Conference Scholars (Session 1)

Hear from the 2019 cohort of MCN scholars! (1 of 3) These lightening-talk-style presentations showcase the work and research by the next generation of emerging museum professionals.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Hello, everybody, we're gonna get started because we only have 30 minutes to get through everybody. Welcome to the lightning talks for the 2019 MCN scholars each year yeah, there we go. Each year MCN invites 15 emerging leaders and museum technology to its annual conference to connect them with and kind of learn from all of you here as well. This year with support from the crest Foundation, we welcomed scholars from the US, Canada and Europe. And they come from institutions across the glam sector, as well as a number of universities. Their work represents a variety of disciplines, from mobile apps, to metadata, AI to VR, and some more, you'll see a glimpse of that today. Five scholars have five minutes each to highlight their work, please save your questions till the end, and then we'll just see how much time we have left. And please remember we have two more talks tomorrow as well. So now we'll get started with Orvis Starkweather.

Unknown Speaker 01:05
Welcome. I'm Orbis Starkweather. And I work at Legacy art galleries. This year, we bought a shiny new collection management software. Well, we purchased Mimsy, it has the same features that all systems have location tracking, acquisitions, management, condition reporting, etc. But most importantly, it is the backbone behind how the public access our collection. When we installed the software in 2019, this this is how the system was set up to record gender. The problem is that as a non binary person, I wouldn't be able to record myself in this system. There aren't just two ways to do gender, we know that cultures around the world have recognized three or more genders for 1000s of years. And yet, if you use the out of the box software, you would contribute to our ongoing arratia. This is an example of how database structures can perpetuate oppression. Museums have long histories of of being tools for white supremacy, and column colonialism, which their documentation practices continue to be guided by. There is important work being done by well funded industry leading projects. But even if you don't have a lot of resources, and you are a small museum, you can still nudge your data and documentation practices in a better direction. So let's run through five tips and five minutes for ways that you can start doing better right now. Tip number one reflect on the purpose of each piece of data. Ask yourself why are you collecting this? Who will use this data and who will benefit from it? When I asked this question about many fields, like artwork styles, nine times out of 10 The answer is researchers or academics, which is still mostly code for affluent white people. But rarely is it people with disabilities the Anishnaabe a climate change activist six or neurodivergent patrons, you should think about the people in museums have marginalized and ask what information they're most interested in. Relationships, authorship, stories, and seasonal time are all places you might start. Tip number two, think about how you're getting this data. So let's return to that gender question from before. We could simply change it to be checkboxes and add more options. But the problem is that my gallery doesn't actually ask anyone about their gender. We rely on artists, websites and publications to infer date gender, which isn't actually that accurate. So we can either change our collection method

Unknown Speaker 03:55
to Yes, or we can change this to be to be about pronouns. This tweak has no impact on how researchers abilities to track gender parity, but it goes a long way towards building relationships with Two Spirit trans and non binary folks. Tip three, center the language and words of makers, the best thing you can do for many artists is to respect the right to self determine the language of their name and the title of their works. Put this information first and the translation if absolutely necessary afterwards. Right now we're speaking English despite being on the traditional territories at the kumai. If an artist titles their work in their language, rather than one forced on them, it is a deliberate act and should be respected. Which brings us to tip number four just because it's best practice doesn't mean you should do it. We follow Canadian Heritage cataloguing rules but according to them the translated should title should appear first. The exact opposite of what I just told you. There are going to be times when you know there's a good reason not to follow existing best practice, question any protocols you inherit, and make sure that you preview, you're prepared to choose people over the system. Tip Five, sometimes you need to do the right thing, even when it's hard. Our old database would force you to classify artworks as fine art, or made by an indigenous person. And I can see that staff have rebelled against this for decades, almost always choosing fine art. The problem is that my supervisors acted advocating to hire an indigenous curator because so much of our collection is made by indigenous people. So even though in theory the data should exists, it's not accurate. The most ethical way forward is to split this field into two separate ones, so that something can be fine art and made by an indigenous person. This means that we'll have to augment 18,000 records. But despite the huge volume of work, we have decided that this is the only appropriate action. There we go. Five tips and five minutes come find me so we can continue the discussion on museum database ethics.

Unknown Speaker 06:26
All right. Hi, everyone. My name is Julio, and I'm here from the Institute for Canadian citizenship to tell you about canoe. So canoe is a mobile app that connects new Canadian citizens with arts and cultural institutions across Canada to celebrate their citizenship. This is a project of the Institute for Canadian citizenship, and it is a new digital iteration of a decade long program known as a cultural access bus. In its previous format, the cultural members had to sign up for the Cultural Access Pass and get a paper card they granted free admission at cultural institutions. But this model obviously pose different challenges, we were not only unable to measure participation or report back to our partners, our reach was also limited by this infrastructure that required in person pickup. So throughout 2018 and 2019, the ICC worked to turn the Cultural Access bus into a new smartphone app, which is a new and it launched on May 1 of 2019.

Unknown Speaker 07:25
So one of the goals from the onset of developing canoe was to continue building on the legacy of the Cultural Access bus, which was diversifying arts and culture audiences, developing audiences, really connecting new citizens driving their participation in arts and culture and creating inclusion in this way. But we also knew that with a new format, we had new opportunities available to all stakeholders. So for members can new offers much more accessible signup process, and free admission in a very simple way. But it also increases those connections that we want to create between our partners and them through search options and different listings. For our partners. This is the first time that we'll be able to really let them know how new citizens are engaging with them. And, and, of course, to continue stringing those connections in different ways beyond visitation. For us for the ICC. This is a really exciting opportunity to for the first time find out about these large groups trending towards 100,000 By the end of the first year since launch of canoe that are participating in this program and know how they are engaging with arts and cultural institutions. So transforming and developing an app from scratch comes with a lot of freedoms that transforming an existing programming to an app does not. So really, when we decided to turn cap into into canoe, we had to rethink what exactly we wanted to accomplish. And one of the things we had the opportunity to focus on was the relationship between US citizens who were now opera users and our partners. So we really tried to strengthen like I said, those connections and try to build inclusion in different ways.

Unknown Speaker 09:18
Sorry, so um, yes. So through design, we were able to really strengthen that connection. So the app introduces new citizens to the cultural landscape in Canada. It lets them know about the hundreds of places available, whether they visit them or not. We're trying really to build that relationship that starts before the visit, and then strengthening that connection with opportunities for post visit feedback. We know that new citizens are really engaging with this tools we have with this tool. Sorry, we have about 1000 users every day, and really connecting new citizens to multiple places through one single app. And connecting them in meaningful and multiple ways is really encouraging them To download and use this app. So one of the most innovative aspects of canoe is it's called admission code based admission system. And we rely on our network of partners to implement this. What it looks like is each participating institution listed in the app has a unique venue code, which members have to input in their app every time they visit to generate a timestamp card, as well as the number of children visiting with them. So in order to do that, this is how they members get free admission, but it's also how we capture every single visit. So in order to do this, we had to do a lot of work, of course, we had to re engage a very large network of partners of 425 institutions, which is a mix of museums, galleries, parks, science centers, performing arts and festivals. And we did this through email campaigns, newsletters, phone calls, meetings. We also read consulted extensively with all of our partners and made sure their feedback guided the design of the app all along the process. Prior to launch, we did several training sessions in six different cities across Canada group meetings. And finally we delivered their code by email, but made sure we design materials to support them in this transition. Before and after. So five months in, we have successfully transition and the numbers are stacking up. We have about 33,000 visits structured so it's slightly higher there. We're also finding out new information for the first time. We know that 30% of these visits are from youth and children under 18, which we never knew before. And our participation has doubled. So that's it. Thank you

Unknown Speaker 11:51
Oh, switchbacks, okay. Sorry, I do actually use that mic after. Thank you. Okay. Hello. So I am Cassie Tucker. And I'm going to be talking today about how the Eskenazi Museum of Art in Indiana University focus their collections online that they're building toward the rural constituents that they have. So this fall, my institution is launching our first comprehensive collections online project. What that means is that in the past, we've had some microsite versions and some attempts toward a collection. We've never had anything that's fed, fed by our content management system, and is maintainable that way. So our institution is a resource for world class art in southern Indiana, we have 45,000 pieces in our collection, over half of Indiana's counties are at least half rural and 4.3 million Indians don't access the internet or broadband speeds. And I just want to say that although I am talking about Indiana, specifically for our institution, this is something that every region faces, I mean, there's always rural constituents, and there are always issues of access. So this applies to a wide range of institutions. So in thinking about our rural constituency, and the fact that the area that we're in is primarily rural, how did that impact how we thought about building collections online from scratch. So first of all, we had to recognize that our rural constituents presented us with unique sets of opportunities and challenges. I think it's important to say that there are opportunities here and that it's not just a bad thing all the time. But those things included outdated technology, lots of older iPhones or older Androids, access only from a mobile device, slow internet speeds, even if it's available. And some areas only have access to high speed internet from public resources, like a library or a cafe or a school. So we had to acknowledge what that means, and stripped back what we were going to try to accomplish to think about the bare minimum of what needed to be there to really be a successful collections online within the parameters that were given here. We also had to consider that, for most of the schools were a teaching institution. Most of the schools may lack access to arts education, especially in the upper grades. And so refocusing on online in person and distance learning opportunities altogether are how we give them the opportunity to engage with that art that they may not otherwise have had. So recognizing that set of limitations was important for us. We also had to recognize the different levels of comfort with both art and technology that come from that particular subset of users. So rural individuals and particularly those who fall into the category of rural poverty decreases both technology and arts comfort because that comfort and confidence comes from regular positive interactions, which may not be possible for social economic reasons, reasons of do instance. There are a lot of reasons why it may be difficult for rural users to feel comfortable and confident and engaging with technology and or art, and especially when you put them together into one sandwich of discomfort. So how did we reframe our collections online for that, for those who are less confident as a whole, we emphasize writing for a general audience rather than other experts, which I think everybody tries to do at this point, we provide a gentle jumping off points like start here, like browse by see what's currently on view, things like that, so that nobody felt like they didn't know where to start. And we tried to include things that made it clear what to expect on every page, and how to reuse anything that they found on the site. So we wanted to make it really clear to people that you're free to use anything that's not under copyright. And here's what that means. So trying to give people that education as well, in a non condescending way. We also realized that we were gonna have to change some of the priorities that we had initially set to be successful. So initially, our focus was really, really image heavy. We were really big fans of photo essays, because everyone loves a good photo essay. But we realized really quickly that especially for folks who are accessing only on mobile or low internet speeds, they don't really share the information that we want. And it can be hard to find the same thing with more images. So we really wanted to include every great image we have. But that's not really necessarily feasible for our audience. So instead, we focused on having one really great image having complete object tombstones, and having accessible visual descriptions of all artworks. This is an Aboriginal piece in our collection.

Unknown Speaker 16:48
We focus on curator written discussions, social sharing, so that people could share what they're learning with other people in their same network, and resources for people who are using and teaching with a collection so that they know what they can do. And with that said, we still have a long way to go. Like I said, this is our first comprehensive collections online project. So there's lots more things we can do. But our next steps are continuing to add artworks to Collections Online, I'm going to wrap this up really fast, building up resources and getting feedback. So I'm always happy to talk about this more at this address. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 17:40
Hi, can I stand I mean, you all look so good, I want to see so my name is Derek. I'm the Digital Media Specialist at the University of British Columbia at the BT Biodiversity Museum, and that sits on the traditional ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam. Squamish and slay what to get First Nations, the collections go back over 100 years, but as a public institution, we are less than 10 years old. And the product I'm telling you about today is one that we've collaborated on extensively with the Musqueam community. So in that one, we have taken our physical space, and we wanted to reframe it from an indigenous knowledge perspective, by taking the space that visitors experience and hybridizing it with the ecological connections that show the resources used in First Nations technologies. So I'm going to be talking to you about building technologies with First Nations communities, as well as finding the right scale of digital technologies for your institutions. So a little bit more about our space. We were originally intended as collection storage and nothing else. But donor money said we had to be public. So now we're both. In reality, we are sort of an underground concrete monkey space full of rows of black metal cabinets. So think about a supermarket no interior walls, where everything has been stuffed, dried or pickled, and the architect was Darth Vader. So you design some temporary exhibitions for that space. That's my job. In terms of assessing our digital capacity, I am the only digital person we have a staff of about 25. I cover two dimensional design and technology across all departments primarily exhibits, but also AV support, I changed the light bulbs. So yeah, it's not a whole ton of capacity. And this is also not my background. So luckily, we have friends, Museum of Anthropology is probably better known, you might have heard of it. They have been around for a long time. And they have fantastic relationships with the First Nations communities, which was such a blessing. So they gave us an introduction to six different First Nations communities in our province and we all collaborated together on an exhibition called culture at the center. Musqueam, which is the community that's closest to us had this submission in culture at the center and it is a 35 foot sturgeon Harpoon and it's the first one that's been made in 100 years because the sturgeon fishery has been closed. And they gave us the correct people to talk to and the protocols within which to follow that relationship. On our side, we had Yukiko stranger Gailey on the left there who is our exhibits? manager and on the right is Jason Woolman he is the archivist with Musqueam. And they had a fantastic working relationship because institutions don't have relationships, people have relationships. And this can make and break your collaborations. So for culture at the center, since we were working with six different groups, we wanted to give them all the same amount of representation. So on the left, we have the panel for Musqueam, which is on the sturgeon harpoon just a little bit of information on the right of the concept map. So Jason, and put this together originally, and each one of the nodes is a different organism involved in the sturgeon hunt. And around it is a concept of or several concepts in indigenous knowledge. He gave this to us at the last minute, and the software he was using did not support the special characters he needed from chameleon, which is the Musqueam language. So I corrected it at the last minute and sent it back to him. And he has since sent this out to other museums, I've seen it crop up in all sorts of places I didn't expect. But it's an example of providing resources to the community, not just taking resources from them. So this was important in demonstrating our commitment in terms of providing them with things that they could use beyond our institution. And since this was so much knowledge and such rich history, I wanted to create an experience and a new exhibit just based solely around this. And what I wanted to do was just show this map in a way that was more immersive and more experiential, and also that drew out all the amazing things that were in here. And none of that confines us to any particular technology. So this is a 360 photo of our fish collection. It has 350 1000s of pickled fish, specimens of pickled fish, and what I wanted to do was immerse this into the Fraser River in the middle of a sturgeon hunt. So let's see if this works. I see a little thing here.

Unknown Speaker 21:44
There we go. So this is a static 360 environment with photos and illustrations that I created. This is not AR and not VR. notes in the sturgeon web show you the social territorial and linguistic context from an indigenous perspective here. So this is one is on the white sturgeon in particular. And there's a concept called emplace knowledge, which is that certain types of knowledge only exist in certain places. And this creates digital space for that knowledge to emerge. There you see a surgeon, it's at the bottom of the river eating that we're looking after they've spawned, and there you see the harpoon. So the harpoon is 35 feet, we have 14 foot ceilings. So up there as the person holding it, and they're feeling the vibrations from the bottom of the river, which transmit up the shaft of the harpoon. And that's how you can tell which neuron is sturgeon and when you're just on a rock. So the only software I use to create this is Photoshop, it's used. Yeah, it's on an online 360 viewer. So there's no installation, no apps. And you can do this on a tablet, which means you can share it with groups. It's not on a single VR viewer. If you want to experience it yourself, this is the website. This is based on a mobile framework that was put together for me by one of my computer science students, he was awesome. And this is an example of using leveraging your assets. So online platforms, user supplied equipment, student labor, so good. And the 360s only one aspect of a larger exhibit, and it got people really excited. So this is Morgan Guerra, and he's the person who built the harpoon and he offered to lend us the physical harpoon after seeing the 360. So that was a win. And yeah, so here's what larger exhibit, and it contains a second 360 environment as well as touchable specimens. Let's see if this works.

Unknown Speaker 23:28
So yeah, one of the most important things here is that we are held to capacity to build this ourselves. So we are continually expanding this with Musqueam as they continue to share information. And the best measure of success is that they've asked us for a nonpublic version that they can have in their daycare so that they can teach this knowledge on to the next generation of children. Thank you

Unknown Speaker 23:55
I'm gonna sit again, that doesn't mean I disagree with Derek, so great. All right. Thank you guys for coming. I'm Alessandra and I'm the Digital coordinator at David Zwirner Gallery in New York City. I'd like to present a very brief introduction to web accessibility. This stems from a project that I worked on in Denver last year called The Art of access Alliance, and more on them in just a second. But to introduce you guys, to my experience with this, I'm going to provide a very, very brief overview of some key milestones that have sort of paved the way for this conversation. I'll provide you with a couple of different examples of tools that you can use. And then in the end, I'll have some examples of some resources that you can point you to to learn more about online accessibility as well as working with disability communities. So but first and foremost, just to give you guys an idea, in the last census, about 1/5 of the population identified as having a disability, oftentimes, this is a marginalized community that's overlooked in conversations about diversity, diversity and inclusion. So I wanted to frame this context as a weight of goal of empathy building and working with disability communities and understanding what your perspective of disability is, when you're thinking about web accessibility. The case study that I have is this project, the art of access Alliance, which was building out the website and digital presence for them. This is a consortium of members from different cultural organizations in Denver, such as the Denver Art Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the contemporary contemporary art center, and a bunch of other people that were working together to highlight access programs in the region. So some of the outcomes were this website with resources for disability communities, as well as resources for arts administrators looking to work with them. And we also had a calendar highlighting access events in the region. These types of access consortiums are starting to happen a lot more in major cities throughout the US, there's one in Bay Area, Chicago, New York and a bunch of places, Denver didn't have one of these. So we wanted to build out this digital presence to kind of increase the momentum of what was starting to happen there. But of course, the why, as I mentioned, that's a huge portion of the population that identifies as disabled. So you want to think about increasing ways to reach them, not just with your physical programming, but in your online spaces and your online content as a way to expand your audiences and invite those new dialogues. But of course, a lot of this would not be possible with some legislation that paved the way for the groundwork to establish the rights of disabled people as civil rights issues. I'm sure you've all been aware of the ADEA. It's celebrating its 30 year anniversary next year. Yeah. But what from stemmed from that was the Web Accessibility Initiative, which established these four content guidelines for basically goals for making electronic information accessible. But as you saw from those four primary guidelines, designed with those considerations in minds could apply to both digital and physical spaces. And sort of establishes the fact that universal and inclusive design doesn't really just benefit disability communities, but it benefits everybody. So to start this project, since we were starting from scratch, we were working with different representatives from different disability communities in the region, as well as people working with them. And we were testing iteratively. And I think this can go if you're also just making small tweaks, your website is working, co working with them co designing with disabled people from all backgrounds and making sure that you're getting that feedback, you're retesting it, and you're keeping that in mind with them. But for this project, you always and or those similar to it, you always want to ask the two first questions. Is this authoring tool accessible? And can it make accessible content. So as we were starting from scratch, we were looking at CMS is these are of course, the most ubiquitous ones, we went with WordPress, just because there's a really robust online community around the access frameworks and the plugins and just getting information about it available. And also Drupal has a slightly higher learning curve. And we were trying to think about the sustainability of this project beyond just the initial creation of this website. But of course, you all have existing online presences. So when you're thinking about this, this can apply to any CMS or any type of website, there's tons of very simple and basic considerations that you can do to make your online content and just media accessible. So first and foremost, all text on images, this is not something you need to go into the HTML and add the tags for most most CMS is have a place for you to add this information when you're uploading media, or captions on videos is a super not so simple, new time consuming thing that you can do. But it's an easy one that benefits everybody. Also image descriptions for artworks and things like basic tagging in HTML. So people that are accessing your content with screen readers, other devices can more easily navigate it. And then of course, accessibility plugins, just in general for most CMS is regardless of which one you're using have these readily built in, you can start using them right outside the box, and a lot of them are free and make your website more accessible pretty immediately.

Unknown Speaker 28:57
And then, of course, there's a lot of tools that evaluate the accessibility of your online presence. And so for example, there's the wave accessibility tool, and Google's lighthouses, Chrome, it's on the Chrome browser, those are two things that you can basically type in your website. And what they'll do is they'll highlight different elements and show you the errors and provide you with examples of how you can fix those errors in a pretty simple way, or show you different resources to fix them in a deeper dive. But going back to the original point under this is really about understanding the different environmental and societal and digital factors that go into our definition of disability and how we perceive that. And I think that cultural institutions are uniquely poised to be leaders in this inclusivity and demonstrate these sorts of online best practices to make not just your physical programming, but your digital programming more accessible for everybody, because then you're actively engaging with that huge portion of the population to invite more new audiences to engage with your work. Thank you so much for listening. I do have a handout with some work. The sources available if you want to come up and you can get that and I'm available there and thanks so much