Conference Scholars (Session 2)

Hear from the 2019 cohort of MCN scholars! (2 of 3) These lightening-talk-style presentations showcase the work and research by the next generation of emerging museum professionals.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Hi, everyone. Alright, we're gonna get started because they only have 30 minutes to go through five people. While we set this up, just a reminder that we still have one more session after this from four to 430 for the last of our scholars. Just as another reminder, we do this every year. But this is the 2019 MCN scholar talk, we invite 15, emerging leaders in museum technology to come to the conference, they're going to present on what they're working on, and then learn from all of you as well. And this year, with support from the crest Foundation, we have scholars from the US, Canada and Europe. And they're covering throughout all of the glam sector in quite a few different tech areas. So we have VR, we have AI, mobile apps and metadata. And so please hold any questions till the very end, if we have time, if we don't reach out to them from contact information on their slides, again, only 30 minutes. So we're going to get going.

Unknown Speaker 00:55
My name is Jeremiah Andraka. And I'm going to be chatting with you about a projects focused on interfacing with historically white institutions. Quick question, how many years do you think I have spent as a student in my life? I'd like any number. Time is closed. I've spent 21 years of my life as a student. And I've been educated from preschool to grad school. And I've been educated exclusively at predominantly and historically white institutions. For example, I recently graduated from the master's program and Learning Design and Technology at Georgetown University. And I think that Georgetown itself is the textbook definition of a historically white institution. So in 1838, the institution sold 272 enslaved black Americans, and they use the proceeds to keep the institution running. And that is why the institution exists today. And even though the institution has since had a black president and recruits black people and has black graduates, including myself, that's not why it was created. And it wasn't founded for the education of a diverse student body. As the only person of color in my graduate cohort, I knew that this intention lived on in some way. And as an educator and a student, I wanted to know, how did that legacy continue to manifest and in particular, how do historically and predominately white institutions interface with the marginalized members of its community. I recently came across this Toni Morrison quote, in which she describes her approach to writing and reading, she writes, I'm a black writer struggling with and through a language that can powerfully evoke and enforce hidden signs of racial superiority, cultural hegemony, and the dismissive othering of people language, people in language, which are by no means marginal. The kind of work I've always wanted to do requires me to learn how to maneuver ways to free up the language from its sometimes sinister, frequently lazy, and almost always predictable employment of racially informed and determined chains. So like, wow, about this quote, I think it's quite an aspiration. Here. She's writing about the power to crack open and reveal hidden messages within the interfaces that we use to not only expose that messaging, but also to repurpose it and reclaim it. And so for me to apply this idea to my own context, meant that, despite the challenges of being a black woman, with 21 years of experience at HWY is that I had the training and the position and the power to reveal how those legacies impacted marginalized members in the Georgetown community. And so, in spring 2019, at Georgetown, I proposed and ran a project called invisibility at Georgetown, which was an art exhibit and a workshop focused on a student artwork that focus that centralize the experiences of marginalized students. I designed the project in this way with I don't know if you can see here, sort of at the end, there's like a, a week long. Yeah, there's a workshop for faculty about the art exhibit and the artwork. And the reason why I designed this in this way is because in addition to like, while I was studying learning design at Georgetown, I also worked part time and their center for teaching and learning, working with faculty directly to coach them and inclusive teaching practices. And so for me, faculty members are my audience. And so I wanted to craft something that could reach out to them explicitly and also be providing an opportunity for them to have an experience with the artwork. And so this, the art exhibit, existed for five weeks in a public space outside of the campus bookstore, before moving it to a week long Institute for open to all Georgetown, faculty and staff. And then on day three of that workshop or day three of that incident Institute, we ran a workshop about the student artwork and that exhibit it, we did two close looking exercises, one of which was focused on student peace that was housed in the notebook, which I have with me if you want to go look at it after the session, and then as well as a student video. And then after that, and a different exercise, I asked folks to create some prompts or questions or queries that they wanted to share with the other people at the Institute as they walked into the exhibit, and then put that in the exhibit with a QR code link posted to this digital whiteboard app, so that people could experience these things. You know, these prompts from their peers. And so what I hoped to craft here was an opportunity for faculty and staff who interface with students at Georgetown to have an art experience with artwork directly related to their work, and to help inspire future opportunities for them to

Unknown Speaker 05:47
explore inclusive pedagogy practices in the future. And also, just to say that, I think, yeah, and, you know, I think that for that Toni Morrison, quote, There is space and ways for institutional legacies to be freed up and to become something else. And so I'd be curious to hear about how you have your institutions, sort of interface with marginalized members of their community. How does Linksys Lavon today, please find me on the internet there. Thank you very much.

Unknown Speaker 06:25
Good afternoon, my name is Jason Gharavi. I am from Canmore, Alberta, Canada, the heart of the Canadian Rockies, just want to thank MCN, for providing 15 of us with scholarships to be here, it's my first time to San Diego. And I've really enjoyed my time here so far, mostly because it's winter in Canada. So it's good to be here. So I want to talk to you a little bit about a virtual reality project. And I'm not sure about your specific sizes of your museum, but ours is relatively small. We're about 8000 square feet, we get roughly 22,000 visitors a year. So it's a relatively modest operation. But virtual reality for us is a real game changer. So primarily why we want to set up virtual reality is like a lot of museums in Canada, we have a rather older demographic. And we wanted to find a way to reach out to a younger audience, we want to create new experiences. I don't know if any of you are from Canmore, or know about its location. But at one time, it was a very prosperous mining town, think of it as Pennsylvania with steel. But eventually no one wanted to buy our coal anymore. And they thought that the community was going to basically die, then the Calgary Olympics in 1988 hit and people realize they could buy a lot near the mountains and an international airport for a couple $1,000. And Ken Morris never looked back nowadays, a starter house, there's about a million dollars. So a lot has changed in that time period. But we want to keep that mining history alive. Unfortunately, Ken Moore has no real physical evidence of its mining past. So Virtual Reality seemed the best way to achieve that goal. So we received a grant for $75,000. And basically, what I wanted to tell you about this grant is we weren't even eligible for it. But I still applied and we got it, sometimes you got to take the swing. And if you miss you miss, sometimes you can still make a hit. The most important part of this project is honoring the miners. They're the ones that worked, lived, and oftentimes died in the mind. The biggest risks for this project was a miner would put on the virtual reality headset and say, This is bullshit. This doesn't look anything like the mind. And we would lose all our credibility. So right from day one, we made sure to engage the miners in the project, literally from our initial planning meeting, when we didn't even know what we were doing. We brought the miners in there to make sure they felt a part of the project. So unfortunately, the computer is unable at the moment to show you some of the visuals of the actual mining experience. But I'm going to take you through the various stages of it's designed. Here you can see we're just kind of doing the basic layout and modeling of what the mind looks like. The second slide shows you some of the physical elements, the actual physics of the virtual reality experience. And this one shows you that we have to often take and develop mechanical pieces for trains and we do our best through photos and our own research to kind of come up with the most realistic models. And then finally, we have the human element and we put all of those pieces together. What I want to stress to you right now is that with virtual reality is counterintuitive. You often think of virtual reality as a visual medium, but it's not. It's an audio medium, meaning that our eyes are not easily deceived. I can look at the audience here today and tell that you're all real. If I put you in a virtual reality headset, and all the people look like this guy here, your eyes aren't fooled, you'll know instantly. That's not a real human being. But how we can fool you is with your ears. If you're immersed in accurate sound owed. And if you can hear the miners voices, which by the way, they do all the voice recordings in our virtual reality experience, we don't hire any voice actors. I'm not the voice person you hear you actually hear the miners. It makes all the difference in the world, when you hear the timbers cracking. And those timbers those pieces of wood are holding the mind together, and you hear them cracking, you get really immersed in that experience. Virtual reality for us was also important because it has to drive revenue, we can't do it for the sake of doing it. So we incorporated a business model into it, we realized that virtual reality for us represented a $5 admission increase. My board was very nervous about that, well, what's going to happen are the local is going to turn away are we going to lose the number of admissions contrary, admissions have gone up and revenues have gone up by about 40%. For us, it's still a relatively modest amount compared to many of your museums. But for us, it made a big financial difference. My final point to you today is if you're going to undertake a virtual reality experience, make sure you hire a local contractor. The reason I say this is just like this computer broke down and kind of the last minute for me. If your virtual reality experience breaks down, you don't want to have someone that's 1000 miles away to troubleshoot for you. Thank you for your attention. And thank you to my fellow scholars.

Unknown Speaker 11:37
Hi, everyone, my name is Elena gasca. And I flew all the way from Poland to tell you about a project that we did for the National Museum in wersal. That is an AI powered game for kids called museum treasures. So National Museum in Warsaw was one of the biggest cultural institutions in the country every year it has more than 600,000 visitors. And majority of them are school visits and families with kids. And we consider ourselves a Family Museum, we have a wide offer of educational programs ranging from kindergartens to high schools. And we have amazing educators and our creative workshops are really popular, but we cannot keep up with the demand. So only a small portion of families can actually use the creative workshops. And we decided that we wanted to have a tool for kids to be able to interact with the artworks while visiting by themselves or with their parents and stay active. So we thought about you know how to make the visit interesting for kids and how to make families come back to the museum and how to get them interested in our resources. So we organized a hackathon. And it was the first in the history of the institutions. And the main challenge was to think about how we can use AI solutions to build more interactive and approachable museum. So our inspirations we all know this photo, it was taken at the Reich's Museum, their kids seemingly distracted in front of Rembrandt's famous masterpiece, but it turned out that the kids were using an app designed by the museum. It was a tour guide during their school trip. So we are dealing with a digital natives generation right now. And we wanted to use new media to activate the youngest visitors. One of our inspirations was also two very popular geocaching games, ingress and Pokemon and Pokemon Go in which participants they have to locate and capture objects in the real world. And the museum building was also an inspiration for us because it's monumental and historical. And we wanted to use the extensive space available at the museum. Sometimes it might be very confusing. So we but we wanted to use that emotion of being lost to actually work in our in our advantage. And we thought we realized that the performing a sort of a treasure hunt at the museum is actually one of them. That Museum is actually one of the best places to perform as a sort of treasure hunt in which participants, you know, they follow clues and complete tasks. So so we came up with the game. It's a web app, web app game in which participants they received six treasures. These are fragments of the paintings belonging to a certain category. It might be a part of the body as you can see here, but might also be animals or trees and And they also get a map with the approximate location of the fragments. And armed with their maps and some geo clues, they need to find the paintings that contain the fragments in the actual gallery. And it forces them to, to explore the collection and to shift their attention from the screen to the actual artwork. And we wanted to use wanted to design an educational aspect of it. So we so in order to unlock the treasure, our kids needs to respond to a question of riddle concerning the author of the date, or the date or the origin of the painting in which you can find just by the just by the painting. And so where's the AI in it? Well, we use object recognition models to train

Unknown Speaker 15:52
to tag our collection, to train our model and to create a database of the text fragment. And AI was able to recognize almost 200 refund different categories of objects in the painting. So it not only automated, a lot of manual tagging work, but also helped, it was essential for us that, that the, the the game can be played multiple times. And, and, and the player can also follow multiple different paths. So whether she she's interested in animals or trees. And so we're so far, we've been testing and iterating, and we've been able to find out that the game has not only not only the potential to successfully kill the boredom, while visiting a traditional art museum, but it also actively enhances the perception by shifting the attention to the details that are very often emitted during the casual visit. And although designed to play on smartphones, it actually encourages players to play together either with other kids or their parents. And we are still testing and gathering feedback. But we are hoping to release the full game in early 2020. So if you want to know more or have any questions, I encourage Oh, you can reach me on LinkedIn or you can just ask me for for my information. So thank you

Unknown Speaker 17:41
all right. Hello. My name is Claire Fox, and I'm a graduate student at New York University in the moving image archiving and preservation program. I'm happy to have this opportunity to share some stories about a digital preservation project I'm working on with some of my peers. We're attempting to restore and preserve an early internet using called El cuarto. Del can upon which was founded by Dr. Maria Demetria O'Neill, a Puerto Rican artist who's also a collaborator on this restoration projects. She started the zine in 1995, shortly after she gained access to the National Science Foundation, network and SF net and recognize the power of sharing this resource with their fellow artists and CO conspirators. So in this image, you can get a sense of what the zine looked like in 1998. To be clear, I didn't make this image this is a screen capture from the internet archive's Wayback Machine, and it's still the most complete view of the zine we've been able to see. So, a collector can upon was a place where artists working in any medium could submit their work to be displayed on the worldwide web. It was also a community resource where people could check on events, calendars and posts on forums. In 1995, the World Wide Web was still pre internet and O'Neill saw an opportunity for her to do what she calls decolonizing history, giving a voice to her community in Puerto Rico and allowing Puerto Ricans talk about their experience and their history from their perspective using this new technology without the stewardship of an American or European curator. Xen ran until 2002. O'Neill backed it up in its entirety, but she never migrated her backup formats. The backups are on the technologies of their time data tape cartridges, which face major obsolescence risks and optical disks, which additionally face accelerating degradation concerns. Excuse me. Bet O'Neill had the foresight to back up what she was creating is a rare feat and that she didn't migrate her format is completely understandable. Tapes and discs are marketed as objects that are supposed to last forever, but no format will last forever. Digital preservation will always be an ongoing process of maintenance and care. My collaborators and I met money monitor O'Neill this past June during a community archiving workshop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is her in 1988 And we had a couple of exploratory meetings with her in her home to see if we might consult on the restoration of El cuarto Duquenne upon. During one meeting, a friend of hers brought over a giant folder of CDs. And we use DD rescue to create an ISO disk image and mounted that on VirtualBox of the windows 95 operating system to see what kinds of materials we might find. We realized that not only did she backup the art objects that were on the website, but she also backed up all the administrative files that were associated with the zine that makes these cartridges and CDs representative of not only a series of art objects created by a generation of Puerto Rican artists. But additionally, they're an important cultural document that can tell us more about the way that that people use the early Internet, and new interactive technology in the Global South. As you can imagine, there are stories that are caught up in those backup formats, as well as in the memory of the people who worked on the zine. Before we left Puerto Rico. My collaborators and I conducted an interview with O'Neill, during which she told us about the early days of receiving submissions on floppy disks and getting kicked around a different service providers sometimes having to drive up to two hours away from her home to upload submissions to a server. She told us about the day that one of her collaborators configured a live video stream and you can still hear hope how exciting that event was in her voice today. She also told us about trying to dodge proprietary formats and closed web browsers, which he had a knack for doing, and yet she wasn't always successful. Which brings us to the present. My collaborators and I are passionate about preserving el cuarto Doug can upon. But in order to move forward with this project, we need equipment to image those tapes and discs, I put together a list of resources that we need. And if you'd like to take a look, the link is here and it'll also be on my last slide. More than anything, we need the drives that can read the obsolete backup format so we can get the information off of those physical carriers. And ideally, we'd be able to bring those drives to the materials in San Juan. So we don't damage the materials. Our long term goal is to find a permanent home for a partial decant upon ideally in a museum in Puerto Rico, but it would need to be an institution that's committed to making alkaen upon accessible to the public. However, after Hurricane Maria, most institutions on the island are working to find funding for making structural repairs to buildings and vaults and not necessarily investing the new digital infrastructure. As we researched potential home trail can upon time is working against us. The longer we may wait to migrate formats, the harder it will be to find the appropriate jobs and services will only become more expensive. We would like to perform a full inventory and image the tapes and disks ourselves. But our resources are limited and we're all working on a volunteer basis.

Unknown Speaker 22:34
At this point, my lightning talk time is working against me. But if you'd like to get into the digital preservation weeds, including considering how to preserve digital content created using emerging technology, I invite you to reach out via email or find me after this presentation or reach out on Twitter. Given that today's world digital preservation day it only seems right. And for now I thank you for your time.

Unknown Speaker 23:07
Hi, everyone, my name is Emily Eston. So the first thing I do when I go to work in the morning before I check my email or talk to my supervisor or do the work that I'm really supposed to be doing. I jump right on start talking and check my notifications and respond to comments on the top boards, which is good because this is actually a part of my job. I am the project coordinator for a crowdsourcing project called scribes of the Cairo organism. This is an international collaboration led by the University of Pennsylvania libraries and the crowdsourcing platform Zooniverse. And in this project, we seek to identify, classify and transcribe medieval Hebrew and Arabic fragments that were once located in a synagogue in old Cairo, Egypt. Today, these fragments are located around the world from St. Petersburg, to Cambridge, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and virtually all of them have been digitized. But the metadata is fairly inconsistent depending on the library. So in our project over the past two years, over 8000 volunteers have reviewed 50,000 fragments, and they work in Arabic, Hebrew and English interfaces for the world participate. So this project in itself could be an entire presentation. But what I want to focus in on are the talk board since that's where I spend a lot of my time. Most talk boards for crowdsourcing projects are used for troubleshooting specific questions or just help. But the guineas volunteer community has made use of the chalkboards to create their own classification systems, work together across languages to transcribe and translate and just generate conversations about Jewish history, culture and the work of libraries and preservations of materials. And with all of these people talking to each other, from the experts and researchers to participants in the community, it's made me reflect on fostering public participation in research once you have a crowdsourcing project up and running. So I want to show you two exams holes from these conversations. For volunteers who don't read Hebrew or Arabic. visual features on these fragments are often really striking like this Allama that you see in the right, the red rectangle. And Allama is actually really important for researchers in order to understand and identify a fragment. But there aren't nearly enough of them in our project for people to actually go and look for them. And but volunteers started noticing them over time. And so one volunteer took it upon himself to start identifying Allama and every single fragment in the project, which at the time was about 45,000. What we did was we supported him by giving him our data. And in about two weeks, he came up with a tag definition for our glossary, and the collection of fragments to share with researchers based on his identification. And what this moment taught me was that it demonstrated user participation and project level research and trusting volunteers with tasks and validating them as researchers in their own right. Volunteers ask questions like historians, so why not help them on their way? On the other hand, some volunteers are interested in questions our team hasn't thought to address. So volunteers have generated dozens of tags related to art, like doodles, decorations, illustrations, design, and one volunteer who was really impressed by the variety of artwork asked others to join her in creating a collection, she realized there wasn't any really good Niza research looking at these, this artwork, and so she wanted to put them all together for researchers to actually have a space. So we reached out and supported her by cultivating and creating all of these tags, creating a thread for her to share her work on the chalkboards and even a spreadsheet for her to work in. And She interned developed image level metadata for describing the artwork that she saw. And as we promoted what she found, team members started sharing them on Twitter and Facebook, and ended up back in the hands of our image partners who were amazed by the fragments in their collections that they hadn't even known existed. Which takes me to the other side of user participation. Opening up your collection to answer the questions you intended is one thing, but following user generated interests can inspire new insights that we haven't even begun to imagine. So having this open dialogue space where people feel empowered to work and respond in their own languages, ask questions to researchers directly, and take responsibility and a project is what's made this bear experience on the chalkboard is really exciting for me. It's helped our project team become responsive in the know and flexible, being really comfortable and sharing work in progress. And it's brought our project into a space of learning and communication that we imagined. But it's also helped our volunteers share the collective ownership of the data that's created. Thank you so much.