In November 2018 I had the honor and privilege of participating in the MCN Conference as a Scholar. I first learned about MCN in 2016 as I searched for resources to share with my museum studies students and have been eager to become more involved with the organization since then. Determined to attend the annual conference, I submitted my application for a scholarship in 2017 and again this year. I was excited to learn that I had been chosen for a scholarship to the 2018 conference, meaning that I would get to travel to beautiful Denver, Colorado, present a lightning talk on some of my work, and learn from fellow museum professionals from around the world. I expected to learn about new resources that would fit into my museum career, but I also came away with inspiration for my work as a high school teacher.
My lightning talk was focused on my work at Girl Museum. I have served on the all-volunteer staff since 2012, and am currently the Education Advisor. Girl Museum is unique because it is a virtual museum with no physical location and a remote staff working from around the globe. Virtual museums are a new idea, so the overall concept of this was the basis for my presentation. I shared the benefits (free for visitors, open 24/4, etc.) and implications (time zones, marketing, funding, etc.) of being a virtual museum. I also highlighted our 52 Objects exhibit to show how digitized collections can be used to humanize the digital, which was the theme for this year’s conference. There was a lot to fit in a time limit of 5 minutes! Luckily, I was able to chat with many other MCN attendees throughout the week to discuss Girl Museum more in-depth.
In addition to the experience of presenting at an incredible conference, I enjoyed learning from fellow museum professionals. As I attended sessions, talked with exhibitors, and chatted with fellow attendees, I found myself constantly jotting down names of resources, case studies, and statistics that have already proven useful in my work with Girl Museum. For example, I am now exploring ways to make our museum more accessible, and we are working on a fun set of girl-centric memes to celebrate our 10th anniversary in 2019!
I must mention that I am writing this blog post six weeks after the conference. This is because I also teach high school full-time and I am finally able to spend some time reflecting on my experience at MCN now that it is winter break. I previously mentioned that the conference unexpectedly inspired my teaching career. I attended a session highlighting the Smithsonian’s Learning Lab and was able to use it in my classes the very next week. As a history and science teacher, there are so many ways for my students to use this resource. I really shouldn’t be surprised that a museum conference impacted my classroom teaching – I wrote my dissertation on museum-school partnerships, and this is just another example of the importance of museums in education.
Winter break is also my time to prep for the upcoming semester of teaching “Museums, Communities, and Stakeholders” at Central Michigan University. Though I have taught the class before, the MCN Conference inspiration flowed into this area of my work as well, and I will be making several adjustments to my syllabus. I was so pleased to meet several museum professionals who are interested in doing a virtual chat with my students. It is essential for our future museum professionals to hear multiple perspectives and to see examples from a variety of museums as they prepare for their careers. MCN will continue to be a great resource as I plan my Museum Studies lectures this spring.
This year’s conference was so wonderfully diverse in its sessions, attendees, and conversations and its impact will expand beyond the few hundred people who attended in-person. As just one person sharing and implementing what I learned at MCN 2018, thousands of visitors to Girl Museum, over 200 high school students, and at least 20 undergraduate museum studies students will be reached this year. Thank you MCN for this opportunity!