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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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.

 

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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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Tactical MCN

Guest post by MCN 2016 Scholar Emily Kotecki, Distance Learning Educator, North Carolina Museum of Art

MCN 2016 Keynote

As a first timer to MCN, I wasn’t sure how similar or different it would be to Museums and the Web. Similar crowd, similar topic. However, in talking to another conference goer, she explained it best: MCN is tactical, Museums and the Web is thought leadership. Don’t get me wrong, each conference has elements of both. But MCN felt on the ground, applicable and relevant, starting with the theme of the human-centered museum. At the North Carolina Museum of Art, we are launching several new digital projects with the prime focus of creating personalized, engaging and relevant experiences with art.

On the first full day of the conference there were a lot of sessions dedicated to evaluating interactive technologies. Perfect! These sessions identified key evaluation questions that I can bring back to my team as we install two interactive screens. The second day seemed to focus on thoughtful, audience-centered website redesigns. Check! The panelists shed light on interesting ways to gauge visitor motivations as we explore integrating our homesite and teacher resource site. On the last day of the conference, I had the opportunity to be part of the MCN Scholar Lightning Talks as well as present with my colleague about a new model of collaboration at the NCMA.  It helped to have a colleague from another department with me at the conference so that we could divide and conquer in attending sessions and come back with a shared language when we returned to work.

Looking ahead, MCN also helped me understand what questions I can ask my colleagues at NCMA so that as an institution we can continue to meet the needs of our audiences:

  • How are we connected, internally, on a systems level?
  • What systems (DAMS, CRM) do we need to better collaborate internally and share content and understand our visitors?
  • How are we collecting, utilizing, and sharing data?

The sessions, these questions, and the people, helped shape my experience so that I could take ideas and turn them into action.

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