Third Time’s a Charm

By Samantha NorlingDigital Collections Manager, Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

 

As an early-career archivist I found myself working as a “lone arranger” in an art museum—a setting in which I had no previous experience. Early on, I learned from my colleagues in departments throughout the museum about the many organizations and groups in which museum professionals could get involved. Of these, the Museum Computer Network captured my attention immediately. As colleagues attended MCN each year and reported back on what they saw, heard, and learned about the use of technology in museums, I decided it was time to step out of my archives circle to explore the museum technology world…

 

When you run into an old friend at Ignite, you take a #MCNselfie, obviously.

…three years later, I am happy to say that I finally made it to my first MCN conference, made possible by the MCN Scholar program. After two unsuccessful applications for a scholarship in previous years, I decided to give it a third try in 2017—and boy am I glad I did. Being counted among the 2017 cohort of MCN Scholars is an honor, as everybody brought something unique to both the group of scholars and the conference as a whole—representing different professional and personal backgrounds, areas of expertise, and knowledge—with different goals for what they wanted to get out of and bring to the conference. For me, I traveled to Pittsburgh with the goal of contributing my perspective as an archivist to various conversations happening in the MCN community, particularly to those about the interoperability of LAM data

The conference theme of “Looking Back, Thinking Forward, Taking Action” provided the perfect framework for my first (and future) MCN experience, as it encouraged me to be thoughtful in considering every session I attended and interaction I had with other attendees in terms of the knowledge, tools, and practices that I could take back to my museum and put into action. It’s been nearly a month since returning to work after an energizing five days at MCN, and I’ve only just begun to start putting some key ideas into action, with plans to continue throughout the year…leading up to MCN 2018 in Denver of course!

 

 

Popular IMA artwork pages, grouped by collection (color), and sized by number of views.

 

  • In “Asset Management 2.0” I learned that some museums include alternative image text in their DAMS to facilitate the creation of more accessible web content—we’re now exploring how we can accomplish this at the museum.

  • And I’m joining in on this plan to set a recurring calendar event once a month to check in with a different MCN colleague!
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Looking back to move forward: Museum technology in the age of the BIG data

By Dr. Natalia Grincheva, Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

 

This audio blog is a series of short interviews collected from several speakers at the 2017 MCN conference, both academics and professionals while I was an MCN Scholarship recipient. They include brief conversations with former board members, newcomers to the conference, and those who already got addicted to the annual meetings of a unique cohort of enthusiastic museum professionals from the U.S. and beyond.

Each speaker was challenged with three key questions:

First, I asked them to share details from their conference presentations and highlight the most important takeaways from the projects they are currently involved in. A wide spectrum of projects ranged from developing hands-on museum apps and designing new interactive experiences across physical and digital worlds to reimagining what innovation means for contemporary museums.

Second, interviewees elaborated on how their projects fit with the current environment of museum technology, increasingly and rapidly moving towards a closer and more strategic engagement with “big data.” Even though big data and cultural analytics have a strong impact on how museums approach their tasks in enlarging audiences, entering new markets, improving access, and deepening engagement, a wide range of responses from different speakers interrogate the meaning and value of the “big data” in relation to creating eloquent museums experiences and establishing connections with key communities.

Finally, speakers sent their personal messages and birthday wishes to the MCN community celebrating this year the 50th anniversary of the network. Each speaker has a unique perspective, a distinct voice, and tons of positive energy to share with the rest of the MCN members.

If you missed the conference or want to get more details on some topics discussed during the 2017 MCN sessions, this is your chance! Enjoy!

 

Angie Judge, CEO, Dexibit

Session: Money, Data, and Power:

A Review of Museum Use Cases with Big Data Analytics

“It is great to see that the museum industry is moving towards the space where it’s becoming more informed and more aware and more purposeful in how it acts with data in its hands… ”
Listen the Interview on SoundCloud (2.52 min)

Kubi Ackerman, Project Director, Future City Lab
Museum of the City of New York

Session: Designing the Future:

Creating an Interactive Gallery on the Future of New York City

“the lab is extremely data intensive… we wanted to have a big picture approach that really emphasizes how this information directly relates to experience of the city…”

Listen the Interview on SoundCloud (4 min)

 

Ed Rodley, Associate Director of Integrated Media, Peabody Essex Museum

Session: Break Out of the Rut: Fresh Strategies for Innovative Projects

“there is nothing that digital doesn’t touch and probably disrupt…so, being able to do that in a way that is productive, rather than disruptive is the challenge that we are all facing…”

Listen the Interview on SoundCloud(2.41 min)

 

Neville Vakharia, Assistant Professor and Research Director

Drexel University, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

Session: Beyond the Graphing Calculator:
A Deep Dive into Data Visualization and Cultural Institutions

“When you take data and when you create a tool that is useful for a particular audience then when you really have an impact.”
Listen the Interview on SoundCloud (3.16 min)

Nancy Proctor, Executive Director, Museweb

Session: The Access App

“Even though we call it crowdsourcing, in the end of the day what we end up doing is community sourcing…”

Listen the Interview on SoundCloud (4.29 min)

 

Nicole Riesenberger, University of Maryland-Phillips Collection Postdoctoral Fellow in Virtual Culture, The Phillips Collection

Session: Collaborations That Work:
Designing Effective and Inclusive Academic Partnerships in Museums

“…students are exploring location aware mobile apps to help visitors to navigate through the museum and discover interesting works of art that they want to see during their visit.”

Listen the Interview on SoundCloud (4.06 min)

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Seeing Myself in the Museum Community

By Monique LassereDigital Preservation Librarian, University of Arizona Libraries

 

As a first-time attendee and black librarian, I did not know what to expect at MCN2017. I had applied to the MCN Scholarship Program with the dream that I, an outsider, would be able to experience the museum computing community for a brief period of time. In no way did I expect my application to be accepted. I thought, what would my projects have in common with the other applicants—actual museum professionals and scholars? I arrived with an open mind and quickly realized my preconceptions about MCN and the conference were wrong. From the resonating keynote by three black innovators and thinkers in museums, history, and journalism, to the conversations surrounding agile software development to the wide array of projects the MCN Scholars presented on, I saw myself and the work I do in the community I was lucky to meet in Pittsburgh.

The conference kicked off with an inspiring, heavy-hitting keynote on diversity, representation, and hiring practices by Aleia Brown, Adrianne Russell, and Jamil Smith. At once, I saw and heard all the issues my colleagues in libraries so often talk about, the practices that are talking points for many but real issues for some, being discussed. We, in the academic community, often talk about giving power and voices to those not usually given it, about the importance of seeing yourself as a person of color in the spaces you inhabit or would like to, but this rarely happens. Finally, on stage, at MCN2017 I saw this in action.

Organizational culture continued to be a theme throughout the conference–in particular the issues of management, leadership, and methodologies for developing software. I recently started a new position in which I act as a product owner for software being developed as a part of our larger digital collections & preservation landscape. It’s a new experience for me–as it is for many libraries. To my surprise, there were a handful of incredibly dynamic conversations and presentations on leadership and agile software development, project management theory, and leadership as praxis. It was a great way to learn about what others are doing and get some comfort from the fact that we aren’t alone.

On the second to last day, the MCN Scholars presented our projects and my cohort’s work blew me away. One work I connected to in particular was Castle Kim’s work with the ESCAPE initiative, a program that integrates arts and science education and performing arts to enhance learning. It resonated to me as a poor-performing math and science student in junior high and captivated me by its creativity and collaborative efforts to think outside the box and engage with students. That’s the power of museum professionals, and further, the power of the MCN Scholars.

 

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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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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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Feeling Welcomed and Paying Interns: The MCN Experience

By Courtney Titus, Former Educational Technology Coordinator, Blaffer Art Museum

 

MCN 2017 Welcome Sign

As I walked into my first MCN session as an MCN Scholar, I was reminded of the days when I started a new school. The same anxieties bubbled to the surface about being the new kid and feeling uncertain if I would fit in or feel welcomed. However, those fears were immediately silenced when I sat down and was warmly greeted by a veteran MCN attendee who was genuinely interested in getting to know me. I was delighted to discover that this was going to be a common occurrence throughout the conference. Everywhere I went—sessions, the membership lounge, bus rides, elevators—I was met with smiles, words of encouragement, and, on more than one occasion, much needed advice on the steps I could take to further my career.

I was equally delighted to discover that many of the session topics focused on how museums could create a similar welcoming environment for a more diverse group of staff members and visitors. The amazing keynote speakers set the tone for the conference by delving into the issues that prevent certain groups from working in museums as well as providing solutions for attracting these groups (e.g. pay your interns). Other sessions such as “All Roads Lead to the Bathroom” and “Museum Digital Content as Journalism?” explored ways museums could appear more inviting to visitors by caring for their basic needs and providing content that is relevant to them.

View of the keynote presentation

I walked away from the conference feeling inspired and motivated to apply what I learned as well as feeling genuinely grateful for having the opportunity to attend as an MCN Scholarship recipient. I know that regardless of where I ultimately end up in my career, the MCN conference will be a regular trip for me.

 

 

Headshot of MCN 2017 Scholar Courtney Titus

Courtney Titus

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