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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