A Befitting #MCN2020 Theme | Sustainability: Preserve/Progress

Written by Andrea Montiel de Shuman and Andrea Ledesma, MCN 2020 Conference Program Chairs, and Meredith Steinfels and Mimosa Shah, Co-Chairs. 

“Sustainability.” The word evokes an array of thoughts and emotions, which vary greatly by your profession, location, or worldview. It can bring to mind the idea of maintaining the status quo, while in the next thought “sustainability” could allude to pushing boundaries thanks to our perpetuity-inspired missions. Now, in this new age of COVID-19, the idea of sustainability is rapidly taking on a whole new meaning for museums.

Each year, the Conference Program Committee has the extraordinary task of choosing a timely theme that is not too specific, not too broad, and will resonate with the diverse skill sets of our community. Incredibly, the Program Committee finalized this theme in early February—and even after Coronavirus swept through our lives, we’ve decided we’re sticking with it as-is!

Directly from the Committee, the #MCN2020 theme description…

Sustainability: Preserve/Progress

This year, we invite proposals that investigate sustainability: a tension between transformation and longevity. Sustainability has many facets—technological, financial, environmental, cultural, social, and personal. These stand at the forefront of our practice as we strive for both survival and relevance. We want to learn how you position your work to meaningfully meet present needs. Weighing impact against cost and risk is one of many calculations that determine valuable products, effective strategy, and efficient systems. How do you temper innovation with a mind for long-term support? 

We recognize the increasingly fraught nature of sustainability—amplified now as we navigate global crises in health, labor, climate change, decolonization, and more. In a time of uncertainty and accountability, let’s confront these issues together. We encourage you to explore what enduring technologies and practices look like in the face of disruption. Question what we are striving to preserve. How do we care for the health of our living environment, our communities, and ourselves? 

Sustainability informed many of our conversations before COVID-19 and will continue to as our sector grapples with the unprecedented impact of mass-closures and their downstream effects. Now more than ever, we’re thankful for the program committee’s insight and empathy. It helped us arrive at a theme that is current, compelling, and flexible. We hope this theme inspires sessions that are creative, productive, and even cathartic.

What does this mean for the conference?

The show WILL go on in November, but how exactly that plays out remains to-be-decided. MCN (including the program committee, conference managers, and board) is working hard to adapt the program so our community can gather safely. We’re following CDC Guidelines and recommendations from the city of Baltimore and reviewing options for virtual conference participation. Reassessing our pricing and participation model is also important. This includes registration costs and the logistics around our scholarship program. The severe impact of COVID-19 on our sector cannot be understated. We want to be sure that everyone who  wants to share their work and participate in MCN 2020 has the means to do so. Stay tuned for more information.

That said, the Call for Proposals will open April 17. Mark your calendars!

We encourage you to look to November as an opportunity to document this historic moment for our sector. The idea of sustainability invites us to reflect on the means of resilience for our organizations and ourselves. It’s been a year of challenges for our physical spaces, virtual platforms, and personal opportunities. Yet, we also have had the chance to shine a light on the value of our community through our projects, our collaborations, our advocacy, and the many ways we support our missions.

Camaraderie, conversation, creativity

Whether your roles require preservation, progress, or both, the theme of sustainability casts a wide net. But as always, innovative projects and dialogue are happening all around us that don’t neatly fall within a defined theme. MCN welcomes all submissions relevant to our community’s mission, “To grow the digital capacity of museum professionals by connecting them to ideas, information, opportunities, proven practices, and each other.” Above all else, we are a humans-first community.

Let this theme embolden you to write down your thoughts, to reach out to others, and to think of that new way you could share your experience with the MCN community this November. Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #MCN2020 and tagging @museumcn. If you have questions about the program or suggestions about how to update or improve the conference in November, please email us at [email protected]. Our hearts and inbox are always open.

Andrea, Andrea, Meredith, and Mimosa