Heads up! Limited Early Bird tickets this year

This year we are changing our Early Bird ticket allotment to make it more predictable.

Starting with MCN 2018, only a limited number of Early Bird tickets will be available.

Predicting conference attendance is difficult and affects MCN’s ability to make reliable financial projections. One of the ways we believe we can have a better handle on this is by limiting the number of Early Bird tickets available.

Registration opens on June 28 with 150 Early Bird tickets up for grabs on a first-come, first-served basis until sold out or July 31, whichever comes first.

MCN remains committed to providing the best conference experience your money can buy at a price point we can all live with (conference fees). We look forward to seeing you in Denver in November.

Eric Longo, Executive Director

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Humanizing the … Proposal Submission Process?

Laramie Square, Denver

Denver awaits!

 

April is almost here, which means the Call for Proposals for the MCN 2018 annual conference in Denver is just around the corner! Some of you may already be thinking about what you’d like to present in November but also, and perhaps just as important, what you’d like to hear from your peers.

In his post How Might We last month, Greg Albers asked us all to consider:

How Might We make each session unique?

This question led us to make some changes to the Call for Proposal process, which we’re sharing with you below.

Click on each of the items below to read more about the changes we’ve made to the program and the proposal process.

Making Tracks

Over the years, many of you have repeatedly asked for an easier way to search the program, and specifically, an easier way to find the sessions that interest you. We listened.

This year, we’re introducing two changes. First, we no longer ask you to tag your own proposal from a list of 25 keywords. Instead, the Program Committee will do this during the review process. Second, we’re introducing four tracks that essentially represent the various practice areas currently covered by MCN’s Special Interest Groups:

  • Content
  • Strategy
  • Systems
  • Experience

Simplifying the tagging process to these 4 tracks will make navigating the conference program and identifying the sessions you want to attend easier.

Speaking of SIGs … MCN now counts 11 SIGs that are active year-round. Because of the work they do and the discussions they have around their respective practice area, SIGs are a great resource for all of you to tap into, even if you belong to a few of them, or none at all. We encourage all of you to reach out to our SIGs to discuss ideas about possible sessions or topics and for suggestions about potential co-presenters.

Which leads to our next item …

Session Formats and Timing

Less is more. This year, you’ll only have 2 options for the duration of your session: a 30 minute session and a 60 minute session. That’s it. No more 15-minute case studies and 90-minute in-depth panels.

A 30-minute session can be a case study about one project or two related projects (with a preference for two presentations from different institutions), or a presentation on a more general discussion of a particular topic. A 30-minute session can have up to three speakers.

We know that the 15-minute case study format did provide an easy entry point for MCN community members wanting to make a brief presentation, so we ask you not to think of this format change as the end of the case study, but as incentive to pair up with another presenter—or, if you don’t have someone in mind, to contact the Program team, jump onto the MCN Slack Channel, or reach out to a SIG to find someone to present with.

A 60-minute session can be a presentation offering a deeper dive into a particular topic, with up to five speakers (note the speaker limit—more on that below), or a “hands-on” technology demonstration with articulated learning outcomes (though not as intense as a half-day workshop). We believe that the five-speaker limit will incentivize discussion and audience participation. Note that all 60-minute sessions will have the option to opt for using Slido for live audience polling and question up-voting during your presentation. You will be required to participate in an online demo during the summer if you wish to use Slido in your session.

Our traditional Tuesday half-day workshops remain part of the program.

And the same holds for our popular Ignite talks, a series of five-minute, 20-slide presentations, which traditionally kicks off the conference on Tuesday night; click here for video of last year’s talks and also visit Koven Smith’s 2017 blog post on submitting an Ignite proposal. Also, we’ll make sure the location of the Ignite venue offers more opportunities to meet and congregate with your fellow MCNers when the event concludes.

Finally, we’re continuing with last year’s wide-open, “other format” proposals—you’re welcome to suggest a session like last year’s popular Green Room, #MCNergy, Listening Lounge, and “Slow Change” silent disco. (You can read more about this innovative format here.) This is not, however, a pass to propose a longer version of a 60-minute session. Think hard about what a longer-timed session will accomplish and what kind of set-up you will require. A single session can’t easily be granted consecutive blocks of time in the same space. Be persuasive! Note that “other format” proposals can involve a larger number of participating presenters, but please discuss with the Program team ahead of time.

New Voices and New Takes on Current Ideas

How Might We” also asked us to consider:

How might we ensure new ideas don’t crowd out important fundamentals and big thinking doesn’t replace hands-on skills?

Regarding the proposals themselves, we are trying to further open up the sessions for presentations by attendees who haven’t spoken before, as well as emphasizing new perspectives on important topics which we hear about every year. We’ll be asking during the submission process if proposers have presented on this topic before, and how often speakers have presented at MCN in the past. Please don’t think of this as a limit as much as a call for expanding the horizons of our discussions. Come up with unique takes and bring in current trends on issues of interest to all. Think hard about what your proposal is really adding to the reflection on your topic.

If we haven’t heard from you at MCN, we want to hear from you! We’re asking MCN veterans and newbies alike to reach across the experience aisle and bring people who haven’t presented often to the stage. For newcomers, propose sessions on what you want to learn and hear about. Use social, or SIGs, or even contact the Program chairs if you’d like help in building a team for a proposal with new people and new ideas, whether it’s hands-on approach that’ll give attendees new skills they can take back to their institutions, or a deep dive into issues that are bedeviling the field. Think about the problems that you want solved—chances are, there’s someone out there in the community who would love to get involved and join you.

Now, about that submission process … 

Some Tough Love on Submitting (and Changing) Proposals

Last year we received 205 proposals, and while it’s a joy getting so much input and participation from the community, too many proposals were submitted in various stages of incompleteness: some showed “speakers TBD” or speakers were listed in the wrong field, some were missing short or long abstracts, others didn’t list the session leader and co-presenters correctly, others were missing bios or emails for speakers, which made contacting session participants more difficult.

While we understand that submitting a conference proposal is often time-consuming, reviewing incomplete proposals makes our job much harder: remember that Program Committee members are volunteers.  

So, this year we’ll start to require more complete information on speakers as well as a single 200-word abstract. (No more information TBD!) In addition, sessions cannot be contingent on data or community case studies still to be performed. This year, all submissions will be vetted before the review process begins, and submissions deemed incomplete will be returned to the session proposer, who will have up to 72 hours to re-submit, at which point the deadline will be final and any proposals still incomplete will not be considered.  

We will, however, allow editing of submitted proposals before the Call closes on April 30. In addition, after acceptances are sent out in June, all requests for changes to sessions will have to be made via a Google Form, not by email. These requests will be reviewed within 48 hours by the Program Team.  

Speakers for accepted sessions will have until the end of June to confirm acceptance and until the end of August to join MCN and register for the conference (except for US government federal employees). We understand that your ability to register may be dependent on your institution’s funding, and that timing often fluctuates, but speakers not registered by that date will not be able to participate in the session.

But it’s not all about rules. We’re also serious about your professional development. “How Might We” also invited us to consider:

How might we help speakers become better teachers and also partners in the success of the conference?

Workshop presenters will be asked to indicate their previous experience level at teaching workshops, and will need to provide a detailed agenda. All accepted workshop presenters will be required to participate (sometime over the summer) in an online training session designed to refine your skills as a workshop leader. Remember, workshops are optional—they cost more for attendees to register and often require they spend an extra day at the conference. As such, MCN needs to ensure that workshops deliver the value and quality attendees should expect.

Look for ideas and teaching tips in the coming months for presenters in regular conference sessions as well. MCN will continue to support all our presenters between now and November.

All presenters for accepted sessions will be required to read and sign the Presenters Guidelines, which have been updated to reflect the changes mentioned in this post. Please read it carefully before you submit a proposal as it answers many questions you might have about the conference. Reading it closely may help you avoid panicked questions later! There will be a quiz and prizes!

A Word on the “Chatham House” Rule

All sessions during MCN’s annual conference areby defaultaudio-recorded, supported by an open social media policy. However, we understand that, in the interests of open dialogue, some session organizers might wish for anonymity. This year, you’ll have the option to check a box next to Chatham House rule to indicate that you prefer anonymity for your session. By capturing that preference in the submission process, MCN will also be able to indicate that preference in the online and printed program; later requests can be made using the Session Changes form. Session leaders will need to clearly let their attendees know, at the start of their session, just what this means.

So Get Your Proposals Ready … 

By making these changes to the call for proposals process, we wanted to address many of the issues and suggestions from the feedback you gave us on previous conferences. Ultimately, we hope you’ll find they translate into a better conference experience for all of us. The point, after all, is not only these three or four days in November, but the year-round contributions we all make to the field and the community of ideas and mission we all share. Please let us know your thoughts and your questions, on the submissions process or any topic at all, at any time by writing to program@mcn.edu. And we hope to see your proposals soon!

Your Program Team
Robert Weisberg, Catherine Devine, and Adrienne Lalli Hills, co-chairs

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How Might We: Some Questions We’re Asking for MCN 2018

Denver skyline at dusk

With our Program Co-chairs in place, and our Program Committee filled, work on MCN 2018 has begun in earnest. In fact, one of our first steps began soon after MCN 2017 concluded in Pittsburgh: we took stock of the previous year’s conference by talking to the staff and community members who made it happen and reviewing the post-conference survey that more than 200 of you so generously and thoughtfully completed.

From that, we’ve tried to distill some key takeaways. This year, taking a page out of the design thinking playbook, we’ve expressed them as How Might We questions that the program staff, co-chairs, committee, volunteers and conference participants will be able to come back to and answer anew throughout the next nine months. The phrasing of How Might We questions is designed to elicit creative thinking and open responses and move us toward actionable steps. The MCN leadership team has discussed some possible answers which we’ll roll out over the next few months as the conference starts to take shape.

Of course, reviewing the previous conference is only one of the many aspects of the work involved in putting together the conference program every year. The Program Committee—a group of about 40 professionals representing disciplines and institutions across the sector—is already working on a theme and will shortly begin to identify possible keynote speakers. Program co-chairs and conference planners will soon visit the Denver conference site, and meetings and calls and Basecamp messages are flying at a furious rate. We’re also going to be taking a fresh look at some MCN staples like Ignite and workshops, as well as evaluating some recent additions like innovative “other format” sessions and pop-ups. And we’ll continue to evolve the call for proposals, which will open in April.

There’s a lot to look forward to this year, and a lot to do to make it happen. In the end, there’s really one question that drives it all: How might we make it your MCN?

Our Key Questions for MCN 2018:

  • How might we make the most of the spaces at the conference and turn challenging physical limitations into networking and learning opportunities?
  • How might we help speakers become better teachers and also partners in the success of the conference?
  • How might we make each session unique?
  • How might we ensure new ideas don’t crowd out important fundamentals and big thinking doesn’t replace hands-on skills?
  • How might we make space for the introverted and the newcomer, for reflection and rejuvenation?
  • How might we manage the deluge of communications in the months before the conference?
  • How might we help speakers share their presentations beyond the session walls?

We encourage the MCN community to discuss, comment, and expand upon these questions and answers, to make this part of a conversation that will lead to a constantly learning and improving conference this and every year. We can’t do it without you—it’s your MCN!

Greg Albers, MCN board member and program liaison
Robert Weisberg, Catherine Devine, and Adrienne Lalli Hills, Program co-chairs

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Welcome our new conference co-chair, Rob Weisberg!

Post by Program co-chair, Trish Oxford

 

Jennifer Foley and I are excited to announce that Rob Weisberg will be our newest Program Co-Chair for #MCN2017! This year, in addition to developing the conference theme, call for proposals, program structure, and creative events, the Program Committee will also ensure that MCN’s 50th anniversary gets recognized and celebrated in Pittsburgh during MCN2017 itself. Our Co-Chairs will explore how MCN has impacted our community over the past 50 years and how we will carry on this spirit of innovation into the future! Rob comes to the team with a wealth of ideas, energy, and enthusiasm.  Please join me in welcoming him to the team! If you haven’t yet been in touch, but are interested in helping shape the future of the annual conference, we’d love to hear from you. All ideas are welcome. Please write to program@mcn.edu

Meet Rob, MCN2017 Program Co-Chair

Robert Weisberg headshotRob is Senior Project Manager in the Publications and Editorial Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His experience before The Met was in journalism and publishing production, so he appreciates the many paths people take before ending up in the museum field. Rob worked on hundreds of Met printed exhibition and collection catalogues until the past few years when he helped reboot the museum’s label program, as well as participated in several print-digital hybrid projects. He’s always tried to mediate and translate between different museum and workplace cultures and styles; he considers discrediting false dichotomies in the museum field — visitor-focused or collection-focused, print or digital, slow or fast, creative or organized, agile or deliberative — to be his calling. He blogs about museums and organizational culture at robertjweisberg.com. Rob has been a temporary New Yorker for 25 years and lives in New York City with his real-New-Yorker wife.

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#MCN2017 Program Committee: We Want You!

A panorama shot of MCN 2016 Ignite at the House of Blues, New Orleans

At your institution…

Do you design beautiful digital publications or geek out on microcontrollers and circuits? We want you.

Do you get your kicks from collaborating through interpretive media or crunching data to inform your museum’s digital strategy? We want you.

Do you work in a department 2 or 200? We want you.

The MCN2017 Program Committee is seeking 40 museum professionals, each bringing a different perspective from across the sector.  This committee will play a significant role shaping this year’s conference Nov. 7-10 in Pittsburgh.

 

What does the Program Committee do?

Through online discussions, the Program Committee is a think tank that determines the most important themes and trends in the field, identifies new programming opportunities, and brainstorms possible speakers. Most significantly, members are the backbone of the conference proposal evaluation process.

In May, after the close of MCN’s Call for Proposals, individual proposals are assigned for evaluation to Program Committee members with relevant professional expertise on the topic. Evaluators are asked to provide feedback through a formalized process. Members are given 10-14 days to complete their evaluations. Next, the Program Co-Chairs assemble the conference schedule primarily based on the committee’s feedback.    

This year is a special year for MCN! #MCN50
In Pittsburgh, MCN2017 will celebrate MCN’s 50th anniversary! Honoring the organization’s work to advance digital transformation in museums, our “Dream Team” Program Committee will represent as many as possible of the following expertise:

  • Digital Education
  • Interpretive Media
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Informational Technology (IT)
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM)
  • Social Media
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Media Production & Branding
  • Leadership & Strategy
  • Data and Insights
  • Digital Imaging
  • Intellectual Property
  • Publishing
  • Experience Design
  • Digital Storytelling

We are actively seeking a diversity of organizations including, but not limited to:

  • Science Museums, Zoos, and/or Aquariums
  • Art Museums and Centers
  • Natural History Museums
  • Historic Houses
  • Libraries
  • Archives  

We are also looking to include representation of small, international, and academic institutions.

If you are interested in helping us rock Pittsburgh, send an email to program@mcn.edu describing your interest. Please include a link to your LinkedIn profile or resume/CV attached.

Deadline: Tuesday, January 31st

-Trish Oxford & Jennifer Foley

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My first MCN event, not my last!

Guest post by MCN 2016 Scholar, Andrea Ledesma

MCN 2016 attendees take part in Ignite at the House of Blues, New Orleans

I’d have been crazy to turn down a week in New Orleans. And, when that week promises days filled with talks of museums, tech, and a little karaoke…well, I packed my bags as early as June.

This November, I attended MCN 2016 as an MCN Scholar. I didn’t know what to expect. Admittedly, I was a little nervous, hanging with museum professionals, many of whom I admired on Twitter, in blogs, and other niches of the Internet.  

MCN 2016 was all about the “human-centered museum.” This theme inspired an array of presentations, from web design to oral history, apps to activism. I attended as many as I could, and looking back I found myself returning to a number of my own central questions.

First, who is the human at the center of this museum? We threw around a lot of names during the week:


30191898703_60df804abe_z
Visitors

Participants

Users

Collaborators

Citizens

Superheroes

Friends

 

These categories are not mutually exclusive, nor are they restricted to folks outside the museum. We and our publics embody each, and this changes our expectations of and responsibilities to the museum. What I learned from the conference is that discerning between each is a matter of empathy. We need to ask ourselves how we see each other and ourselves in the museum and the community at large.

Second, what makes data meaningful? David Newburry’s ignite talk had me cheering for linked open data in the middle of the House of Blues. Brian Alpert, Sarah Banks, and Effie Kapsalis from the Smithsonian gave me a crash course in user metrics. I even got really excited metadata (though, I’ve always been a fan). With Andrea Wallace I embraced the public domain as the space in which we “let our imagination run wild.” Good data, at the very least, is clean and accessible, growing and stable, transparent and interpretive.

Finally, what does it mean to be a cultural worker in the digital age? I’m currently pursuing an MA in Public Humanities. I focus on the use of technology in museums and cultural institutions, with an emphasis on new media theory and public history. I’m also graduating in May. So, this conference was as much about creative exploration as it was professional development. I appreciated not only the sessions like speed networking but also the honest conversations about labor. Elissa Frankle talked about “radical trust.” While we talk about trusting publics, centering their perspectives and insight when (co)creating content, designing experiences, etc., institutions must also apply this principle within. How can we recognize and nurture the talent of our colleagues? How can create we culture of risk (without blame or fear of reproach) that ultimately makes for better, more exciting work?

I’m still coming down from my MCN 2016 high, finding myself craving another beignet and reminded of conference panels in the middle of class. Thank you to the MCN Scholarship Committee for this amazing experience.

This was my first MCN event, but it surely won’t be my last.

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Experiencing the MCN Experience

By MCN 2016 Scholar, Luc Desmarais (@MuseoLuc), Exhibits & Design Manager, Beaty Biodiversity Museum (beatymuseum.ubc.ca)

What a week! This was my first time at the MCN conference, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the generous opportunity provided by the MCN Scholarship program. It was an honour to receive the scholarship, and very humbling to be included amongst the other incredible scholars.

After having some time to digest the experience (and the deep-fried everything), what I’m left with is the sense that now I’m part image01 of something bigger than I expected. It’s the feeling of spending a few days with new people, and now suddenly you’re part of the family. The community of MCN is what stood out to me from the start. It’s welcoming, warm, cozy, and inclusive. And I like it. These are my people. That’s my biggest take away from the week, as much as anything I learned in the sessions. My first MCN conference was an introduction to the family and an amazing opportunity to network and make connections. As the Canadian cousin no one had heard of before showing up to dinner, I felt welcomed and included. There was a seat for me, and everyone else, at the table.

The theme of “The Human Centered Museum” rang loudly throughout all of the conference sessions, and that is what inspires me going back to work. The traditional top-down model of operating a cultural organization is over. There’s no top; there’s no bottom. It’s us, standing with the visitor and the community, working together. Their stories are the future of museums. Talk to your visitors, build empathy, and have conversations. This is how we can be successful.

By the way, New Orleans is awesome. How many different marine invertebrates can you batter and deep fry? I’m not sure, but I image02think I ate most of them. As a musician and music lover, I was excited to see what the city had to offer and I wasn’t disappointed. The city is alive with music, and the best of it is found on the street. I was also lucky enough to catch a show at Preservation Hall, which was an experience I’ll never forget. Talk about the “open jaw of awe”!

Finally, the most eye-opening experience came on my last day in New Orleans. I visited the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum and was amazed at what they have accomplished. How often do we get to go to a museum where you are literally stepping into the story? The building, the neighbours, the people on the street, are all part of the story that the museum is telling. This brought the MCN conference experience full circle for me. There are no frills; there’s nothing fancy. It works because the roots of this museum are the people and their stories, and it created one of the most memorable museum experiences of my life.

What’s more human-centered than that?

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(photo by Mairin Kerr)

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Lights, Lights, Overstimulation

Guest post by MCN 2016 Scholar, Emily Haight – Digital Editorial Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

As a scholarship recipient, presenter, and first-timer to MCN I didn’t know what to expect. What I experienced was four days of non-stop information overload. (It’s a good thing.) Here are a few of my highlights:

emily-haight-toppicstitch

During the week, I ventured to Port of Call to indulge in a half-pound of “New Orleans’ Best Hamburger.” (Not pictured is the side of baked potato that came with the burger. I kid you not.) I stopped by Café du Monde for beignets (twice) and visited the World War II Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Newcomb Art Museum’s exhibition of art by Australian Aboriginal women.

 

emily-haight-img_15231My first session was the half-day workshop “Beginner Hacking–Wearables” led by Chris Evans. Using a microcontroller, NeoPixels, ping pong balls, and a soldering iron, I constructed a light-up feature to clip on to my conference nametag. Diffused color-changing lights ensured that I would be obnoxiously visible in large crowds.

During several sessions I was too awestruck to tweet. I furiously scribbled notes about the Art Gallery of NSW’s artist profiles to delve into after the conference. I was blown away learning about the development of SFMOMA’s audio guide app with Detour, and—in a later session—captivated by their online content strategy (and confident adoption of fair use policies).

 

emily-haight-2016-11-15-13_38_00-twitterAs a social media manager, I was eager to pick up a few ideas from presentations about social platforms. I let out gut-busting laughs during “Disappearing Content: Snapchat and Instagram Stories” and was captivated by five case studies illustrating the criteria for participatory campaigns, including #GettyInspired and #Spunday.

On the last day, I presented a case study with my colleague, “Can You Name #5WomenArtists? A Viral Campaign for Women’s History Month” and bolted afterward for lightning talks with my fellow scholars.

 

 

Temily-haight-mcnstitch1wo off-site events during the conference added to the experience. The Ignite reception at the House of Blues and the gathering at the Audubon Aquarium also allowed me to see more of the city—and spend some quality time with my scholar cohort!

 

 

Overall, I felt inspired and empowered by each of the presentations I attended. MCN provided a fantastic opportunity to meet people that I had previously only known virtually, share ideas with them, and plan for future collaborations.

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