MCN 2021 Call for Proposals

“What is Digital Now?”

Acknowledging the immense hardship and recalibration we’ve all had to endure over the past year, we invite you to consider “What is Digital Now?” This question encompasses the anxiety and uncertainty of the present while making space for curiosity and generative possibilities around how the future for digital technologies might look in museums.

So tell us, “What is Digital Now?”, from your unique perspective and region, in your area of professional practice, and in your own voice, so we can all learn from each other about the future of digital in museums from the lens of this current moment. 

We also welcome proposals on topics that are meaningful to you and that are aligned with MCN’s mission.


We invite you to consider “What is Digital Now?” from the vantage point of the following key focus areas:

  1. Leadership & Strategy: Approaches to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in digital strategy and strategic planning; nurturing leadership in the field/supporting future leaders; digital strategy as museum strategy; digital first; colleagues leaving the field, what this means, and intentional outcomes.
  2. Business Models & Financial Sustainability: Approaches to fundraising; grant writing/seeking; capacity building conversions; monetizing digital content/channels; digital memberships; how museums can continue to build funds, and find new paths toward financial sustainability.
  3. Interpretation, Storytelling & Education: Education, interpretation, and storytelling across platforms, programs, and media.
  4. Ethical Responsibilities of Museums: “Everything is content moderation,” privacy/tracking, environmental impacts, supporting social justice issues, etc.
  5. Capacity Building: Maintenance, infrastructure, software, technology; systems, their integral purposes, and their ongoing need for support; how museums use their funds.
  6. Experience Design & Immersive Technologies: Community/participatory design; Open Access; new and immersive technologies; innovation; human-centered design.
  7. Reimagining the Museum / Why Museums? / Abolish the Museum Museum and cultural workers around the world are envisioning new ways—often outside of museums—to create space for learning from and building upon the evolution of human ideas, in ways that make our communities more sustainable, healthier, and successful for all. This tract offers a platform to discuss systemic problems in museums, raise big questions about the roles of museums today, and workshop solutions for a visionary future.

Four mini regional events will also be held in their time zones. Wherever you are in the world, we invite you to submit proposals that are relevant to any of the tracks above but also specific to a specific region. Each regional event will explore “What is Digital Now?” from their unique regional perspective and will be discussed in a global recap on the final day.

  • Asia/Pacific – October 6 (October 7 locally)
  • Middle East/Africa – October 13
  • Europe – October 20
  • Latin America – October 27


In MCN’s trademark event, Ignite MCN showcases energizing and thought-provoking talks that share ideas, passions, and new visions for the future. Each courageous speaker has 20 slides—no more, no less—that automatically advance every 15 seconds for a format that produces inventive and fast-paced five-minute talks. 

What are you passionate about? What’s the big, significant side of yourself that you’ve never shown the MCN community? And how does all that inform your work in the museum and culture sector? We’re looking for 7–9 people to give impassioned and inspired talks at Ignite MCN. We’re looking for people across the spectrums of race, gender, ability, seniority and other divisions in our society to kick off MCN 2021 in an unforgettable event! While we encourage the excitement of doing your talk live, we will support pre-recorded talks. MCN 2021 Ignite Talks will take place on Tuesday October 5, 2021

Here are a few examples of Ignite talks from past years: 

And here are all the Ignite talks from the past several years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013

Submission Requirements

Share a brief overview of your proposed Ignite talk. Your idea doesn’t need to be fully formed, just give us a general idea of the direction you’re thinking about. This can be a narrative summary or bulleted list of your high-level points. Over the course of the next few months we’ll offer opportunities to develop and refine your ideas and talks.

If you have any questions or ideas about Ignite MCN 2021, please contact nikhil trivedi at [email protected].

Case Studies 

Looking to propose a case study? This year, thanks to the support of the Knight Foundation, MCN, in collaboration with NEWINC, is launching Cultural-Futures—a new website to capture case studies, projects, stories, and other digital experiments from around the cultural sector so we can learn from each other, not just success stories, but much more importantly, from projects that didn’t go too well, or went well but could have been done differently, warts and all. The objective here is to learn, not just showcase.

The site soft-launches this summer. In late October, we’ll host a fun, energizing Cultural-Futures Awards ceremony to celebrate some of the most outstanding, surprising case studies. 

Submit your case study here (preview the questions HERE—submitting will take you about 30 minutes). 

Session Types Toolkit


  • For each of the 7 tracks there will be room for 3 to 6 sessions
  • All sessions are 45 minutes long unless otherwise indicated
  • To respect screen fatigue, there will be a 15-minute scheduled break-time between sessions
  • When there are multiple presenters or questions being addressed, a variety of viewpoints should be encouraged


A small group of subject matter experts (and one moderator) gather to discuss a specific topic and offer differing perspectives. Panelists share facts or personal experiences, express opinions, and answer audience questions. The moderator keeps the momentum going, facilitates the discussion, and manages questions from the audience. We recommend no more than 5 participants for panel discussions.


Campfire sessions begin a lot like a traditional presentation, with a speaker (or multiple speakers) presenting an idea to a group of people. After 10 or 15 minutes, however, the focus shifts from the presenter to the audience. For the remainder of the session, the presenter becomes a facilitator, inviting comments, insights, and questions from the audience. Campfire sessions allow attendees to drive their own learning and share experiences with others, which also assists with networking.


The World Café format is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue. The process begins with a discussion for groups of 6–8 in a Zoom breakout room—the first of two or more discussion rounds . Each round is prefaced with a question. At the end of each 8–10 minute round, each member of the group moves to a different breakout room. One person will stay in the breakout room as the “room host” for the next round, welcoming the next group and briefly filling them in on what happened in the previous round. Once all rounds have been completed, key points from each room are presented to the whole group for a final collective discussion.


This format takes a central theme or question and has two speakers debate in favor and against. At the outset, the participants are polled to measure their opinion on the topic. Following the debate, they are polled again to see how many are now in favor or against. The winner of the debate is the speaker who caused the most audience members to change their votes. 


A practical instruction that can be accomplished in 45 minutes wherein attendees learn a single skill. How-To sessions are similar to workshops in that they are participatory, but are less in-depth, and are concentrated on audiences walking away with a single skill, rather than multiple, or more involved, skills.


Have an idea for something completely different? The MCN community is endlessly creative. This is your chance to propose something outside of the box. While most presentations will fit into one of the formats above, we encourage original ideas. Interested in storytelling? Time to make MCN’s answer to The Moth. Have a particularly unique job or experience? Hold an AMA.  We’re looking for truly novel approaches.


Thursday, October 28, 2021


Workshops are in-depth, participatory sessions led by those with specific knowledge and expertise. Whether it’s coding or content development, human-centered design or data visualization, organizers impart a highly focused, defined skill to participants. Topics can range in skill level—introductory to advanced. These digital workshops should be interactive and participatory. Workshops should provide specific learning outcomes, and participants should be able to apply the skills to their current practice; each workshop proposal should include one or several skills that participants will be able to utilize after the workshop.  

Duration: 90 minutes

Capacity: 20–30 participants max

Workshops Attendance

Workshops are available to attendees for an additional fee. Attendees must register and pay for their workshop of choice at registration.

Workshops Minimum Enrollment Requirement

MCN requires a minimum enrollment of three attendees per workshop. Workshops with fewer than three participants risk cancellation. We will monitor enrollment for all accepted workshops July through October, promoting individual workshops to increase enrollment as needed. MCN reserves the right to cancel workshops that do not meet the minimum enrollment requirement. If necessary, we will cancel workshops and notify organizers by mid-October. 


Professional development sessions are informal and interactive, led by those with specific knowledge and expertise. Participants should gain valuable insight into developing soft skills or gain insights about practical areas of their career. These sessions should allow for discussion and questions, and we encourage a variety of proposal types and various capacity limits (e.g. intimate conversations with up to 10 participants; and panel discussions for up to 50 participants).

What topics could these professional development sessions cover?

  • Work-life balance: habits to start doing immediately upon entering the field.
  • How to set up informational interviews.
  • How to write cover letters.
  • How to submit a conference proposal and how to present at conferences.
  • How to network for emerging professionals.
  • When (and whom) to ask for a reference.
  • How to become an independent contractor in (or out of) the field.
  • Knowing when to leave your job.
  • How and when to ask for a raise.

Are you willing to offer one-on-one guidance?

After professional development sessions, we would like to offer participants the chance to sign up for 10–15-minute, one-on-one chats with session leaders. Please indicate if you’re interested in offering additional time, beyond your presentation.

  • Duration: 45-60 minutes
  • Capacity: will be determined by organizers

Submission Requirements

  • Description: Proposals should describe the topic you intend to cover, the overall structure of the session, as well as the types of activities or methodologies you will use to teach or guide participants.
  • Presenters: Diversity among panelists is important to the success of the session. Demonstrate how your panelists bring different voices and perspectives. Consider variations among institutions, backgrounds, and expertise. Workshop presenters should have prior, proven experience leading hands-on workshops. 
  • Topic/Theme: When selecting a topic for your session, explain how it relates to the conference theme and/or MCN’s overall mission. We encourage you to also consider the theme strands: how does your session speak to these?
  • Learning Outcomes: Outline three to four specific learning outcomes for session participants. What new ideas or skills will participants learn (i.e. After attending this session, participants will be able to…”)?
  • Intended Audience: Identify who is best suited to participate in your workshop or professional development session. Share how many years of experiences, formal certifications, etc., a participant would need to get the most out of this session. For workshops that have a coding component, include the coding skills in which attendees should be proficient prior to the workshop. For professional development sessions, indicate if they are intended for early career, mid career, etc.
  • Restrictions: Review all session types before submitting a proposal for the Freestyle/Other session. These are an opportunity for presenters to provide a uniquely enriching experience to attendees and expand upon the concept of a conference session. We will decline proposals that are just longer versions of a different session type, as well as any product demos or pitches submitted under this category. 
  • Virtual Participation: What tools are you interested in using to facilitate your session? Share how you would engage participants and connect them with one another. 

You are limited to participate as a presenter or co-presenter in up to three (3) sessions only.

Important Information

Event Platforms

All sessions during MCN 2021 will be delivered using Zoom meetings, including Ignite. Zoom webinars will be reserved for plenary sessions such as Opening & Closing Plenaries, and Plenary Keynotes and Panels.

Chatham House Rule

You can request your session to be conducted under the ‘Chatham House Rule‘. We recommend you do so when discussing topics that are sensitive in nature and for which speakers and participants can more freely express themselves knowing that their identity, and professional or organizational affiliation will not be revealed. Sessions designated as ‘Chatham House Rule’ will not be recorded and shared publicly. 

Proposals Selection Criteria

The Program Committee will evaluate proposals based on the following criteria:

  • Session purpose: intended objectives and learning ­outcomes 
  • Relevance: relation to the conference theme, MCN’s mission and current conversations in the museum sector 
  • Diversity, inclusion, and access: incorporation of strategies for and making space for underrepresented voices in the sector
  • Potential impact: contribution(s) the session can make to MCN and the field
  • Commitment: presenters’ ability to organize and lead a session and stimulate discussion at the conference

Proposals with the following characteristics will be favored:

  • Investment in cross-collaborations
  • Variety of presenters in various roles and seniority levels
  • Diversity of voices and perspectives
  • Presenters from traditionally underrepresented groups and/or minority or marginalized backgrounds
  • Variety of institution types and sizes
  • Engaging formats that encourage dialogue among participants
  • New and/or unique takes on familiar topics
  • First-time MCN presenters
  • Partnerships between museums, vendors, and/or for-profit firms

Want feedback on your ideas before submitting? Join the conversation on Twitter with the #MCN2021 hashtag.

Call for Proposals is now closed.

Have more questions? Email: [email protected].