Making ‘The Digital Future of Museums’

Speakers: Keir Winesmith • Suse Anderson • Lauren Vargas • La Tanya Autry Thursday, November 12 • 5:00pm - 6:00pm The Digital Future of Museums: Conversations and Provocations' (March 2020, Routledge) explores the role of digital technology in contemporary museum practice within Europe, the U.S., Australasia and Asia through interviews with 24 museum practitioners, thinkers, and experts in related fields from a diverse range of backgrounds and geographies. In this session, the book’s authors will synthesize their learnings from the interviews, and offer provocations and reflections about effective practice that will help prepare today’s museums for tomorrow. Topics covered in the book include post-digital/post-normal museum making; trust, truth, data, privacy and personalisation; digital collections and source communities; digital platforms and practices; institutional change and leadership; interactivity and immersion and many more. This session will focus on the necessity of deep dialogues, community ownership, local relevance and social impact for museum digital practice now and into the future. It is less about sustainability in the sense of “sustaining orgs as they are” and much more focused on how to sustain and be successful while undergoing the necessary changes that are demanded of us. It’s a progressive and challenging project, fit for these complex times. Beyond this synthesis, this session will include a facilitated discussion with two additional experts to track the changes since the book was developed, including the impact of COVID-19, the museum labor movement and the push to anti-racism in shaping museum digital practice going forward.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Good evening, everyone, or Good morning or good afternoon, wherever you may be. Thanks for joining us again today. For those of you who just joined us, I'm Eric Longo. I'm the executive director of MTN. And for those of you who've already seen me and might be a little perplexed with my new decor behind me, it's my private gallery now, just joking. It's actually a picture of the jack shainman Gallery in kinderhook. New York has Hope you're having a good conference. So far, we've had some couple of glitches I believe today. Not too. Not too bad, I hope. I'm here to first before I introduce the session, I would like to say a big thanks to our sponsor, Microsoft, a registration assistance, sponsor, as well as Xel or Ignite sponsor, and all the other sponsors that are making this conference possible. And a couple of housekeeping. We're using the q&a, for box for questions, and the chat box for technical issues. And also, we have, as you know, the Help Desk on channel on slack for you to connect with our volunteers, if you have any questions about connecting to the session. So on that note, we're I'm here to introduce this fabulous book that is going to be the topic of tonight's session, the digital future of museums conversations and provocations. And it kind of explores the role of technology in contemporary museum practice in the US and Australia in Europe. And it's a really fascinating compilation of about 24 interviews, I believe, with using practitioners and experts in related fields and in kind of, it's really great, so highly recommended. And on that note, I'm going to give it over to Keir Winesmith and Susan Anderson, for this session. Thanks.

Unknown Speaker 02:14
Hi, everyone. We're going to show a slide a few slides and then we're going to get into the details.

Unknown Speaker 02:31
I'm joining you from the unseeded lands of the Getty, Getty people are the gadigal. But I also want to pay my respects acknowledge that Derek, whose peoples and languages was really influential in my understanding of culture, and particular the their body where I learned to swim and their boyar world and to climb. I would also acknowledge the Pisco, tanwar people, Baltimore City where Susan's joining us from so I'm joining from what is now called Sydney in Australia. What would be great, this is something that's become pretty common in Australia and New Zealand. I'm not sure if it's the case in the United States, and other places people are joining from joining us, joining us from if you could put the indigenous lands that you join from and your name in the chat just to say hi, that would be fantastic. Today we're going to be talking about the digital future of museums. The book that Susan I worked on for many years and has come out earlier this year. There's sort of like a launch party because it has some ties back to MTN. But Tanya Autry and Dr. Lauren August are going to join us for the conversational piece, which I'll explain in a minute. And if you're sort of a Twitter, you can find us on the Twitter's the discussion will continue in many ways. So a little bit of housekeeping as soon as exit the screen, you can as Eric sent q&a is this can be as such but essentially narrative and conversational between Tanya and Susan i. So we won't be doing many q&a, but the q&a will accumulate but for the most part we're gonna run to the hour. So last bit, the origin story of the book, which is what ties us back to MTN at an MC and conference as actually MTN and a couple of other conferences in particular, MTN conference, after sun presented the kind of beautiful narrative and its success story about a particular project, which many of the sessions were the success stories, a group of people, just three or four of us got together afterwards and asked all the hard questions or complicated questions, the difficult questions you kind of can't present in that format. Have the sort of chalk and cheese presentation. And I came up with this idea that perhaps in the right context, you could create a conditions where a conversation could happen, where you just had the hard questions. You just had that rich dialogue of a few experts who were different in their origins and different in their thinking and different in their practice, but come together as experts and join things up in a way that is kind of unique and exciting. About a year after this feeling, when I was hanging out with Sousa karaoke, she said, I hear you thinking about a book. And I said, Yes, we should work on it together. This is sort of over the noise of MTM karaoke in the background. And I realized that she was absolutely right. And we should work on it together. And so we started working in that moment. So this is in New Orleans. And so the fruit of that labor is now in front of you, obviously, you know, believe in karaoke. So the structure of the book, which was what we're going to replicate today, the structure of the book leads to introduction, that's me doing this right now, then a set of provocations that Sue's authored, and today we'll present some of kind of shortened version provocations a book class and things that have come since then. And then a series of 12 conversations may with 12 pairs or 24. Other people who intersection away join together the ideas that animate the museum sector as Susan I thought, so about 50% men about 50% women, from all of the English speaking world, from Hong Kong and Japan, to the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, a mix of people and a mix of ages and experiences and origins within the museum world. Some outsiders, some insiders, some directors, some academics, and some really Junior people. And together, they've created sort of nuanced threaded polyphonic view of what museums could look like in the future. And then there's a conclusion which you can we will replicate to a certain degree together in a few minutes. At the end, we'll show you how you can play the book and get a discount. And we hope if you have read it, then you can bang around in the chat and you can hang out with us afterwards. And give us feedback on what doesn't doesn't work for you. So first of all, over to Sue's for some publications.

Unknown Speaker 07:08
Hey, everyone, thank you so much for having us. It's really lovely to be back at MC n and presenting on this book. But you know, it can't I released this book, it came out in March, it came out just as the pandemic was starting to take over the world. And in fact, that's something our launch date was March and many people didn't even get the Walk In fact, us for several months laid out because of them. Amenta see that it has been. And I know that everyone has been facing their own different kinds of challenges this year. But one of the things that we were thinking about in writing this book really still rings true to me, and in fact, more so. So prior to COVID, a sand and the shifts that accompany that, we were living in what the audience sadar calls post normal times, and the times that are characterized by uncertainty by rapid change by a realignment of power by upheaval and chaotic behavior. Personal more times are defined by complexity, chaos, contradictions, they nearly impossible to comprehend, highly connected and filled with tension, which leads to a lot of uncertainty and risk and bringing into question conventional or normalized modes of thinking and behavior. This is this is stuff we were already thinking about prior to 2020 and the complexity that we've seen here, but we can witness that complexity by thinking about the many interlinked parts of life that have been impacted by the pandemic, amongst other things that we've been living through. From health care systems to food chains, our work identities, and our private spaces, and selves. Gone is the illusion that change to one part of our system might only have a limited effect we can see knock on effects from the pandemic, then threatens stability in multiple fronts, and they seeming to grow larger and more chaotic over time and contradictions to a central to these ideas of personality. sada identifies a contradiction between the focus on seemingly unprecedented change in the current era, such as the rapid change and development associated with technology, and the quasi status of inbuilt systems of oppression. We and systems of inequality which become further embedded over time, we can understand this better by thinking about early considerations of cyberspace, which was imagined as a world that all might enter without privilege or prejudice according to according to race or economic power to military force. Also station of birth. When social media first came to prominence, it was lauded as a triumph for democracy by lowering the barriers to participation for traditional and Annette enabling individuals and groups to bypass traditional gatekeepers of knowledge, including museums, and to gain visibility and voice that had not previously been possible, communicating and organizing in new ways. But even as the internet enabled participatory practices, major platforms started systematically dividing people into market segments and political tribes. We see digital redlining that prevents certain users from seeing unemployment and housing opportunities, and digital inequality exacerbates educational and income inequality. So the potential of the internet to create open, transparent and democratic systems of communications, existing biases have instead been re inscribed further entrenching our status quarz we are witnessing continued entrenchment of systemic biases in the impacts of COVID. The virus and it's following effects disproportionately impacting persons with disabilities and chronic illness, communities of color women, and others already structurally disadvantaged. And as individuals and as institutions. And in fact, as society, we're pretty ill equipped to deal with this. And to make sense of this complexity. It is unendingly disorienting. And it prompts us to interrogate many of the other things that we've been thinking about our assumptions about what a normal life can be, or should be, at a time.

Unknown Speaker 11:50
Whatever follows this moment. So today, Keir and I wanted to interrogate some of these ideas and some assumptions about museums, and how they've been functioning by focusing on issues related to care, and its relationship to digital practice in museums as well. I'd like to also link this discussion to something that I've been thinking about in museums, which is risk and how we calculate risk in museums, and how the pandemic can actually help us better focus our work to make our institutions safer. And when I say safe, I mean that quite broadly, museums are often imagined as safe places for unsafe ideas, a term credited to Alain humaine Varian, human Gurion, but it's increasingly clear that such a conception ignores the harms that museums can do to individuals to communities and to Publix. These harms may manifest and be perpetuated through stereotyping that re inscribes and re embeds historical impressions. It can be through Araiza and exploitation and tokenization. It can be through bullying, or racist and sexist treatment, it can be through re traumatization. And a failure to respond to communities of origin, who seek the return and repatriation of stolen or questionably acquired objects. It can be through exploitative labor labor practices, in many more ways. I know these are topics that are resonating from a lot of the conversations that have been happening at MC n. So whether in digital practice or in other areas, areas, risks to publics and stuff are really considered, I would argue, with the same considerations that we consider risks to the institution, or risks to the collection. I think it's still all too rare to ask the question, who might this harm, along with the questions that might follow about how we might mitigate such harms. So the pandemic prompts us to focus on risk differently, and to consider how we can create institutions that are safe for staff, and audiences. And that can include practical forms of safety. So staff and visitors don't get sick, and don't spread the virus. But it also enables us to start thinking about other kinds of safety, such as feelings of security, and in fact, being secure in a space. It means creative environments of trust and thinking about who we give agency and in what contexts. And this, of course, should continue into the digital space as well. How can we make institutions into the things that we've claimed they are for a generation safe spaces, by focusing our attention on our communities in the broadest sense, including the communities that our staff, those who visit us in person and those who use our resources online, we have an opportunity to think about the impact of the work that we do through a different lens from the lens we might habitually do so. We can ask, what does it mean to create Institute Ones that feel safe and are safe, particularly for those who have been historically harmed by institutions, and historically does not mean over historically and continue to be harmed. How might we do? So? What do we need to change within our practices to better recognize the potential for harm, even when we strive to do good? And how might we focus on an ethics of care? to shape the answers to these questions? Is the thing I've been thinking about. I'm really excited that latonya and Lauren are here joining with me and Kenya, to focus on these this idea of care, and how it might help us create better safer, just better museums. So I'm going to hand over at this point, to Kenya to learn and to latonya.

Unknown Speaker 16:03
Oh, can I have my video? stopped or unmuted, whoever has that superpower? Awesome. Thank you. Thank you, Susie. That was amazing. Lauren latonya. I'm just going to introduce you both and then feel free to unmute otherwise, I did realize that I didn't introduce what I look like for those who are visually impaired or for the transcript. I'm an undifferentiated white dude, with a beard, kind of like all the other white dudes with beards, and wearing museums are not neutral t shirt. One of $1,000 worth of museums are not neutral t shirts that are bought over the last four months with my case like money. And then like a collar because like this is important and my pajama pants on because it's morning in Australia to introduce latonya and Lauren latonya is a cultural organizer and the curator in residence at MOCA in Cleveland, she develops exhibitions, programming, institutional spaces, and para and various institutional collaborative projects, including the social justice and museums resource list, which we'll mention in a minute, and will share in the chat, the art of black descent, museums and a neutral t shirt and the black liberation center. And as we go, we're going to touch on some of those things. Dr. Lauren Vargas is a digital dragon Wrangler, which I absolutely love. And I've used it a couple of times in the last week enjoyably with 20 years of experience assisting organizations with their community and communication strategies. Vargas is an independent researcher as well with your digital tattoo as well as the one by one research project, which we're going to cover in a second. So as Sue said, latonya, Lauren, if you could unmute your mics. As Sue said, over the next 30 minutes or so we're going to discuss the ethics of care as relates to museums and technology. And somewhat in that order, actually. And I'd like to begin with maybe the hardest thing to define if those three elements are they're all contested, care. latonya, you've written and spoken about care as part of your curatorial practice. You've even used the term of care as practice in your writing. These words care and curate, obviously share some overlap in some history. However, it seems, at least to me, you're looking well beyond that kind of that immediate and obvious connection in dislike, well beyond that. Could you talk about what cam means in your professional in your organizing and activism practice?

Unknown Speaker 18:30
Yes, yes. Thank you. First, I want to say thank you for the invitation to be here with all of you today. And I am zooming in from the ancestral lands of the Erie in the hood nashoni people in the area that is now known as Cleveland, Ohio, presently known as Cleveland, Ohio. I am medium to dark skinned black woman, and I got my hair and some braids and some kind of weird earrings on that I love. And I'm wearing a black t shirt with the name Brianna Taylor over and over and over again, bring attention to the violence that is ongoing in this nation state of state violence. So yeah, care, it all connects actually. Um, so I've studied to be a curator, I come from kind of very traditional program. I'm a PhD candidate, and I'm studying art history. And in that training, I kind of came up with a very, I was trained in a very traditional way about what curatorial work is, but here in the States, and like everywhere, basically valleys, museums are exclusionary kind of spaces, their spaces often really a violence. That's the origins. And as a black woman, I have been mostly mostly or just all the time working in white spaces, and I am often the only black person or only person who is not white. making any content in the institutions creating content, which is the case right now, and it's happened to me over and over again. So for years, I've kind of been experiencing this. So I've started to feel, you know, I figured out that I needed to think about care in a very different way, not the way that I was trained to think about to care for objects. As a curator, that's the kind of traditional training I got, which is actually centered in kind of a whiteness frame without without actually articulating it that you know, without actually acknowledging that or talking about it, but I was I've been pretty much trained through kind of a whiteness lens, a very colonialist perspective, my own work through my, you know, research, I started kind of pushing, expanding past that and engaging with other types of theories and reading more about feminist work, feminist theory of thinking with black studies, starting to learn about D, colonial kind of all of that, taking that all in and then applying that to the curatorial practice, like working in the institution. And yeah, reading people like you know, sitea Hartman, Christina Sharpe, in particular for the author of wake on blackness and being one of those people is really foundational for me for thinking about care, in this kind of focus and black feminist thought of more broadly about care and thinking about collective care, right, caring for communities and realizing that we cannot fight. Anti blackness we can't fight racism really is sexism, and all of these things. By only just focusing on our individual self and putting that onus on the individual to fight we need to be doing very structurally. So I took that kind of that that lens from various people like Audrey Lorde, and all that thinking with Christina Sharpe, and then applying that to my curatorial work. And so that's how I kind of came up with Kara's praxis, some of that language, I think. I mean, there's a phrase and um, I think, citing a Hartman, who's this, you know, foundational thinkers wrote a book called scenes of scenes, seeds of subjection, about 19th century kind of literature and imagery. And she also wrote a more recent book called wayward lives. And she's a really important thinker, a MacArthur Fellow. So she is someone who's influenced Hartman. And in a conference, I remember I watched online, she said, the expression care is the antidote to violence. Yeah, down that was like, maybe in 2015? No, cuz I think that book came out 2016. So it's not that long ago, it's recent.

Unknown Speaker 22:37
I wrote that down. And I use that as a hashtag, I share a lot of stuff online. And, you know, I guess we can talk about that are going to talk about it. Um, but I start using that as a hashtag Care's antidote to violence for thinking with my curatorial work. And then using Kara's practice idea practices being, you know, combining our theory in our practical work in the goal of changing the world, you know, with an activist agenda. And knowing that that work has to be has to have a care kind of focus. So yeah, I think about care is extending past objects, and even past like working in contemporary museum. Sometimes curators will talk about the care for artists, I, of course, hope to do that, especially because I work with a lot of black artists, I work with indigenous artists and Latin x artists, you know, Asian arts, I'm focusing particularly on the folks who have been excluded many spaces. So definitely want to apply care to how I'm working with them. But I also want to care for the communities. So I want to care about the people who live in the cities, who are often also excluded, you know, even in cities of color, majority cities of color, they are not the people that these institutions are really caring about or creating content for and really working with. So for me, it's about working with communities, and bringing them in and just, you know, if I see some, some weird, bad racist practices that are happening in the institution, I try to interrupt that I try to intervene, try to, you know, highlight how those are problematic. But more recently, I've learned I need to apply that practice of care, collected care to myself as well, because sometimes I've been not sometimes all the time, I've been trying to do that work, as I said, by myself, and I don't have a team with me, and I'm only just starting to figure out I need to have a team. Because this is bad. In addition to we have to, you know, fight broadly to create, change the advocacy work, that's part of the care practice as well.

Unknown Speaker 24:34
Thank you for that comprehensive NC you've touched on many of the things we're going to work through over the next 30 minutes. So this is really exciting. And one person who's not here today, who's an indigenous rider, Nathan sentence, who has a blog called the archive volti columnist, and he has this comment about decolonizing archives indicom. And he works in museums and archives. And he says, You can't Just employ one indigenous person in and expect them to fix everything, you're putting everything on them. And so you need an indigenous team, so they can support each other in doing the incredibly hard and kind of almost, you know, emotionally violent work of decolonization. And you also need to acknowledge that the museum will change. If you invite this folk in, because you want to like do progressive work, you can't expect the museum to be exactly as it was before you invited them in. And so here's the sort of prime it's definitely worth a read. Lauren, to you, one of your pieces, though, a couple pieces of yours. I've read greencare in in different ways. And there's an article you wrote, to take care to be calm. And I think Sue's will grab a link to that in the chat. So people can read an inadequate, you make this point where people say, Take care, sometimes there's a sign up in an email, when they say goodbye to someone take care without really saying what they mean by that. And so I'm going to ask you, actually, when you say Take care, or when you're kind of considering care in your practice, what do you mean, when you say, Okay,

Unknown Speaker 26:07
yeah, it's the, it's the act of practice of emotional intelligence, and I suppose, you know, 80 of my 20 years. In my career, it's been in the corporate world. So I'm a big fan of an acronym. And so care actually stands for how do we communicate? How do we adapt to change? How do we build resilience? Meaning, you know, when we fail, you know, how do we get back up? What do we learn? How do we, you know, fail slowly, fail forward, not necessarily fail fast, and ultimately build and flex those those empathetic skills. When we say, Take care, especially, you know, I'm coming at this from from the workplace, especially. And it's just, you know, it's a throwaway remark. And we don't really, really until the pandemic, you know, we weren't really talking about how do we check in? How do we practice our active listening? How do we really, you know, dig deeper into just those flippant responses that we give back? Yeah, I'm fine. Right? You're not fine. What what are you truly feeling? And how are you experiencing it? And, and having somebody be interested enough to to ask you and to pay attention? And it's it's part of an overarching framework that aligns with calm? Meaning, how do we collaborate? How do we become more agile and anticipatory? How do we let go of command and control leadership and embrace those leadership practices, and build mindful reflection rituals, and in order to have that calm approach, you must have care in place? So how do we actively practice that? Because emotional skills are not taught? Right? They are learned by trial and error, or never really, truly integrated at all? So how do we start to how do we start to build those into our practice? How do those emotional skills align with business and digital skills? And so that's what I'm really trying to go deep in and in my research practice,

Unknown Speaker 28:06
that's amazing. And then I'm just gonna follow up on that. And then we're gonna go broader, again, when you're talking about care, and the sort of acronyms of practice, which I can imagine a very effective in the, in the kind of corporate wellness, the consultative world, which I sometimes inhabit, when you're bringing them into the museum world, how are they heard this when you're bringing them into, you know, within workshops, and within those environments? How does that blend?

Unknown Speaker 28:35
I think prior to the pandemic,

Unknown Speaker 28:37
it was that Americans coming in with that fluffy language. Right. And, and I think, I think now we're looking at that particular phrase, and that particular framework and a completely different light, and especially coming at this from, you know, from a digital lens, there's so much emotional labor in our digital work and our digital practices, the way in which we communicate and engage online. And, and I think by practicing the take care to be calm model framework, is we're helping people make the implicit and explicit, we're helping surface what has been invisible. And and not just not the technology, but the the processes and how the people interact with the processes and what does that look like? So I think, I think there's a much more awareness of what that emotional baggage looks like. And the fact that with everything that's happened in 2020, I think we can all agree and engaging online is, is difficult. We armor up to be able to do that. I think if we're honest with ourselves, and I think by by being by being real to address that there are difficulties there are struggles and they start from inside, with ourselves and within our organizations. We can begin to address and hopefully, begin to practice actively practice how we're going to acknowledge and move through

Unknown Speaker 30:07
the problem.

Unknown Speaker 30:09
Yeah, that's really important. I think that's a lovely segue, actually to the next thing I want to ask to Tonya, to both of you, really. So museums, at least the ones I've worked for, within, genuinely experts in in the care of objects, and you may reference this already latanya. And often with a long view, I talk to curators and and conservationists and stuff who may be working with a metal object that they're planning to make sure looks the same in 1000 years, which is sort of phenomenal to get your head around. And they say museums have been totally hit Miss, when it comes to caring for their audiences. We've just talked about. There are some sections of China in the social justice and museums resources, which I think Sue's has a link for and will drop in the chat. There are a couple of sections in there that I referenced many times myself, so there's one of visitors, there's one on ableism, and Disability Justice, there's another one on anti oppressive strategies for in on site, but also for online. Now, this this thing is now 50 pages long, this sort of Bibliography is phenomenal. So I'm thinking about it, like so many things, but I want to focus on one thing. How can museums in particular, you know, the museum, people who would like with us today? How can they bring a care of audience into their work? It's a very big question. But let's let's sort of navigate it together for a bit.

Unknown Speaker 31:30
Yeah, yeah, thank you. I always like let's, let's think with the with let's think about the people right, that we're creating these exhibitions for someone, you know, I often get these kind of questions, people, but how can we bring more like whatever group usually black people or more whatever, these people who don't come to our museum? How can we get them to come here? And like, do you have a relationship with these communities? I mean, let's just get real, it's not about because it's usually like, how can we do some certain kind of marketing campaign or something? And why are we here, because we have this great stuff, something is wrong with them, this idea that people are deficient, and that's why they're not here. Like, Well, look, you know, look at yourself, first of all, you have relationship with communities, why don't you? Why don't you in the first place you've been here for how long? Was this place? Have you been doing some really messed up stuff to people, you know, and if you have you need to come correct, you need to be, you know, apologizing, making making connections. So who are looking at your demographics? Are the people coming there, and these are changing in museums, big time, right? Dance, mainly a more affluent, older white audience, and that group is dying off. I mean, you know, to be putting in a blunt way. And museums are looking like, oh, you're gonna have to look for other funding sources. And we need to appeal to younger audiences, and the country is getting browner. And it's not going to be only that we can keep looking at the same people and focusing on those folks. But those are the they also have a staff that doesn't represent often the communities where they are. And so a lot of things have to change in institutions that they want to be serving. Good. Think about, who is this group you're talking about? There's a group that you've got right now, do you want to expand that? And if you do, what, how? So what? What are the dynamics in place that made the situation what it is right now? Who's on your staff, who's on your board? Do you have any relationships with these other communities, it's all of that kind of deep soul work, really, that emotional intelligence, that's the care of work that needs to happen, and a lot of places will reject that over and over again, they just they don't want to hear that. It would require some major shifting. I think that's exciting. Theoretically, the thing that museums theoretically can do this, they don't want. Huge shifts in who's in power, some of those people don't have emotional intelligence, they shouldn't be gone. And there are people who do do this work often. A lot of women of color, especially who've been talking this talk for decades, and being one of these institutions. So yeah, there's,

Unknown Speaker 34:16
there's a lot there's a lot to that. And part of it is the I mean, see your work, you know, structurally about addressing kind of white normativity. In museum spaces, you kind of talk about that a lot. And so it's often say in in different cultures, it's, it's sort of about the dominant culture, whether that is like Han Chinese in China, or that's, you know, white supremacists in the state. So that's kind of what colonialists in Australia. The trying to create a nuanced environment where people feel seen and welcome often mean changing who's on the front door, who's a donor who's making this What things about who gets to talk about them, there's so many layers to a museum visit, like if you've ever done one of those sort of visited journey projects where you go from someone talking about it and a boss had all the way through all the touch points, and then into the building through the building, seeing work, seeing people getting some food going on social media. And then like the detritus afterwards, if you think of all of those touch points, if they're all normative, you know, if they're all designed, basically what people have in mind by people like me, then you leave out people all the way along that massive journey. Yeah. I'd love to bring you in here. And I want to talk about kind of shift from this space and bring the digital in. Susan, I've been following the one by one initiative. For some time we started actually in the book, I should I should have done this one. I'm doing this, I should admit that. Could you like I want to ask you some more targeted questions. But could you describe, though one by one initiative for people who aren't familiar with it? And then I've got some follow ups?

Unknown Speaker 36:07
Sure. So it's a multi partner, International Research Initiative. And it is all about building digital confidence in museums. And it originated in the UK, in the United Kingdom, across a three year phased project that started out with just defining Do we have, you know, do we understand how to define digital skills? How might How might we begin to figure out ways in which to actively build that agency that competence, that courage around digital skills, and then create a set of active research interventions. And so the first project, I was one of five fellows embedded I across six different museums, where we were in the museum between nine, you know, nine to 15 months, and working with them on you know, how do we how do we build leadership visioning culture process, a people driven on nature into how we address digital skill building, and really defining what digital skills look like from beyond just the competencies, but how do we how do we move beyond the competencies? So you know, that's where the training usually is, or whether you know, there are things that are being addressed? and move into? Well, how do we combine that with different types of skills to build these capabilities? And then ultimately, how do we know how to wield those capabilities by building our own digital literacies. And that that initial research project was then expanded to include us partners. So right now, we are actually in the last week of project number two, where the Smithsonian has been one of our partners, and we've been actively engaged in similar research interventions.

Unknown Speaker 37:53
So there's, in talking about care, and I guess museums and technology, we're kind of doing them all at the moment. The the idea that you'll be with a museum for nine to 15 months to 15 months feels like a kind of very generous act, and very different to, like, I've been a consultant on and off for a few years. And often you come in, you do a thing, and you leave again, and you have no idea whether it actually had any long term effect. Size reasons, it's hard to look back. But does that longevity make a difference? Like, does it allow a different sort of, I guess, relationships and connections to be made? Are you seeing a material improvement, because of that engagement, length?

Unknown Speaker 38:34
Definitely. And I can't speak for all of the other fellows, but for where I was, I was embedded in two different museums, and I was looking at how to build leadership at all levels. And, and that meant, you know, breaking down some significant barriers and structure structures that existed in those museums. And it took me a good six to eight months to even gain some traction with, you know, leadership and with various, you know, parts of the organization. And, and I needed that time, we needed that ramp up space in order to then help, you know, the way I looked at my work and the research was, it shouldn't fizzle out once I walk out the door. But how do we how do we train the trainer's? How do we build guides and coaches and champions? And what does that look like? And so to build that trust, and to have people, you know, how do we unpack those big words like agency and courage and vulnerability and leadership? That takes some time it takes trust between not just me and the organization, but amongst the organization? You know, what was just being said, you know, about, you know, where do we start and looking externally to our communities and how we're fostering those engagement. If we do not recognize the communities of practice, interest and activism within our own organization, we can Not setting ourselves up for success. We've we've not been taught how to how to give agency how to practice agency, their, you know, their words that need to be unpacked, defined within different contexts and conditions. And that's what we're out to try to try to figure out how do we how do we, how do we surface and those conversations, those questions that confidence, one museum to the next.

Unknown Speaker 40:27
Yeah, that's, that's a great, that's phenomenal employment, it reminds me, I won't name names, but I, a couple years ago, was engaged to do a three month project. And I did the meet and greet at the beginning of it as a museum digital transformation project. And after the first two days of kind of going to meetings, on the end of the second day, the director and the sort of deputy said, you know, what do you think can we wrap this up in the next couple months? Or, you know, what's the shape? Do you think it's right? And I said, I think this is going to take a year, and it might take a year and a half. And I think what you're looking for is a conversation and a set of incremental changes that join all these things up. And I think it's sort of that shape. And if that's the case, then I want to do it. And if you're looking for two months, job, no report the consumer shelf, then you should hire someone else. And they all went, Oh, thank God. Yeah, we know, another report reports are terrible, but I'm gonna have looked at them. We want a relationship want to build a partnership? Brilliant, great. Okay, when we start, and so I think there are some institutions that are, you know, from a leadership point of view so much, it's that leadership already. And some who it's all lip service, they're like, want to get someone in, we need someone who looks different to us to tell us a few things. And we can ignore them. And so we can say, we've done it for annual report. And then some and this is the group, these are the ones that have probably reached out to one one by one and reach out to people like that. And you say, No, we need to change and it's going to be hard work. And we need to hire different people and think differently, and it's going to take us years there the opportunities, I think they're the rich ones. So in building on that it kind of it has struck me and it has struck me before something Susan, I've talked about a lot is that the digital kind of like the activism, almost a Trojan horse ways of addressing some structural issues, often who gets on the website and where becomes a stand in for a big set of cultural battles internally about what is valued, and what is on mission, especially if there's sort of a rebranding or reimagining like, even the menu of a museum is often like a massive fight about what the museum is for and how was to describe itself. with tiny, you talk and we've mentioned before about trying to dismantle the ideology of white supremacy in institutions, which is a structural things, it's a systemic thing. As we're moving forward as a whole, we're moving forward without expecting, you know, the world or injuring or exploiting the workers. Is there a way for these these organizations to change that isn't just leaving all of that change work and that kind of emotional labor and that that trauma almost on the shoulders of a couple of non white workers that like other things that people who can take away today to start to think about us artifacts themselves? That you would advise?

Unknown Speaker 43:14
Oh, yeah, I mean, you know, this summer, we saw phenomenal, unfortunately, sad outpouring of pain from so many black cultural workers and other cultural workers of color. People have highlighted all kinds of things, you know, there were so many. Michelle is ongoing here in the States. I know it was global. I mean, you know, with there was conservators, black conservators have highlighted issues, and they identify solutions. So it is not just from this summer. I mean, there's social justice and he's he has resource list is over 50 pages, because the stuff has already been produced, really, a lot of scholarship has already been out there. And just the, the testimonies, you know, to go beyond calling it scholarship, testing, right, as people really experiencing these things. So a lot of stuff is already out there always out there. people doing it as another case, just like what you were just saying, you know, if they're for real about it, or they're not. And, you know, some of the hardest real work is we need a revolution in museums, we need to stop talking about bringing in a diversity speaker, you know, training or some something, it's going to be one day or maybe it's two days or a week or whatever. No, you just you need to stop that because you need to get with an ideology that's really about like anti racism, anti oppression, right? I'm fighting like taking down white supremacy, taking out taking fighting, you know, colonial colonialization and the ongoingness of it. It's not over it's not a long time ago. It's right now. It's happening all the time. It's been perpetuated The and that's that work has been identified, it's already out there, but it will require a huge shift. And that's the, that's the part they don't want to do. So they keep trying to like, wipe that critique away and keep making it be that they have the same response, usually the best you can get is just like diversity training. And maybe, maybe they'll get rid of one person who's out, like, you know, one person one, one director or curator or something, I get allistic. But in reality, a lot of these people at the top need to go, the boards need to be restructured, we really need to be looking at different kinds of organizational structures, I would say, get out of this pair of middle thing, executive director and that, like this model, all these people the bottom, we need to think about think very differently. Maybe there's more of a circular kind of thing, more of a lateral type of organization, organizational model that we can put in place. Um, there are so many of these folks of color. It's not about bringing in one or two people and putting them in a community engagement kind of job or whatever. One, one black curator, one indigenous curate No, no, because of course, you are setting that person up for failure. There's no cohort. I mean, it sounds like Laura was talking about like this fellow's this, you have you have people, right, you have people to work with. Usually these diversity initiatives, they bring in one person of color, and you're by yourself in a white hospital space. And it is horrendous. We need to have cohorts. Yeah, there's a lot I want to talk forever.

Unknown Speaker 46:31
We need a revolution. days ago, we needed a revolution in museums. We just need a revolution museum said it's like if you take anything away from today, please hear metalia on that. Other commerce I want to speak after. We shouldn't be I mean, to return to normal, normal American, normal is oppressive. Normal is dangerous, normal hurts. So I'm going to be like, hopeful with both of you for a second and I sat with you on from this strange time. What would you like to see we keep into the future, not about going back. But about a thing, a thing or a habit or a practice? You're saying now that you would love to see sort of blossom? Right? See, now

Unknown Speaker 47:25
you asked me that I'm a glass half empty kind of person. Um, I want to keep I want to keep the spirit that was that was just voiced, like, how do we hold on to that? How do we how do we build up? How do we build up a more hopeful future? And I think that means we have to start taking a stand. And there are so many things in front of us so many different challenges. And we have to knock them down one by one. And what does that look like? And how do we work together to do that? And so I'm hopeful that this spirit, I hope will continue to be fostered and cultivated, and and we don't get discouraged. And we hold each other up. We practice that care, not just with our own selves, but but you know, doing it with doing it for others and with others.

Unknown Speaker 48:13
Mm hmm. Tanya, we've got a couple of minutes and Susan's gonna come back in what would you like to see, you know, balloon, you're saying now?

Unknown Speaker 48:25
I think it's been it's been, like I said, a really rough, summer and through fall, and it's just, it just keeps happening, keeps keeps coming. But I would say it's rough as the summer has been what felt good to me was, it's sad it is, it's been very sad. And it really just makes me really upset to keep seeing these letters, right. And seeing these accounts, like changed the museum, the stories, and all of them are quite familiar the things people go is that was that you? Was that your story? Like I have not submitted anything to those. But multiple, multiple things on those accounts have happened to me. And so it is exhausting. And it's very sad to see that happening. But yet that spirit and that fight, I want to see more of that I want to see more of this labor organizing. I love that there's so many museum workers are speaking up and because they have had us down for so long, where people are fearful to talk because it's very retaliatory type of field. But to see workers uniting and it's not always worked and it's not been perfect. Definitely not problems even with the organizing racism in the staff can't get their stuff together because of course, there's all these issues, but yet I feel like there's a certain spirit and I love that that is still kind of going on. It's still happening even though they try to like you know, pull pull attention away from it and want want us to just get back to normal how it was before. It was violent before when normal normal was bad. This is not good either. But normal wasn't actually For a lot of us, so I love that there's an awareness, at least with some people, and they are just not going to take that kind of violence anymore.

Unknown Speaker 50:09
I like the fact that we are turning towards our local communities, we're thinking hyperlocal, instead of you know that one size fits all community, one size fits all visitor and audience, what you're seeing right now with all the organizing, you know, the organizing efforts, is that we're taking an interest in awareness, and the people that are next to us. And I think that's a big, that's a massive step.

Unknown Speaker 50:32
Yeah, especially with certainly institutions that used to try and live off an international audience or a visitor audience, and no one can move. So suddenly, like the only people who can visit people who can like walk or catch a pasta, thank you both, I might put one on myself, and gives us a couple of seconds to get ready to kind of provide a response to all of this. The thing that that's really exciting me that I've seen of light is that in a funny way, our book was about looking three to five years in the future. And COVID is basically washed the future into the present. And so it's like being a tsunami of the future kind of piling on and a kind of acceleration of trends that were already in place. And a lot of things that you know, ices and so many others have been saying for most of our working lives as like this thing is possible. And we've been told it's too hard or take too long or too expensive. Some of those things just happened in a couple of months. In some cases, a couple of weeks, there was one little project I was working on and trying to advise the court done. And they put a two year horizon on it. And it happened in two weeks, because it had to happen. And I think some institutions are saying that actually it can be done. And it can be done quickly. And it does need to be done. And it needs to be done now and it cannot be put off. And maybe like this is my privileged I get to be in rooms where this is happening. And lots of people don't get to be in that room, they've already been forward or laid off or pushed out. And I'm seeing in some of the rooms that I'm privileged enough to be in, where things that I've just been banging on about and getting pushed back for like peers, which have just happened and be like, yep, we can do it. And so that gives me hope that with these sort of ideas that are captured in the resource list, and in these voices, and in this conference, and this moment that we actually see some of the changes that the sector has needed for generations of workers who kind of screwed by so I'm choosing to be hopeful. It's my privilege to be hopeful. And I'm absolutely thankful to learn and latonya phenomenal, the chats exploded. All I can say is the first like 10 characters of each post, and it's like a ticker. So you really like struck a nerve, both of you. Thanks so much. I'm gonna meet myself, we'll go back to CES. Thank you again. Thank you again. Thank you again.

Unknown Speaker 52:54
Yeah, hey, Ron, thank you to both of you. Well, all three of you really that key I sort of, you know, I work with you all the time. So I probably don't thank you enough for the work that you do. And it was so interesting listening to to, to that conversation and to the responses, because I think there are a couple of things that really stand out to me that I want to respond to. And then I've got actually some notes that I've written beforehand that feel really appropriate. I think it's really nice to refocus and restate this idea of care as an antidote to violence, but also thinking about that, that museums are still actively violent spaces for a lot of people that it's not actually, you know, this, this notion of the museum is a safe space. And that's not how it's experienced. And I think that that's really important for us to think about that I started by talking about questioning risk and harm and something I found really helpful in my own personal practices, thinking about who can be harmed by the thing that I'm doing. And it doesn't mean that you can eliminate harm. But even just starting an awareness of thinking or who who could become causing trauma to who might be harmed by this is a really helpful self practice that I've found has shifted the way I think about a lot of the work that I do. You would just talk King latonya and I, you know, we can't go back to normal because normal wasn't good. In normal for so many people. And you know, it. That normal is just a set of sort of normative values that work for some people and they don't work for everyone. And that in itself is something that we need to keep in the front of our minds that normal isn't necessarily good. It's just what we're habituated towards, and that coming out of this moment, we're going to need space to grieve and to mourn, and that will be immediate mourning for people that we've lost. jobs that we've lost in way things have changed in ways that affect us negatively, but it's also I'm wanting for lost imagined futures for some people. But there's also in that the possibility of re imagining things that are better than other people and for everyone in different ways. And so out of this sort of chaos, and this complexity and contradiction, we can reprioritize and focus on who we you know, who we're risking, and the kinds of harms that we do, and create procedures that mitigate some of those risks and give us those questions. We can consider building supportive work environments in different ways. I mean, one of the things that I think is lovely is how often, kids and pets interrupt people's work environments now, because it shows this, that we're all whole people, we're not just these sort of separate people work from all of the other things happening around us. And they can be beautiful things that can come from these moments. But they'll only come if we do it deliberately. And if we're actually aware that the decisions we make are also going to disadvantage some people and if we build those into our processes, as well said, Ah, this is something that I'm going to return to you to see, he argues this, and we've got this in the book, he argues for a return to ethics and imagination, writing that a new normality cannot look for simplistic universals, it has to negotiate through and weave multiple and diverse formulations of all the Universalist outlooks that exist, it has to engage with the complexity of humanity as much as it considers the complexity of the global environment we share in such different ways. And that resonated for me when I was writing the provocations for the book, and it continues to so thank you. And thank you to everyone who is chatting because this was really wonderful to be part of Qi, your final set of sections.

Unknown Speaker 57:01
Thank you so much. Fantastic. I just want to close by acknowledging that, that this is a really strong community, one that I didn't know existed when I first joined museums about a decade ago, I've been working in media and working with artists for a long time. And I didn't know about the museum tech community. And on my almost on my first day, I reached out to other kind of museum tech heads of digital heads of this heads of directors, managers, social media, people in the city that I was living at the time on gadigal land, and a couple of friends said, Oh, you know what your people are the MCs. And I didn't know what that meant, because I didn't know what the acronym meant. And so I looked it up. And I came to this conference, and I did find my people. And so these conversations which span you know, spending, which speaking globe, many of them were people that I've first heard either speaking at or talking about MTN, or that's it heard in that context, as well. And we want to thank them for their giving up their time and their thoughts and their energies. So many of the things we've covered today have little seeds in, in this book that Barbara and Latoya piece. The second chapter, absolutely resonated, nothing said today. The piece with Tony Butler at Laurie Fogarty talks about organizational structure like a flower, essentially, they do the museum, California, which touches on what the Tonya mentioned. Adrian has some points that just act with this in really thoughtful ways. And the Southside of Hong Kong does as well. So there's lots of kind of moments threads that the book connects with what happens today. And I think that's kind of the strength of the project is that it's humans with ideas that are trying to change our sector, and actually powerful. And we also just want to thank, you know, early on respected shallow fat and bikini, Gemma Katrina Cedric. And on spruce iterations of the book that were sort of created a kind of final ones, we spoke to lots of people, and they have done lots of different ways and irrelevant, were fantastic. And this community has been fantastic, at least for us in our profession. It's a kind of weird thing, when you make a book that's supposed to be the future and suddenly is about the present, or you make a book, when really, it should be a blog post or a tweet, or it should be a podcast or a video or something. We've decided to make a printed book. And that printable can be delivered because there's a pandemic and the printing factory is shot because someone had COVID. And so for three months, the book is delayed when it's most needed. So it's, you know, this year has has hit us in lots of different ways. But, but thanks for working with us and getting us to this point, Eric as well. You can get it if you haven't got it, there's a discount code or like just slack me and I'll send you one, they sent me a few, like, just want to say thanks, again, for making this space that we can have really tough conversations that are hopeful, I think, as well as real. And so my goal is to be hopeful and real. So thank you all so much.