will be a proactive self-starter and a calm problem-solver with excellent oral and written communication skills. They will be a creative thinker both about big issues and small details, diplomatic under pressure, and ready to learn and adapt over the course of planning this conference.

About MCN: MCN is a nonprofit organization whose core purpose is to foster innovation and excellence by supporting professionals who seek to transform the way their cultural organizations reach, engage, and educate their audiences using digital technologies. We do this by building a community that attracts, nurtures, inspires and sustains exceptional professionals. Learn more.

For further information and a full overview of responsibilities, email program@mcn.edu.

To apply, please send an email articulating why you think you’d be a good fit for this position, and noting any relevant experience to: program@mcn.edu. Please include a CV or link to your LinkedIn profile.

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