By MCN 2016 Scholar, Luc Desmarais (@MuseoLuc), Exhibits & Design Manager, Beaty Biodiversity Museum (beatymuseum.ubc.ca)
What a week! This was my first time at the MCN conference, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the generous opportunity provided by the MCN Scholarship program. It was an honour to receive the scholarship, and very humbling to be included amongst the other incredible scholars.
After having some time to digest the experience (and the deep-fried everything), what I’m left with is the sense that now I’m part of something bigger than I expected. It’s the feeling of spending a few days with new people, and now suddenly you’re part of the family. The community of MCN is what stood out to me from the start. It’s welcoming, warm, cozy, and inclusive. And I like it. These are my people. That’s my biggest take away from the week, as much as anything I learned in the sessions. My first MCN conference was an introduction to the family and an amazing opportunity to network and make connections. As the Canadian cousin no one had heard of before showing up to dinner, I felt welcomed and included. There was a seat for me, and everyone else, at the table.
The theme of “The Human Centered Museum” rang loudly throughout all of the conference sessions, and that is what inspires me going back to work. The traditional top-down model of operating a cultural organization is over. There’s no top; there’s no bottom. It’s us, standing with the visitor and the community, working together. Their stories are the future of museums. Talk to your visitors, build empathy, and have conversations. This is how we can be successful.
By the way, New Orleans is awesome. How many different marine invertebrates can you batter and deep fry? I’m not sure, but I think I ate most of them. As a musician and music lover, I was excited to see what the city had to offer and I wasn’t disappointed. The city is alive with music, and the best of it is found on the street. I was also lucky enough to catch a show at Preservation Hall, which was an experience I’ll never forget. Talk about the “open jaw of awe”!
Finally, the most eye-opening experience came on my last day in New Orleans. I visited the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum and was amazed at what they have accomplished. How often do we get to go to a museum where you are literally stepping into the story? The building, the neighbours, the people on the street, are all part of the story that the museum is telling. This brought the MCN conference experience full circle for me. There are no frills; there’s nothing fancy. It works because the roots of this museum are the people and their stories, and it created one of the most memorable museum experiences of my life.
What’s more human-centered than that?
(photo by Mairin Kerr)