Looking to the past, seeing the future: MCN 1968

This #MCN50 post brought to you by Charles Zange

 

A year after its founding, MCN hosted its first major conference: “A Conference on Computers and their Potential Applications in Museums.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted the event, which was supported by a grant from IBM. Over three days in April, participants came together to discuss the future of technology and in so doing laid a foundation for decades of collaboration.

The attendee list was small. A total of 27 speakers signed up, most from New York but a few others joined from Oklahoma, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Toronto. Registration took place on Monday from 11:00-12:00. Sessions began that afternoon one at a time and continued through Wednesday. The Junior Museum Snack Bar was reserved for participants to take lunch. The conference concluded with dinner at the Met’s main restaurant.

Compared purely with the scope and scale of #MCN2016 in New Orleans, #MCN1968 was a minor affair: no parallel session tracks, no grand ballrooms, and no complimentary breakfast. The schedule was printed on plain paper with neither advertisement nor graphic. The san-serif font is black and white. Yet even at its small dimensions, #MCN1968 laid the foundation for many common elements of today’s conferences.

For example:

– “Demonstrations and Films of Computer Hardware and Applications.” Tuesday, 2:00-5:00PM – This precursor to the Exhibitor Hall provided a space for IBM to install and demonstrate technology for museum application. (The stars of the show were “Displays of visual equipment for microfilm and microfiche.)”

– “Documentary Applications.” Monday 1:30-5:00PM – Presenters were considering the best ways to create, organize, and analyze computerized records of collections systems – an ongoing need in collections management.

– “New Approaches in Museum Education.” Wednesday, 3:00-5:00PM – Attendees in this session responded to a presentation on “The Future of the Museum as a Learning Environment,” approaching a question that continues to face educators today.

The no-frills #MCN1968 experience calls back to the essence of the gathering itself: even from the beginning, MCN has always been an experimental mix of thought leaders and technology. It will be exciting to see where this energy can lead this year at #MCN50!

Below is the full schedule from #MCN1968. What was your first MCN conference? Let us know in the comments.

 

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