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)


Sharing, Caring, and Hashtag Taxonomies: going beyond #MCN2017

Thanks to social media, following a conference from home if you can’t make it in person has never been easier. Over the years we’ve seen an incredible level of activity around MCN and we are well aware that the amount of content being shared can make it difficult for those tuning in from home. At last year’s conference, we had 600 attendees but over 1,200 chimed in on Twitter alone, sharing over 9,000 tweets over a three-day span.


We decided to switch things up a bit this year in an attempt to make following through Twitter more digestible for our onsite and online communities. Following the success of the “Hash-Dash Syntax” at Museums and the Web this past spring, we’ve adopted the concept at #MCN2017.


Sean O’Shea, Manager of UX and Strategy at @Cuberis, came up with the brilliant idea. You can read more about it in his Medium post.

As Sean said, “Due to the way Twitter’s hashtags work, only the text before the dash will be recognized as a hashtag. This preserves the integrity of the conference hashtag. But the power of this approach is that users can easily search Twitter for the full hash-dash tag, which will surface all tweets from that session.” Brilliant, Sean!


If you’re getting ready for #MCN2017 you’ve probably been looking over the program and you may or may not have noticed in the online conference calendar that we’ve added a session-specific hashtag to each session. You can find them in the bottom left of the session descriptions.


So as we celebrate 50 years of MCN (and 10 years of the humble hashtag!), we hope this helpful change allows you to get more out of the sessions. See you in Pittsburgh and online!


The #MCN2017 Program Team

Got Audio?

Co-presented by Antenna International and Earprint Immersive


“The Listening Lounge” at MCN is going to be a drop-in chill space much like a “Silent Disco,” but with comfy chairs, a quiet vibe, and curated playlists. MCN participants can enter at any time between sessions, meetings, or just when they need to take a break, close their eyes and open their ears. It’s being organized by Earprint Immersive and Antenna International.

We are now collecting audio samples from all sectors of our community to include in the Listening Lounge. We’re looking for all variety of audio – a great podcast episode, a binaural experiment, a sonic landscape, an immersive soundwalk, a piece of original music inspired by a painting, a really compelling first-person interview, a battle-scene re-creation – you name it! We want to showcase all the great work being made out there.

Just fill out the Listening Lounge_Submission form and upload it with your audio file (more than one is ok) to this location:

We’ll be accepting submissions until November 1st.
Thank you!

MCN50 Digital Experience at MCN2017

Planning a 50th birthday takes time. We began planning MCN’s 50th almost 2 years ago but things really started to move forward when Susan Edwards and Marla Misunas agreed to join forces as co-chairs of the MCN50 Planning Committee early last year.

For the past 18 months, Susan and Marla have meticulously planned a myriad of ways to pay tribute to MCN’s first 50 years. Enrolling and directing an army of 40+ volunteers from our community, Marla organized a dive into MCN’s archives kept at the Smithsonian Archives in Washington, D.C. From the trove of boxes, Susan and Marla developed a series of sub-projects that together provide an overview of MCN’s first 50 years, including a Timeline of MCN and a history of Job Descriptions, and the incredibly successful community project called “MCN50 Voices” conceived by Susan.

To help us put this narrative together, CultureConnect graciously offered to provide their platform to us, pro bono, to create an “MCN50 Digital Experience” that you’ll be able to enjoy during the conference on touch table hardware generously provided courtesy of Ideum. Recapping this process, is a short interview with Susan, Marla, Samantha Diamond and Seema Rao.

MCN50 Digital Experience image

Eric: Hi Susan and Marla. So we’ve been planning for MCN’s 50th since mid 2016. What were the initial goals you set for yourselves as you began that process?

Susan: When we first met, Carolyn Royston, the incoming President of MCN, told us that she really wanted to activate the MCN community for the entire year leading up to the 2017 annual conference. She saw the anniversary as an opportunity to extend the amazing energy and community of the conference. Early on, we set the following goals for the anniversary year:

  • Recognize past accomplishments, past and current leaders and volunteers
  • Celebrate the MCN community, the organization’s mission and how it’s helped shape the thinking around the possibilities of technology in museums over the past 50 years
  • Reinforce how MCN remains a future-looking organization
  • Re-dedicate the next 50 years to its core mission and continue to remain relevant to future generations of museum technologists

With these goals in hand, we then reached out to the community. We invited a few long-time MCNers to have some conversations with us. We called these folks our ‘brain trust’ and it was really from those folks that some of the great ideas for the MCN50 program were born. From our conversations with our “brain trust,” we defined 3 key areas of focus: the history of the organization, professional development, and “in real life” meetings.

Eric: So tell us about the key programs that came out of the MCN50 planning effort this past year?

Susan: Unearthing the archival materials and history of MCN was one of the most straightforward things to do for the anniversary. Huge kudos go to Marla and the team that spent several days at the Smithsonian Archives in Washington, D.C. looking through the organization’s papers. That was a huge event to organize. At the New Orleans conference, we also had several volunteers reach out to us with interest in putting together a timeline of the organization and digitizing documents.

As I recall, the idea for the job descriptions project came out of a conversation I had with Eric Johnson at one of the conferences about using data from historical job descriptions to dive into the history of the types of roles in our profession. Eric was really excited about the idea, so we tapped him to lead the project to do this research and report out.

The idea for Voices came out of a desire to create a professional development moment during MCN50. The original idea was to pair people with a lot of experience in the field with more junior people. I had an idea that a mentor-mentee-ish conversation, recorded as an interview, would be useful to others in the field. It turned out that we did have many pairs like this. But we also had many pairs of very good friends interviewing one another, which provides a wonderful peek into the camaraderie and community of the field, and demonstrates the role of MCN in this community. The response on this one project has been so incredible. So many amazing conversations and insights. I have learned so much from everyone.

Finally, our desire to bring people together at moments and places outside of the annual conference manifested as birthday parties for MCN. About once a month since January, there has been a party in a city somewhere with local museum professionals who have been enjoying cake and toasting to MCN.

Marla: I have been a little obsessed with MCN’s history for years. When I was president, I spent a lot of time in the SFMOMA archives, going through the director’s papers (SFMOMA joined MCN in 1968), going through old Spectra issues for an MCN presentation about job descriptions, and going through a ton of material we had in the museum’s library for the MCN history article Richard Urban and I wrote back then.

It’s always been a goal of mine to turn the spotlight on MCN’s history in a more enduring way so future MCNers can learn about what came before, and the really wonderful accomplishments of so many amazing people in MCN’s past. When planning the anniversary came up, I knew I had to be involved. Most people didn’t know that the official MCN archive is housed at the Smithsonian Archives. The idea of going through so much original historic material to prepare for MCN50 was very exciting.

Among our goals for the two Smithsonian Archive dives (January and July) were to fill out the collection of scanned MCN conference programs and Spectra issues, find significant events in MCN history, and to hopefully find some intriguing surprises along the way.

The time spent at the Archives was really a delight, with stacks of boxes, piles and piles of documents, “aha!” moments, and funny moments (David Vance’s voluminous correspondence and dry sense of humor); working closely with some great people from MCN’s past and future.

The dives could not have happened without the hard work of Charles Zange, MCNer who works at the Smithsonian Archives, and David Bridge, an early MCN member and long time Smithsonian Archives staff member. David knows more about MCN than anyone else I know, and can get his hands on it, too.

The timeline came about as a natural way of sharing the historical information we found. MCN timeliners, led by Richard Urban and Andrea Ledesma, used the archive materials and other resources, to create two timelines–one is a higher level, broader approach, and the other is more detailed for the dedicated MCN history enthusiast.

MCN50 Digital Experience image

Eric: So Samantha, you’re the founder and CEO of CultureConnect, an award-winning producer of digital interactives for museums.

Samantha: Yes! CultureConnect helps museums create beautiful and meaningful digital experiences for their visitors. We’re unique in that we offer a comprehensive platform solution that publishes a full suite of mobile and in-gallery interactives. I’m also a bit nerdy when it comes to user research and user testing so we do that in our services practice too.

Eric: CultureConnect has been supporting the MCN annual conference since 2014. Last year, you developed the New Orleans City Guide, and this year, you generously offered to lend your platform to produce the “MCN50 Digital Experience” that will be available for attendees during MCN2017. What inspired you to do this? Why is this important for you to do as a vendor?

Samantha: 50 years is a long time (laughs) so it’s impressive, first of all, that MCN has endured. Technology evolves so quickly, we have a sense of “history” looking back less than a decade – it’s extraordinary that MCN has thrived for five decades. MCN’s founding members were early adopters in many ways! We wanted to be a part of this celebration.

With this much history to share and so many personal stories to tell, I thought a great way to bring this to life would be with the sort of digital interactives we already use in the galleries. A mini in-gallery interactive, if you will. The touchscreen experience offers two parts – MCN Voices showcases the people that make up this community while the Timeline gives historical meaning.

Susan, Marla, Seema and the whole MCN50 team did an amazing job rallying member contributions and digging through archives – the digital component provides an organized, centralized point of discovery.

The MCN community has always been welcoming and collaborative which has meant a lot to me and my team at CultureConnect. So, it was our pleasure to offer up our platform to create and publish this MCN50 Digital Experience.

Eric: Hi Seema, given your expertise developing content, you’ve generously taken on the lead in helping us put together the content for the “MCN50 Digital Experience”. Can you tell us about some of the choices you made to try to capture 50 years in a short digital experience?

Seema: The MCN volunteers had been working for months to capture the last 50 wonderful years of this organization for months before I joined the team. They had been focused on two big facets: understanding the organization through its people (MCN Voices) and capturing snapshots of the organization over time (MCN Timeline).

By the time this exciting opportunity for a CultureConnect App came up, both of these teams were swimming in content. Even I, myself, as a member of the committee couldn’t get through all the content that was produced. There was just too much. It was like having too much of a good thing. So, my goal was to try to create a framework that showcased a taste of the content, like giving the conference goers the best slice of the pie. Now, everyone has their own appetites, so the challenge was also to find a way to give enough that everyone could find their ideal slice of the content.

With the help of careful planning, and the filtering tools within the CultureConnect infrastructure, my hope is that everyone will be able to dip into some of this rich content. Our goal though is that, after people go to what is appealing, they then find something unexpected.

Eric: Can you give us an example?

Seema: Sure! For the Voices content for example, you might be interested in Museums and Technology. But, once you read a few quotes by the best and brightest amongst us, you could easily move into ideas about career paths or the supportive environment of the MCN community. In the timeline team, you will find that something as simple as a new database is really the beginning of a new way of thinking of collections.

In other words, as you wander through the app, you will hopefully be able to see an ecosystem of ideas and events in a way that is engaging but not overwhelming. For me, this is exactly what MCN is–immersive, thought-provoking, supportive, and safe. Hopefully, the app evokes that same sensibility.


I’m really looking forward to delving into the “MCN50 Digital Experience”, and I hope that those of you who will be joining us in Pittsburgh next month for MCN 2017 will get an opportunity to interact with 50 years of MCN at a glance. And make sure to thank everyone who’s been involved in making this project possible. Happy birthday MCN!


Eric Longo

Executive Director


MCN 2017 Scholars look forward to Pittsburgh!

Our #MCN2017 Scholars are looking forward to the conference in Pittsburgh, get to know them below and find out what they are looking to learn about this year.

Ben Fast

Headshot of MCN 2017 Scholar Ben Fast

How did you learn about MCN?
I heard about MCN through Twitter first, but only really paid attention to it when two long-distance colleagues of mine got involved.  Luc Desmarais was an MCN Scholar in 2016 and Mairin Kerr was involved with the program committee.  I signed up for the program committee and was planning on attending but got a job on the other side of Canada so had to pull out.  I’m very glad to be back in 2017!

What are you looking forward to most at the conference?
I’m looking forward to the networking and informal conversations most.  I love meeting new people doing similar work to me and seeing how our paths/jobs/projects can overlap.  There are so many amazing projects to learn from, and people are always so passionate about them while at conferences.  The sessions are a close second for me, though.  I am particularly interested in the variety of types of sessions at this year’s conference, from the very formal to the rather informal.  It will be cool to see how they work and how people learn differently in them.  There were so many great topics that I had trouble choosing what I wanted to attend!

How do you feel about being an MCN scholar?
I am very excited to be an MCN Scholar, though also a bit nervous.  My project seems quite different than my co-presenters, and I hope it is of interest to them.  I am excited for the chance to bring some Canadian flavour to the conference and show off what’s happening north of the border while learning from and meeting so many great international and American delegates.  Since we only have 5 minutes, I’m sure it will be all over in the blink of an eye!

This year MCN turns 50. How do you feel about being part of the 50th anniversary? What’s something you’d like to explore with MCN in the future?
I am very happy to be involved with MCN during the 50th anniversary conference.  Any big milestone presents good opportunities for looking back at where we’ve come from and looking forward to where we’re going.  The museum field is advancing rapidly and MCN presents a good place for exploring the absolute forefront of that advance.  The delegates, presenters, and host venues are all inspirational and will be the basis of those next 50 years.  I’m excited to see how MCN leads the museum field into a new era of technology and digital work environments – it will be a great ride!

What are you looking to share with the MCN community?
I am looking to share my passion for museums with the MCN community!  Coming from a museums association, my take on digital projects and impacts on museums may be from a more arms-length perspective, but I also see it from an industry-wide perspective.  My location also provides a good small museum perspective that may not come across in the big high-visibility projects normally represented at these big conferences, so I hope my questions about feasible implementation and realistic expectations will challenge some in the community and spark discussions about digital across the entire museum sector.


Karen Vidangos

Headshot of MCN 2017 Scholar Karen Vidangos

How did you learn about MCN?
I learned about MCN through Suse Anderson who was my social media professor in graduate school at GWU.
What are you looking forward to most at the conference?
Meeting everyone! I have made so many wonderful online connections since starting A Latina in Museums so it will be amazing to finally meet some of these great people in person. I’m also excited to hear, learn, and be inspired by all the professionals in the field speaking on digital engagement.

How do you feel about being an MCN scholar?
I was excited when I found out that I would be an MCN Scholar. I’m at the beginning of my career and it has certainly marked a turning point where I realized that what I am doing is meaningful to more than just myself. A Latina in Museums was meant to be a personal endeavor but being able to share it with the MCN community as a scholar will be the first time I speak on it to a group and I will certainly cherish that opportunity.

This year MCN turns 50. How do you feel about being part of the 50th anniversary?
I think it is an exciting time to be a new member of the MCN community. I came at the right moment when so many voices in our field are looking back at the past 50 years and having important discussions on what it means to challenge ourselves in a quickly evolving digital world (#MCNVoices). I’m glad to be part of it.

What’s something you’d like to explore with MCN in the future?
In the future I’d like to explore the data on what we know about social media use to discuss how to have a more inclusive and diverse digital presence for our growing, diverse audiences. According to the Pew Research Center, Hispanics lead the general population in social media use but yet too little is done to reach them in our museums.

What are you looking to share with the MCN community?
I’m looking to share my enthusiasm about diversity and how we can all learn to be more intersectional in the digital world of museums. I have so much to learn from this wonderful community and I look forward to making my contributions as well!


Samantha Norling

Headshot of MCN 2017 Scholar Sami Norling

How did you learn about MCN?
I first learned about MCN from my colleagues at the Indianapolis Museum of Art who regularly shared interesting things that they had learned about during the annual meeting or in their regular involvement in SIGs. As a trained archivist, I had always been actively involved in archival professional organizations, but I saw that there were many conversations happening and ideas being shared within the MCN community that had implications across LAM fields, particularly for me as an archivist within a museum.

What are you looking forward to most at the conference?
For the last few years, I’ve been following the development of a LAM Interoperability SIG, hoping to get involved in a meaningful way with this emerging group. I enjoyed listening to the LAM Interoperability session recording that was made available after the conference last year, but I am really looking forward to the chance to attend related meetings and sessions, and to make connections and get more involved with members of the MCN community with similar interests in data operability between LAMs (consider this an invitation to reach out to me in Pittsburgh if you share this interest too!).

How do you feel about being an MCN scholar?
I was beyond excited to find out that I was selected to be an MCN scholar this year. For full disclosure, I have to admit that this was my third (and almost certainly final) attempt at becoming a scholar. As the IMA’s archivist for three years until transitioning to my new role as digital collections manager, I was given financial support to attend one archives conference per year by the museum, as many of my colleagues were also funded to attend their specialty-specific conferences. I hoped that through the MCN scholarship program I could attend the annual meeting and get involved in the community, finding ways to show the value to both the IMA and the MCN community in supporting opportunities for cross-pollination between traditionally separated specialties.

This year MCN turns 50. How do you feel about being part of the 50th anniversary? What’s something you’d like to explore with MCN in the future?
At the same time that MCN is turning 50 and celebrating this important year in its history, I also find myself in the middle of a huge transition period for my career, moving from archives to a more interdisciplinary role managing digital collections, broadly defined, at the IMA. Because of this, it feels very fitting that I begin what I hope will be a very long, very active membership with MCN. Though I am no longer an archivist by title, I hope that I can find ways to work with MCN to continue to blur the lines of library, archives, and museum professionals and make MCN the go-to conference and community for a broad range of cultural heritage professionals to share and create innovations in digital practice.

What are you looking to share with the MCN community?
During the MCN scholar lightning talks, I will be presenting “A Crash Course in the American Art Collaborative Data Pipeline” about my experience completely remodeling and generating the IMA’s contribution to the AAC linked data set in the last months of a nearly two-years-long project. Apart from that presentation, I hope to bring my experiences and perspectives as an archivist-turned-data-manager to broader linked data conversations happing both at the annual meeting and in other MCN communication channels throughout the other 360 days of the year. I’m particularly interested in finding ways that linked data might facilitate better integration between archival description and museum cataloging practices, with the goal of opening new avenues for exploration of the history and context of museum collections.


Courtney Titus

Headshot of MCN 2017 Scholar Courtney TitusHow did you learn about MCN?
A colleague told me about the conference. She attended a previous one and raved about the great information she received and the openness of the people who attended.

What are you looking forward to most at the conference?
I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from other conference attendees about the ways their museums are using technology, common challenges they face with implementing projects, and how they address these challenges.

How do you feel about being an MCN scholar?
I feel honored and appreciative to be selected as a scholar. As a newcomer to the field, I know this conference will provide an excellent opportunity for learning, discussing new ideas, and building connections with the best in the field.

This year MCN turns 50. How do you feel about being part of the 50th anniversary? What’s something you’d like to explore with MCN in the future?
I am excited to be a part of this huge milestone for MCN. Their longevity is a testament to the significant impact they’ve had on advancing the field and I look forward to contributing to this amazing community. I would like to explore innovations museums can use to reach audiences that are very interested in art but may feel intimidated by it due to a lack of fluency in art history and related subjects.

What are you looking to share with the MCN community?
I am looking forward to sharing the successes and challenges a small museum experienced when implementing its first sustainable technology project.



MCN 2017 Ignite

View from MCN2015 Ignite stage

Post by Koven Smith

For those of you who have attended MCN in the last few years, one of the highlights of the conference has been Ignite MCN, where a group of courageous-slash-foolhardy speakers dispense wisdom in lightning-fast five-minute chunks on the opening-night of the conference. Each speaker has five minutes and 20 automatically-advancing slides to enlighten-slash-entertain-slash-frighten-slash-slightly amuse hundreds of MCN attendees.

I’ve been fortunate enough to organize and host Ignite MCN for the last five years, and each year, the same thing happens: immediately after the event, several people come up to me and say, “That was great! I’m totally submitting an Ignite talk next year!” This is typically the last time I ever hear from these people. So what I’m saying is, it’s now your time to step up! Do you have something important to say? Something that you think the rest of us need to know? Are you ready to take it to the limit, one more time?

The first question I’m usually asked as the host is, what makes a good Ignite talk, and why do some submissions get picked over others? I’m glad you asked. Ignite talks are different from more traditional presentations, so of course there are many proposals that would make great presentations, but that wouldn’t necessarily work for Ignite. So here’s a brief list of the kinds of things we’re looking for when we evaluate Ignite submissions:

  • Brevity: Ignite works best when the ideas are big, bright, and communicated succinctly. A good Ignite MCN proposal should be able to get to the main idea in three sentences or less. If it takes two full paragraphs to describe the concept behind your talk, it’s probably not the right fit for Ignite MCN.

  • A fresh perspective: Ignite talks are most interesting when coming from the standpoint of, “You’ve probably never thought about X in this way before.” Or, “I’m here to change your mind about Y.” Or, “This is an aspect of museum culture that you’ve probably not given too much thought to.” Ignite talks aren’t a great place for repeating the established wisdom, or presenting a project you’ve worked on. Enlighten us, but make it quick.

  • A sense of performance: Unlike more traditional conference presentations, Ignite talks are more like performances. I’m usually looking for some sense of this in the proposal. Humor can get this across, but so can a sense of excitement and/or evangelism. If I feel like the proposal is trying hard to convince me as the reviewer, then there’s a good chance that this enthusiasm will come across in the Ignite talk as well.

  • An understanding of the format: If you’ve never given an Ignite talk before, but mention in the proposal that you want to change the format (“I want to have 50 slides instead of 20” or “I want to have videos on every slide”), that proposal will probably not make it in. It can help if you’ve attended MCN and the Ignite event before, and seen this special event with its certain aesthetic in action, so that you know what to expect.

I’m looking for 7 to 9 talks that all work well together. Sometimes this can mean that great proposals are rejected just because they don’t fit in well with the rest. If you’ve submitted a talk in the past and didn’t get in, by all means re-submit! It may be a better fit this year. You never know!


Koven J. Smith
Director of Digital Adaptation
Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin


“Other” Category Unpacked: #MCN2017 Call for Proposals

A group of MCN conference attendees meet on the floor at MCN 2016

Some of the best things in #musetech start in a floor meeting at MCN conferences


As a candid and welcoming community, MCN has always championed innovative sessions that are willing to take risks. Last year through the “Other” Category in the Call for Proposals, the program co-chairs created the option for attendees to “propose something else” to present in New Orleans. We actively sought out, encouraged and cultivated potential session ideas that did not fit the traditional 15-minute case study, 30-minute talk, or 60-minute multi-speaker panel formats. The resulting sessions were some of the highlights from #MCN2016 in New Orleans.

We hosted a number of “Unconferences” such as Rob Weisberg’s “‘Views My Own’ Museblog Unconference” and Greg Albers and Annelisa Stephan’s “Making the Workplace You Want.” The Unconference format is a loose and informal discussion usually focusing on a particular topic, sometimes over lunch.

Another kind of alternative session is the Teach-In. Last year in New Orleans, Nikhil Trivedi organized a “Github” offshoot meeting for people interested in the basics workings of Github. Teach-Ins, much like unconferences, are informal discussions focused on knowledge or skill-sharing.

We also hosted sessions with game formats like Trish Oxford’s Power of Vulnerability in Museums session, in which a panel of 5 individuals answered probing questions about museum work culture that were chosen at random for 60 minutes.

We have hosted live podcast session’s like Chad Weinard and Jason Alderman’s The Future of Museum Technology that “took a breakneck look at the problems in dealing with legacy systems, the failings of collection management systems, the infrastructure of process, and the importance of collaboration.”

Many sessions were held under Chatham House Rule, which specifies that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed on social media channels or other broadcasts. These sessions became a safe place, in which participants were not recorded and could speak freely.

These few examples have in common informality, interactivity, and group exploration of topics that warrant discussion and dialogue. Other ideas might include:

  • A series of grouped short ignite talks, similar to the popular opening-night event
  • Round tables with more interaction than a typical multi-speaker panel
  • Group affinity discussions
  • Hackathons and prototyping

However, this doesn’t preclude you from adding audience participation and interactivity to more typical presentation formats. Many kinds of longer presentations—such as hackathons and prototyping—with interactivity and learning opportunities can be proposed as a pre-conference workshop. And the 60-minute panel timeframe affords much potential for audience interaction and elements of workshopping. No matter which type of format you propose, think of ways to keep the audience involved!

This year, we are also interested in sessions/activities that will enrich the program and conference experience including but not limited to open yoga sessions, running groups, museum pillow talk, drum circles, and silent discos. Please consider space limitations/requirements, extra equipment and costs when proposing these sessions.

In the end all great “Other” sessions begin with an idea or concept a group wants to explore, no matter how mundane or taboo it may seem. The MCN co-chairs are more than willing to talk through your proposal ideas and help devise the best session format to explore.

#MCN2017’s Call for Proposals opens April 1st!  

Don’t hesitate to reach out to with your questions, comments, and ideas.


Cooking up the MCN 2017 Theme with 50+ Chefs in the Kitchen

Photo of the Heinz History Center


After days of virtual sharing, commiserating, wordsmithing, and voting, the MCN 2017 theme has arrived!


MCN 2017: Looking Back, Thinking Forward, Taking Action


Every year, MCN explores topics of relevance to museum practitioners working with, or affected by, digital media and technology. In 2017, MCN will focus on how museums can use technology to innovate and emphasize transparency, individual action, and institutional bravery. We are interested in cases where a creating an open museum culture encourages bold action to confront challenges in our field, our communities, and our society, including issues of diversity and inclusion.  

Submissions on any topic from people at all levels of the institution and all parts of the field are welcome, and we especially encourage proposals that present new ideas to leverage technologies which help museums evolve, create institutional partnerships outside the sector, and use lessons from the past to act for the future.

The forty-four members of the program committee represent various areas of expertise in institutions of different sizes and types, from locations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. They spent two hectic weeks on Basecamp compiling their individual perspectives of what is relevant, meaningful, and critical to the future of the sector. That 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the Museum Computer Network as an organization gave the discussion special resonance, especially in light of political and social turmoil around the world and its impact on the museum field.

To start the discussion, committees members were presented with a few open ended statements to consider:

  • “What MCN50 means to me is …”
  • “What interests me in the field is …”
  • “What work outside of the museum sector is informing your work and would help other museum practitioners with their work?”

The group mused on how the view of technology in the museum had changed over the past 50 years, from a thing apart from museum practice—though a view all-too-often still present in our institutions—to something intertwined with the everyday work of museum professionals. What will technology mean to us, and our visitors and remote audiences in another 50 years?

Libraries (which are now represented in the MCN community), game design, theater design, and the growing organizational culture field all were cited as influencing the way the committee members viewed their own museum work. And many members were naturally interested in how technology can impact visitor experience, contribute to a sense of playfulness and joy for visitors and staff alike, and build equity and dismantle oppressive structures that museums are often a part of.

After a week of sharing, dozens of points and threads of discussion were distilled into several large ideas:

  • Bringing actionable steps back to our museums
  • Inclusiveness and advocacy        
  • Museum technology and solving problems         
  • Innovation, Change, and Progress           
  • Being Brave and Bold    
  • Welcoming   
  • Openness and transparency

Another round of discussion ensued, including a cameo appearance from the haiku exercise from last year’s committee. Committee members wrestled with wording around a commitment to action and bravery—were these matters for individual attendees? For their institutions? For society?

The committee then voted on 65 variations of the potential theme in a semifinal round, leading to a final vote on six possibilities. The vote was close, reflecting the many concerns that committee members have in viewing the role of technology in the museum field.

Ultimately, the honor went to “MCN 2017: Looking Back, Thinking Forward, Taking Action.” (To take a page from the Oscars, we won’t call the other finalists losers, and all reflected an interest in openness, action, and bravery.)

As the program committee moves on to discuss keynote speakers and other conference questions—not to mention preparing for the joyous onslaught of proposals later this spring!—the spirit of this nearly-50-person conversation will continue to enliven the preparation for MCN 2017 in Pittsburgh. The co-chairs can’t thank the committee members enough!

As you consider what type of presentations to propose, keep in mind the “other” category. While most presentations will fit into 15-minute case study, 30-minute talk, or 60-minute multi-speaker panel formats, we are open to ideas. Some that we have held, or considered in the past, for you to propose:

  • “Unconferences”: more informal discussions usually focusing on a particular topic, sometimes over lunch. Last year we had an unconference on “views-my-own” bloggers in the museum field.
  • A series of grouped short ignite talks, similar to the popular opening-night event.
  • Round tables, but consider how this differs from simply a multi-speaker panel.
  • Remember that many kinds of longer formats such as hackathons and prototyping can be proposed as a workshop, provided there is opportunity for interactivity and learning.
  • In fact, a 60-minute time frame affords many opportunities for interactivity, workshopping, etc., with the audience. Think of ways to keep the audience involved!
  • Group or affinity discussions

We can’t wait to see proposals from across the field and from staff at all levels of their institutions. Attending MCN is great, but participating in a presentation is a great way to have a voice in the many discussions so important to museums today.


Your friendly co-chairs,

Trish Oxford

Jennifer Foley

Rob Weisberg