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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