Archive for January, 2017

#MCN50 – The MCN Archives

In fifty years, MCN has collected a lot of history.

The principle repository for MCN’s records is the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA) in downtown Washington DC. MCN records totaling nearly fifty boxes are spread across six record groups at SIA. These collections include everything from news articles and financial records to board minutes and conference programs.

Card catalogue in the MCN archives

On January 26th and 27th, volunteers from the #MCN50 history team met at SIA for two days of solid research. We organized ourselves into pairs to take on three targeted subjects: founding history, past conferences, and historical partnerships. We dove into twenty boxes over the course of these first two days. Some critical documents were photocopied on site so we could scan them later, while others were quickly captured and tweeted through our mobile devices. About 600 pages of material were marked for digitization by SIA, including old conference programs that are not yet digitally available on the MCN website.

The archive dive had the dual benefit of solidifying our understanding of MCN’s history while also surfacing some unexpected details. Some highlights include:

  • Board member lists to build an almost comprehensive board timeline from founding to present
  • An early history of MCN written by David Vance in 1986
  • Founding documents, incorporation papers, and decades of correspondence
  • A 1973 article in Museum News aptly titled “Museums and Computers: Strange Bedfellows”

Now, the #MCN50 history team is pooling its data together and building content to share. In the months leading up to the #MCN2017 conference, the history team will be writing regular blog posts on some of the interesting findings from the January archive dive.

The search has just begun! Do you know of another institution that may have MCN archival records? What kind of MCN stories and swag have you collected from previous conferences? Please leave your insights and feedback in the comments below.

Special thanks to the Smithsonian Institution Archives for their wonderful support, and to the amazing #MCN50 history team volunteers for coming to DC and diving into the collection!







The #MCN50 History Team: Marla Misunas, Chuck Patch, Darren Milligan, David Bridge, Diane Zorich, Leslie Johnston, and Charles Zange


MCN 2016 Sessions – Hello and Welcome! Strategies for Social Inclusion

View of the MCN 2016 keynote address with crowd and slides visable

Hello and Welcome! Strategies for Social Inclusion
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Session Leader: Christina DePaolo, Director of Communications, 4Culture
Co-Presenter: Lauren Semet, Digital Engagement Strategist, 4Culture
Co-Presenter: Tasia Endo, Museum Educator for Interpretive Technology, Seattle Art Museum
Co-Presenter: Leilani Lewis, Assistant Director of Diversity, Communications and Outreach, University of Washington
Speaker: Carol Bebelle, Executive Director, Ashé Cultural Arts Center
This session will look at ways your cultural organization can welcome and address the needs of audiences in your community that have not been historically served by mainstream museums.

How do you become central to diverse communities instead of tangential to them? This session will focus on the strategic thinking necessary to identify and serve audiences new to your organization— and how you can bring this approach to the things you do best — exhibits, events, technology, digital media, interpretation, outreach, and communications and branding.

Carol Bebelle, Cofounder and Executive Director of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, New Orleans, will discuss social justice issues as it relates to her work at the Center, which creates programs and works emphasizing the contributions of people of African descent.

Tasia Endo, Seattle Art Museum, will focus on SAM’s efforts to imbed a strategy of inclusion in developing interpretive technology. From audio guides featuring multiple, diverse voices that broadens audience engagement to free content on visitors’ own devices or supplied kiosks on-site, SAM considers inclusion in both the development of and access to interpretive materials.

Leilani Lewis will discuss her work at the Northwest African American Museum where she created meaningful museum programs that sold out or reached capacity such as #Ferguson Pecha Kucha, organized as an immediate response to the tragic murder of Michael Brown.

Lauren Semet, 4Culture’s Digital Media Engagement Strategist, will discuss how they are updating their brand and communication strategies to welcome new audiences and be a more accessible funder.




MCN 2016 Sessions – A public/private partnership: Building a new type of museum app

Photo of SFMoMA app in use

A public/private partnership: Building a new type of museum app
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Session Leader: Keir Winesmith, Head of Web + Digital Platforms, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Co-Presenter: Andrew Mason, Co-Founder, Detour
Developed in partnership with local startup Detour, the SFMOMA app features a new breed of guided narratives that take you through the galleries and out onto the streets of San Francisco. Including synced audio that allows social listening, SFMOMA and Detour have developed one of the first mobile experiences that combines indoor positioning with outstanding narrative content. This app would be technically and financially prohibitive for almost all museums, even with external funding, so how and why did this happen and how does the app actually work? Andrew Mason, CEO of Detour, and Keir Winesmith, Head of Digital at SFMOMA, will provide an outline of the content authoring, location mapping, and content delivery stack for the app. They’ll also, most probably, argue about who is responsible for what in this collaboration.




MCN 2016 Sessions – The Intersections of Social Media, Race, and Social Justice for Programming


Lanae Spruce snapping a photo

The Intersections of Social Media, Race, and Social Justice for Programming
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Session Leader: Lanae Spruce, Digital Engagement Specialist, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture
Co-Presenter: Deirdre Cross, Public Program Coordinator, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

As protests broke out across the nation in response to police brutality, hashtag activism campaigns spread across social media like wildfire. #BlackLivesMatter. #Ferguson. #ConcernedStudent1950. How do cultural organizations work with their social media departments to create timely and relevant programming that is centered around current race and social justice issues? Are museums missing out on attracting diverse audiences by not offering programs that interest them and their specific needs? The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has been tasked with leading a national discussion on race and reckoning. Through a partnership with public programming and social media, the museum has been able to amplify undervalued narratives in both a digital and physical space. This session will explore the ways in which social media and programming can serve as a context in which to learn about, challenge, and address issues of race and social justice. Participants will learn ways to design their own programming around social justice and race. Through our collaboration on programming we have found: participation expands prior, during and after the event, we have filled a void in the museum field, intersectionality should guide the framework, live-tweeting offers a virtual space to continue difficult discussions, and self-affirmation for underserved communities. In short, our digital programming can offer historical context for contemporary issues and help center museums as a forum for discussion of social justice issues for a range of communities and audiences new to museums.





Join MCN’s New Mentorship Program and Celebrate #MCN50

Group of conference atendees sit around a table networking


Mentoring is an important cornerstone of career advancement as it fosters professional growth and builds peer relationships among both mentors and mentees.  Whether you are new to the field or a senior museum professional, and you would like to engage in candid discussions about career aspirations, challenges, and concerns, we encourage you to complete this application before February 5, 2017. Our pilot year program runs from March 1 to December 31, 2017

There is no cost to join in this program, other than a few hours per month spent engaging in mentorship activities. MCN will provide resources, programs, platforms and dedicated Board members to facilitate your mentorship engagement. You must be a current MCN member to apply.


#MCN2017 Program Committee: We Want You!

A panorama shot of MCN 2016 Ignite at the House of Blues, New Orleans

At your institution…

Do you design beautiful digital publications or geek out on microcontrollers and circuits? We want you.

Do you get your kicks from collaborating through interpretive media or crunching data to inform your museum’s digital strategy? We want you.

Do you work in a department 2 or 200? We want you.

The MCN2017 Program Committee is seeking 40 museum professionals, each bringing a different perspective from across the sector.  This committee will play a significant role shaping this year’s conference Nov. 7-10 in Pittsburgh.


What does the Program Committee do?

Through online discussions, the Program Committee is a think tank that determines the most important themes and trends in the field, identifies new programming opportunities, and brainstorms possible speakers. Most significantly, members are the backbone of the conference proposal evaluation process.

In May, after the close of MCN’s Call for Proposals, individual proposals are assigned for evaluation to Program Committee members with relevant professional expertise on the topic. Evaluators are asked to provide feedback through a formalized process. Members are given 10-14 days to complete their evaluations. Next, the Program Co-Chairs assemble the conference schedule primarily based on the committee’s feedback.    

This year is a special year for MCN! #MCN50
In Pittsburgh, MCN2017 will celebrate MCN’s 50th anniversary! Honoring the organization’s work to advance digital transformation in museums, our “Dream Team” Program Committee will represent as many as possible of the following expertise:

  • Digital Education
  • Interpretive Media
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Informational Technology (IT)
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM)
  • Social Media
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Media Production & Branding
  • Leadership & Strategy
  • Data and Insights
  • Digital Imaging
  • Intellectual Property
  • Publishing
  • Experience Design
  • Digital Storytelling

We are actively seeking a diversity of organizations including, but not limited to:

  • Science Museums, Zoos, and/or Aquariums
  • Art Museums and Centers
  • Natural History Museums
  • Historic Houses
  • Libraries
  • Archives  

We are also looking to include representation of small, international, and academic institutions.

If you are interested in helping us rock Pittsburgh, send an email to [email protected] describing your interest. Please include a link to your LinkedIn profile or resume/CV attached.

Deadline: Tuesday, January 31st

-Trish Oxford & Jennifer Foley


MCN 2016 Sessions – Building an Innovative In-House App: Collaboration, Evaluation, Iteration

Graphic showing smartphones and loaded apps

Building an Innovative In-House App: Collaboration, Evaluation, & Iteration
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Speaker: Miranda Kerr, Manager of Digital Learning, Shedd Aquarium
Designing and building an in-house app involves collaboration across departments, creativity in prototyping, and a commitment to evaluation to ensure the goals of the learning experience are being met. Shedd Aquarium has reimagined the school group experience to challenge the notion that field trips are an out-of-class unstructured visit and instead a constructive learning opportunity. Over two years, supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, a cross-departmental team researched the needs of teachers, students, staff, and chaperones, and then reimagined the school group experience. The reimagined experience now includes programs based in tablet apps, called Science Tech Treks. The program pilot and creation phase included prototyping with paper and existing apps, and then using an iterative design process to perfect the in-house app. The Science Tech Trek apps were designed as an immersive technology experience, connecting K-5 students to our animals and exhibits. These apps are not gallery guides, but instead students observe animals, make predictions, record data like a scientist, and create a digital journal. Teachers automatically receive an electronic copy of the students’ work created in the app during the field trip to track their learning, and build upon their experiences during post-trip classroom activities. Science Tech Treks were launched in the fall of 2015, and there were 259 program registrations in the 2015-2016 school year, reaching 7,179 students! Our evaluation team has conducted observations of school groups using the app, including group and student case studies, to measure the impact. We are also able to review the digital journals students create to ensure learner outcomes are met. Presentation Highlights: 1) Collaboration across cross-departmental teams to design, build, and evaluate an in-house app 2) The iterative, innovative process of creating these apps 3) The benefits of co-creation of digital journals by students





MCN 2016 Sessions – Building Tools, Building Community: NEH Funding for Digital Projects

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

Building Tools, Building Community: NEH Funding for Digital Projects
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Session Leader: Perry Collins, Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities
Co-Presenter: Phil Sager, Digital Projects Developer, Ohio History Connection
Co-Presenter: Elizabeth Venditto, Project Manager, Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota
Co-Presenter: Jason Wesaw, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Pokegnek Bodewadmik, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
The National Endowment for the Humanities has a long history of support for initiatives that leverage technology to engage diverse audiences. In recent years, NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities has funded a range of projects that not only promote access to cultural heritage, but also invite community partners to help shape new technologies in ways that reflect their needs and experiences. This session will highlight three current efforts to develop tools that can be adopted and adapted by a wide range of museums and allied organizations: • Mukurtu, a grassroots project developing open-source digital heritage management tools that respond to the needs of indigenous communities • Immigrant Stories, a platform that invites recent immigrants to the United States to produce, share, and preserve multimedia narratives • TourSites for WordPress, a new initiative that will build on the successful Curatescape project to enable institutions of all sizes to create, deploy, and maintain digital tour experiences across multi-location networks The session will also include an overview of NEH funding opportunities and current priorities.
Type of Session





MCN 2016 Sessions – Creating Anti-Oppressive Spaces On-line

 Panel for Creating Anti-oppressive online spaces

Creating Anti-Oppressive Spaces On-line

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 1:15 PM – 2:15 PM
Session Leader: NIkhil Trivedi, Senior Systems Analyst, A museum in Chicago
Co-Presenter: Sina Bahram, President, Prime Access Consulting
Co-Presenter: Eric Gardner, Digital Publications Developer, Getty Museum
Speaker: Trish Oxford, Principal Technologist, Trish Oxford Media

Does your sign-up form reinforce binary notions of gender? Does your latest web project unintentionally exclude visitors with different abilities, or from different backgrounds? Many of us are interested in creating anti-oppressive spaces in our work–those that share power more equitably, are representative of the places our institutions reside, and account for the traumatic histories that allowed many of our institutions to be established. This brainstorming session will look at existing spaces that have thought well in this area, and radically imagine what might be possible in the future. Attendees will walk away with a number of concrete ideas that they can apply to their current and future projects, which in incremental ways will push our sector towards a more just future that centers more and more people.


Creating Anti-Oppressive Spaces On-line



MCN 2016 Sessions – Creating a Culture of Innovation


Creating a Culture of Innovation
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Jessica Seuss headshotSpeaker: Jessica Suess, Digital Partnership Manager, Oxford University Museums

Museums are facing significant challenges in the current, fast changing environment: digital is revolutionising the way individuals engage with the world, the demographic make-up of society is undergoing a significant shift, and traditional funding models are no longer sustainable. In order to turn these challenges into opportunities, museums need to be adaptive, entrepreneurial and innovative. Over the past four years Oxford University Museums has been exploring how we can create a culture of innovation across our four museums, giving colleagues in all corners of the organisation the skills, confidence and mandate to break out of traditional frameworks, test new ideas, experiment with new ways of working and take risks (with the hope of significant reward). Central to this initiative to build a new organisational culture is the ‘Innovation Fund’ – a small, internal, competitive funding stream to which colleagues at all levels of the organisation can apply to support projects and experimentation above and beyond their remit. This funding stream is supported by a framework of professional development activity, including workshops delivered in partnership with the Saïd Business School aimed at giving our teams the tools to develop and stress test new ideas and think entrepreneurially, as well as bring together colleagues working in different areas of the organisation to enrich one another’s ideas. This programme has resulted in some of our most effective new initiatives, especially in the area of digital engagement, but there have also been pitfalls. In this presentation I will share how we established and developed this programme, the impact on our organisational culture, and where we would like to make changes over the next few years.