Sharing and learning among museum professionals

By Diana Marques, Doctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum

Bio: Hi! I have a background in Biology and specialize in Visual Scientific Communication, working with technology, illustration and animation in a variety of scientific subjects and techniques, for museums, publishers and researchers. I’m a Smithsonian fellow pursuing a doctorate degree in Digital Media, focusing on the museum visitor experience with augmented reality technology.


Did you ask what I was up to last week? Well, let me tell you about my great experience attending the MCN conference in Minneapolis. Not only it was a double first time – at MCN and in one of the twin cities –, it was also the result of a generous MCN scholarship that supported my participation.

I set out on this trip to share and learn among museum professionals. I shared part of the doctoral research I’ve done in the last 3 years with augmented reality technology at a presentation room full of interested attendants with well-elaborated questions posed during and after the Q&A. And I learned above all how to prioritize the museum visitors in my work by listening to their stories and focusing on their preferences, and how digital tools can help in that process.


Much praise to the organization. Even though this was the most attended conference in the almost 50 years of existence of MCN (more than 500 attendees), it felt like a gathering of new and old friends and like a comfortable space for a newcomer. And the care and attention to details of the Scholarship Committee were heartwarming. On MCN’s signature welcome event, it was a nice surprise to find a corner with comfy couches for the scholars to perch and watch the Ignite talks – I had never been called a “scholar” before, it sounds so wonderfully Greek! –; so we had a privileged view to the set of dynamic 5-minute presentations that touched issues of accessibility and anti-oppression in museums, the meaning of digital and effective ways of storytelling. Can’t think of a better way to kick-off a conference. Or maybe I can, given that the keynote presentation on the following day was equally or even more inspiring. Liz Ogbu shared her approach as a designer and urbanist to make social impact among the communities she works for and works with.

Minneapolis was a great setting for the conference. It gave us the possibility of visiting iconic museums like the Walker Art Center and the Mill City Museum. It also gave us the opportunity to meet many museum professionals from the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minneapolis Institute of Art where the banquet took place. Overall very progressive museum thinking in a culturally vibrant location.

I joined a SIG and look forward to be more involved with MCN until next year’s conference in New Orleans. In the meantime, I’ll keep following the mcn-l mailing list, one of my go-tos for being up to date with the questions and challenges that museum professionals experience.

Thank you MCN!