Q&A for Interdepartmental Approaches to Transforming Digital Workflow and Decision Making at the…

A Q&A session in response to how the New-York Historical Society took an interdepartmental approach to digital content management with the goal of deepening public engagement for education audiences online. Through a three-year grant, a core group of staff from the IT, Museum, Library, Exhibitions and Education departments received training on a variety of digital skills -- and shared out their training across the museum. Staff members brainstormed connections between one another's work to find ways to support online programming, digital content, and online collections. As an interdepartmental team, staff also worked collaboratively to ensure the institution’s digital collections, and the content management systems that organize them, are optimized for public accessibility and for use in education programming. This allowed us to connect our digital staff to the needs of our core audience, leading to increased culturally responsive museum content and, in line with our unique mission, more representation of non-dominant narratives of history for teachers and students. We will share our collaborative approach to transforming our museum’s digital workflow and decision making. Our experience has been that when staff from multiple departments learn aside one another, creative ideas from across disciplines can be produced organically, discussed immediately, and implemented sustainably. Together we will explore tactics that panelists (and the audience) have used to enable museum staff to fully understand, adopt and optimize digital technology in museums to further your mission.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining today's session. I as people are filling in, I just want to introduce myself quickly. My name is Emily Haight, and I'm one of the CO chairs of the MC n, social media SIG, or special interest group. And I'm really delighted to be here today to introduce our speakers for today's session. Pauline Noyes, who's one of my colleagues at the New York Historical Society, as well as Rosanna Flouty. And they will be talking about interdepartmental approaches to transforming digital workflow and decision making at the New York Historical Society. Let you all take it away.

Unknown Speaker 00:36
Awesome. Thank you so much, Emily. So I'm Rosanna Flouty, I'm managing director of HD and co my pronouns are she hers, and I'm doing a quick visual description. I'm a white cisgendered female wearing black rimmed glasses, gold circular earrings and a gray sweater. I'm seated in an attic room with white walls and framed with gray trim. And there's some windows behind me, Pauline.

Unknown Speaker 01:05
Hi, everybody. I'm Pauline Noyes. I'm the Associate Director of teen programs at the New York Historical Society, my pronouns are she her hers. And let's see a description of me is that I'm a white, cisgendered female. Um, I have brown hair, I'm wearing a grey shirt, I have brown glasses with a little bit of blue. And I am in my living room, which you can't see because I'm using a zoom background that has the New York Historical Society, exterior of the building on it.

Unknown Speaker 01:40
Awesome. So we just wanted to take no liberties to assume that everyone has already viewed the pre recorded session, I just had put a screen grab here, if it's helpful. It's, it was one that we recorded about a month ago. And we definitely wanted to bring you all up to date, but also give some high level just sort of framing. And so this IMLS grant that Pauline is going to share just a bit more detail is, I think, so exciting because it's looking at the the aspect of digitizing collections, and CMS for libraries, curators, and researchers. And I'm going to read this because it's actually part of the grants that while the New York Historical has systematically digitized its collections and content management management systems for use by librarians, curators, and researchers. Its digitization is sorry, its digital assets are not maximized to support the full range of educational programming. And why we think this is so exciting is that teens have really been viewed as the heart and soul and sort of digital future of how research will be connected and conducted in the future. And that the fact that teens have already had such an active role within New York Historical, and through the work that police department does that disability to really bring people across the departments that have already been working around the assets of the museum, and the library, and to really think about what the future of digital research and scholarship will be. But letting teens and their modalities and how they conduct work lead the way. And I'm going to just also say that while it's so unusual, I think to let teens kind of be these sort of proxy for the future of what audiences will be and the way that audiences well. Think about it the ways that they personally connect to collections and two library resources museums. So I'm just going to read this. But I think that teens have long been centered within this work. But they see themselves as more diverse and more representative of the audiences that New York Historical seek to engage. This has been a thread that I think, has been well aware within the organization. But I'm just going to bring us up to date with not just with a focus group that happened in February of 2020. And this was the right before the before times that it felt it was one of these really incredible opportunities to hear the teens speak on behalf of themselves and why they see themselves as so critical to New York historicals mission. And so in that focus group, and I think this speaks to the importance of this work in the way that teen programs are often the Trojan horse of museum practice, that they saw themselves and their role to expand your historical mission to diversify to expand history, and that they knew and acknowledge they possess more diverse socio economic and racial backgrounds than anybody working full time at the New York Historical. They see their role as making history accessible and that accessibility inclusion diversity is critically important to what the The work that they do, but also the the mission that they have to bring these new perspectives as researchers in the world. And they see themselves as astute researchers. But they know that they want more efforts on behalf of the organization to center marginalized voices and spoke so clearly and eloquently about what they saw as the social justice mission of the institution. And maybe Finally, that they love video production, they love creating animations, they love engaging in this high level, across the collections. Maybe that one place that digital humanities or that practice of definition still is a little bit fuzzy on the edges. But that I think, is indicative of that framing of the word and how it gets used in our fields. So And with that, I want to make sure that Pauline explains the nuances of the grant and what its funding and the turnkey sessions that was also recorded in our session. cast it to you, Pauline.

Unknown Speaker 05:58
Oh, thanks. tarzana. Um, well, I, I thought that I was going to talk about the teens. And what's happened since then I'm so sorry. But I can talk a little bit about the grant too, if that's helpful.

Unknown Speaker 06:11
I think so I think it would be helpful just briefly,

Unknown Speaker 06:13
yeah. All right. So um, so yeah, so the grant, we're so by the way, thank you to thankful to IMLS, for giving us this grant. Thank you so much. And what the grant allowed us to do was to really maximize the collections as Rosanna said, For optimal use in education programs, specifically for teens. And just the nuts and bolts of the grant was that we received funding for all of us to take classes and courses. And, you know, for each of us, we could take classes and courses related to whatever, whatever was needed to develop more digital capacity in our own program areas. So my needs were different than Katherine's needs, who's here, by the way, who I think will hear from later, whoever sees the museum digital collection, but we took trainings and courses. And then another big aspect of it was that we have a monthly meeting. And that meeting, so you take all these classes, and it's so great, and the time of conferences, but then the idea is that you have to give back. And the giving back part is attending a monthly meeting where we share out what we've learned in the classes. But we also brainstorm how everything can benefit team programs. And then from there, we come up with projects and work on the projects that will benefit the team programs, and the digital work that they do. But also, we carefully select the projects, so that it's also building digital capacity for each staff member. So it's a win win for everybody, because the teens, you know, their work in our new digital media center, the tech Commons deepen so much. But also everybody at MHS gets to benefit from this training. And also more than that, this meeting with each other and working across departments. And what we found is that one of the most beneficial things was just having that space to work together across departments. And that's fueled so many other big initiatives for the museum, including our current development of the new website. I'm present, is there anything that you would add to that in terms of overview of the brand? Okay, so yeah, so Rosanna mentioned are the focus groups. And for us, the focus groups have been so valuable, you know, to really hear from the teams and teachers on what they want in terms of the digital collection and our digital assets. And what we found was that the teens, what they want is actually very similar to what our other audiences want, you know, they want more representation, they want more relevant material to what's happening in the world. They want more underrepresented narratives. And so, from that, I could just give you a quick update that, you know, since we created the presentation that, you know, right now, that focus group, you know, it has led to so many things, you know, so, um, one of our new projects is that through the group, you know, speaking of diversity in collections, I was able to find out that our Director of the library digital collection, actually he got an NIH grant that's already been done like it was, you know, four years ago, and it's been completed. And the grant allowed him to look at our library collection. And it allowed him to go through the collection. And basically, the grant was to pull any materials that related to people of color. And so he created in terms of a library, like if you go into the library and use the cataloging system, you can access this collection, which is called h m. h MC collection. But the thing is that that collection hasn't been digitized yet. And so finding out about this collection education, didn't know about This collection of Hall, finding out about it was so exciting because now we're working on ways for our educators to be able to collaborate to get more of that material digitized. And we've created a teen advisory council so that the teens can meet every month to make decisions on what gets digitized from that collection. So there's been a lot of really exciting things that have come since that I'm happy to talk about, but I'll leave it there because we really want to hear your questions. And I had already

Unknown Speaker 10:30
Yeah, pony. And I might just read the first one because it says what time planning and developing should we be planning for for a team group? It was exciting to see the video and the group seeing their own work in the exhibition. What was the lead up to that moment?

Unknown Speaker 10:53
Yeah, so that's a great question. Thank you. So teenagers is a year long program. And I have to say that, you know, it came together pretty quickly, we planted over the summer, what it was going to be and work with the curators. And then the teen started in October. And so they found out about the project, they did all the research. And then the exhibition went live in January, actually. So it's a pretty tight turnaround. But yeah, so it didn't take that much time considering I'm happy to answer any further questions related to that.

Unknown Speaker 11:30
And, Emily, do you want to read these questions? or? Yeah, no.

Unknown Speaker 11:36
So there was one other question that said, I'm curious to hear more about the partnership between evaluator and museum. So this may be a question that you both can answer. The presentation shared some evaluation takeaways, but could you say more about the extent to which evaluators acted as thought partners throughout and what that looked like?

Unknown Speaker 11:55
Pauline, I

Unknown Speaker 11:56
would love for you to jump in on that. And then I'll add,

Unknown Speaker 12:00
I'm sure. Yeah, I mean, I'll say that it's, it's meant a tremendous amount for us, you know, I think working across departments on something that is for teens, and for education, it can be hard to ask for things, you know, it can be hard to really put teens at the center. And so having Rosanna there to be able to be that neutral person in the room. And also that, you know, tech expert in the room, the consultant to be able to guide us not really help and also to be able to advocate for the teams. And then also just pushing us in terms of finding the opportunities. You know, I mentioned a few of the projects, but there are other projects, and just really like pulling everything together, you know, she's that person in the room that can understand all our perspectives. You know, she has the education background, she has the tech background, and can really see that opportunity of leads to collaborate.

Unknown Speaker 12:53
humbled Coleen, but I want to say also, I mean, I think he and co our role is to be the critical friend. And so we ask questions, we provide data in real time, that can be helpful, we also make sure that there's a framework and a cadence of work. So we've been meeting every month, just about, and then a couple times, then Pauline, and I will meet between those meetings, just to be clear that we have a really strong agenda. And since all of the staff members are coming back to the meetings, and also at times sharing out either updates of their work, or also sharing some of the learnings that they've had from classes that they've been taking, I think it's just to make sure we always turn the conversation towards the end as a brainstorming session of how this impacts team programs. And I think as the outside and not an internal to your historical, it's a little bit easier to meet for me to sort of press these acupuncture points, so that we're ending up with some tangible takeaways at the ends of the meeting. Great, thank

Unknown Speaker 13:58
you. And there was another question in the chat from Brenda, who said, Sorry, there's

Unknown Speaker 14:04
right outside where you are.

Unknown Speaker 14:08
Can you expand a little on the crosswalks between Museum and Library collections?

Unknown Speaker 14:14
Definitely. And I think Katherine actually might be a great person to talk about that, because she oversees the museum digital collection. But before, um, before Katherine talk, so I'll say that, yeah, it's an ongoing thing, you know, the benefit of the cross collection access, that was really, you know, we needed the digital collection for the teams, right. But then the way that we made it relate to everybody else's collection was, I mean, first of all, it's not optimal for audiences to, you know, to look on two different platforms, right. So like, we're thinking about our young scholars or audiences. And you might find a library collection, for example, and not know that you're totally missing the museum collection. And most outside audiences don't understand that it's two different platforms and why why should They have to understand that you know, and so we've had been wanting to develop a crosswalk between the two collections for a long time. It's been a long term goal of ours. And, you know, and also, it's more important than ever, because we're about to, you know, launch a new website. And so we have members of our new web development team, as part of the digital initiatives team, and everything that we're exploring in terms of developing that crosswalk goes into the new redesign of the museum so that ultimately, we can solve this problem and create like a, you know, a way to connect it to collections. But I am definitely not the expert on this side of love for the wonderful Catherine's to and to share your thoughts, too.

Unknown Speaker 15:45
I so, um, yeah, so essentially, we are sort of in phase one was sort of proof of concept. And so we had a mutual spreadsheet that we entered Library and Museum objects. And one of the things sort of, which is of interest, of course, this, sometimes the content can be the same. But we think of there's also the display factor that, you know, the labels that we displayed for the content of that of that particular field. And so sort of phase one was proof of concept, and phase two will be addressing the display display questions. And all of this is, is working towards, as Pauline said, our, our website redesign.

Unknown Speaker 16:55
Thanks, Catherine.

Unknown Speaker 16:58
And there's the the chat is blowing up right now, in terms of additional questions for you all. Let's see here. Let me grab one. Can you share a little about the courses slash professional development your team undertook? And what was most valuable? Any recommendations for a good place to start? Obviously, all the folks here love conferences.

Unknown Speaker 17:21
I'm sure yeah. Katherine, do you want to add to that, too? I feel like you took some that you're taking and some good ones.

Unknown Speaker 17:30
Yeah, I'm, I'm sort of focusing more on sequel courses. But also, I've wanted to do some more library oriented courses, because it's to develop a better understanding of the library systems. But I have to say it's absolutely, it feels very luxurious to have access to can be supported and taking courses. And, and people have taken once and linked up and data in and we've been using various resources, from online courses to things that meet in person.

Unknown Speaker 18:16
Katherine? Yeah, I would say that, you know, in terms of, yeah, the so Katherine is taking those courses, Henry, who oversees the library, digital collection, has been to Island, Dora Khan. So the platform that the library uses this island, Dora, so he spent Island, Dora Khan, and he's taking courses to better understand the updated version of Island, Dora. Catherine is also thinking about taking classes that relate to Island Dora to think about that crosswalk between the two better for me, and education, and for my team, and you know, the rest of the Education team, we've been taking more like digital media and digital scholarship classes, to better just better understand the kinds of projects that the students can do. And I'm actually about to start a coding boot camp, so that and I'm also thinking about taking a CMS class. So that, you know, with the new website, we can do all kinds of projects on the website. So I want to understand better how the teens can show their work on the website. Henry in the library has also taken metadata classes and classes on digital cataloging. Recently, you know, he was talking about one that he took on implicit implicit bias and digital cataloguing of photographs, which was really interesting for us in education to think about, and then the web team. So they're taking like user experience, you know, they're thinking about the new website. So there's, they're taking user experience on classes and digital project management classes. And then that will be able to turn key to us to think about, you know, when we're sharing our work, how do we think about the users that are using our website in addition to our own needs? So I'm just also how do we get more organized with these cross departmental classes? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 20:05
I just want to say I sort of think of the classes in two different ways. So there's, they're the sort of the skill building classes, which relate specifically to my piece, so I can do my piece better. But then I sort of feel they're the, the courses that touch on, maybe more what other people do. So I understand what they do better, or where things might be going a little bit better. But I, I'm making a concerted effort to try to take courses or conferences in the different areas.

Unknown Speaker 20:42
Definitely, yeah, me too. Like I'm trying to understand I t's role better, you know, it is also part of our team. Yeah. And I agree that, you know, what we found is that because at first we were like, how is it useful to share out this specific technology to the rest of the group when we all have different jobs, but we found that it really builds tech, you know, tech skills for the person who took the class, but sorry, digital skills for the person who took the class, but then digital literacy for the rest of our team that's really crucial and having a kind of foundational language to be able to work with each other.

Unknown Speaker 21:16
That's so important. There's also another question from Liz Neely in the chat that says, it seems like you learned a lot and had some surprising positive outcomes, knowing what you do now? Well, we do share with others of us on what you would do differently if you started today.

Unknown Speaker 21:33
That's a good question.

Unknown Speaker 21:34
Rosanna, what do you think, do you want to say also, I

Unknown Speaker 21:36
think, to Catherine's point about how exciting it is to really be able to look out in the world and look at really any course one would take that would help one's work and also attend a conference that would help one's work. I, I think that there could be this opportunity to maybe also help Well, I should say, in the COVID times, New York Historical has extraordinarily supportive their staff to go and sort of above and beyond that the workflow that has already been so demanding on what on all of us and everybody who works in the sector. And I think that I think that having time within work, or some release time to be able to take these courses, because the staff are doing these on top of their everyday jobs. And it is certainly I think both it's like the wonderful opportunity, but I also I, I acknowledge how difficult it is to make time and to even be able to think critically about once one's learning, and then turn kit about how it's going to impact workflow, and then turn key that again, to see how it's going to impact team programs. So it's sort of being the I think that that if you if design and money and time were no constraints, I think being able to have some release time from the work day. But Pauline, I think I'd love for her for you to answer to.

Unknown Speaker 23:02
Totally Yeah, I absolutely 100% agree with that, you know, part of our salaries covered, you know, part of the grant, you know, as part of the grant, so that, you know, technically we should be built into our schedule, but I think that, yeah, in the future, we talked about just really talking to senior leadership about this, like made sure that it's a priority for people and that they have more time to take it. And including senior leadership more, it means, you know, in terms of just understanding how much time is taking, and also the importance of this. And then I think the other thing that we really learned was that we're so grateful for both aspects to be able to take the classes go to the conferences, and how these monthly meetings, and in fact, the monthly meetings have become way more meaningful than we anticipated. To us, you know, it's one of the more, you know, valuable parts of the grant. But it's a thing in itself, you know, like keeping that monthly meeting and the projects that come out of it, and all that communication and working together. And so I think, in retrospect, it's kind of like two grants, you know, what I mean, and I wouldn't thoroughly have done both together, you know, because, but it's really interesting. And like, you know, having those classes helps a lot, obviously.

Unknown Speaker 24:18
There's another question here in the chat from Cathy Sigmond, specifically to Rosanna, what types of data Did you provide in real time to the nydfs teams help them make

Unknown Speaker 24:27

Unknown Speaker 24:28
Yeah, I mean, I think this is where not only being, I think, knowledgeable to like what else is happening around other museums, but I think that's where we add value is that we have a lot of other projects at HP and co with similar or sort of adjacent concerns. And so I think it's really being able in this particular case, be able to share what's happening with other either grant funded initiatives. I think one is the museum's for digital Learning, because we're also the evaluator on a project also funded from IMLS. That's suddenly in even some of the work that we're doing with New York Historical, where they're contributing to an online platform to pull together all Museum, digital collections, but also education content, so that teachers can be able to use it, and be able to also these resource kits that become very rich support depositories, for ways in interacting with objects of collections. And I think that it sort of helps to like bolster the decision making that they're already doing to make sure that they're being informed of other projects that

Unknown Speaker 25:39
are happening, as well as focus groups, and

Unknown Speaker 25:40
we have some, so work that we're going to do a teacher focus groups, and sort of also making sure that we're pulling together some 360 views of how your historicals perceived. Awesome, thank

Unknown Speaker 25:53
you. And I know we have about four minutes left, there's still a few more questions, we'll try and run through them through them quickly for you all. One question is, I imagine there's a great backlog of projects and archival materials that ny HS hopes to digitize? Did you experience any resistance to education led digitization? And what museum? What benefits? Have you seen from prioritizing materials relevant to educational programs? Like your work with

Unknown Speaker 26:18
teen audiences?

Unknown Speaker 26:24
Oh, yeah, so I, you know, I have to say that, like the members of the team have been very generous, and like, willing to help. And I'm very grateful for that. I think some members of our team, obviously, it's not that they're not willing to help, but it's more like a time issue, you know, and so it's like, I can help you, but you have to know that I have all this other, you know, all these other things on my plate. But honestly, I think that's led to really interesting solutions, you know. So, for example, you know, when we wanted more digitized in the library collection, the head of the library, digital collection was like, I just don't have time for this. And so because I had had, I mean, he's, he's, he had already done a note, it's not like he hadn't been doing projects, obviously. But um, you know, he's such a great guy, but he, in that it was like, Okay, wait, I understand metadata, because you've shared this out, I understand basically, how this works. And we were able to talk through again, finding I had that common language with him. So we were able to talk through like, you know, and also with Katherine as well, we're able to talk through what could the educators help, because at that time, with COVID, we, you know, the museum was shut down, we had the educators, but we didn't have anything for them to do. And so we found a solution, you know, and, and same thing, you know, that informs now, you know, because when we were thinking about getting more of the digital collection up with library, you know, we can use the educators now. So I think, you know, those restraints, and people just being honest about where their ad has led to really creative solutions that have been more powerful than otherwise.

Unknown Speaker 27:58
I'm just going to add, as someone who, as the outside observer to this extraordinary group, I really see the staff bringing their best selves, and these aha moments of like, I didn't know you needed that right now, for your online programs that started in March, let me make sure I don't delete these files, because I know they could be useful to education, or I didn't know that it would be helpful to at least here, six months out, or four months out, or whatever the timeline might be of a new, huge amount of digitized aspects of the collection that's about to be more publicly available. And if education can just know about that a little bit more in advance, it helps them to do also incredible work, too. So. But I've been amazed at how the cadence of work has been intense. We meet every month. It's a lot on top of the classes.

Unknown Speaker 28:50
I think we just have a few moments left. So if there's any, any last words that any of you'd like to say?

Unknown Speaker 28:58
I think just that I think Pauline, you should mention the any efforts to kind of tie working groups beyond this grant. Oh, yeah,

Unknown Speaker 29:06
definitely. Yeah, um, I guess for sure. You know, we definitely are thinking about ways to continue. patreon have a great idea for us to have a working group beyond this, so that we can just continue to work together, you know. So we're really excited about that. And, yeah, I'm sorry that we didn't get to everybody's questions, but our emails are in the presentation, and we can add them to the chat too. And we're very happy to answer any questions. And thank you so much for coming, everybody. We really appreciate it. What about you, Rosanna? Do you have last thoughts?

Unknown Speaker 29:39
I don't, it's just been such a absolute honor to be involved in this work.

Unknown Speaker 29:46
Well, thank you, everybody. Have a good one.