January 2021 SIG Corner: Update from the Media Production and Branding SIG.

Our first SIG Corner post of 2021 is authored by Ryan Waggoner, co-chair of MCN’s Media Production and Branding SIG. SIGs are MCN members’ communities of practice organized around specific topics of interest or niche practice areas. Learn more and join a SIG today!

So far January 2021 is feeling a lot like most of 2020. When I volunteered for the January SIG spotlight I foolishly thought we might be closer to some sense of business as usual. Of course, the turn of the calendar hasn’t fixed anything, but it does have me reflecting on lessons from 2020 and what we might carry forward into 2021, as we all eye a post-Covid world. I don’t have all the answers, but rather two pressing topics as I think about the Media Production and Branding SIG this year. 

Sustainability of our new practices

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced museums around the world to close their physical spaces, many institutions, including my own (Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS), quickly shifted to virtual programming, artist talks via Zoom, and other inventive ways to connect with audiences over the internet. This shift, while far from ideal, has yielded a wide range of benefits. 

Our programs became more accessible without the barriers of needing to be physically present to experience an event. And intentionally or not, we built up an archive of content and knowledge that might not have existed otherwise.

These are wins for both institutions and audiences, but it leaves me with the question: Have we now established unrealistic expectations for the future? Will we be able to offer the same caliber of access to our programming in a still-imagined future world where we can safely hold in-person programming again? While this is still months, if not longer, away, the time to plan is now. How can we start building capacity to ensure our future in-person offerings remain as accessible as we have strived to make online programming?

The role of museum content in the fight for racial justice

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked unprecedented protests around the country and prompted museums to reflect on the work they have, or have not, done to make our spaces (both physical and virtual) more equitable. The issues fueling racial injustice are large and systemic, but the solution requires small, incremental steps toward justice—and this is where museums have a role to play. 

Within the context of media production, video has unique abilities to amplify new voices, specifically BIPOC voices, that have been missing from the museum sector for far too long. There are already examples of this from the field (The Met’s fantastic Met Stories series comes to mind). So how can we use our media production platforms to take those small steps toward a more equitable and just future?

I hope these questions will spark ideas and drive our conversations in the Media Production and Branding SIG in 2021, and I hope you will share your own thoughts and pressing topics. If you are not yet a member of our SIG, please join us to engage in these conversations and more.

Interested in helping me co-chair the Media Production and Branding SIG this year?

Sadly Gregory Castillo who was elected co-chair with me in December, has since left the sector. If you’re interested in replacing him and giving me a hand to co-chair the Media Production and Branding SIG this year, email me directly at: [email protected].