Archive for April, 2017

MCN 2017 Ignite

View from MCN2015 Ignite stage

Post by Koven Smith

For those of you who have attended MCN in the last few years, one of the highlights of the conference has been Ignite MCN, where a group of courageous-slash-foolhardy speakers dispense wisdom in lightning-fast five-minute chunks on the opening-night of the conference. Each speaker has five minutes and 20 automatically-advancing slides to enlighten-slash-entertain-slash-frighten-slash-slightly amuse hundreds of MCN attendees.

I’ve been fortunate enough to organize and host Ignite MCN for the last five years, and each year, the same thing happens: immediately after the event, several people come up to me and say, “That was great! I’m totally submitting an Ignite talk next year!” This is typically the last time I ever hear from these people. So what I’m saying is, it’s now your time to step up! Do you have something important to say? Something that you think the rest of us need to know? Are you ready to take it to the limit, one more time?

The first question I’m usually asked as the host is, what makes a good Ignite talk, and why do some submissions get picked over others? I’m glad you asked. Ignite talks are different from more traditional presentations, so of course there are many proposals that would make great presentations, but that wouldn’t necessarily work for Ignite. So here’s a brief list of the kinds of things we’re looking for when we evaluate Ignite submissions:

  • Brevity: Ignite works best when the ideas are big, bright, and communicated succinctly. A good Ignite MCN proposal should be able to get to the main idea in three sentences or less. If it takes two full paragraphs to describe the concept behind your talk, it’s probably not the right fit for Ignite MCN.

  • A fresh perspective: Ignite talks are most interesting when coming from the standpoint of, “You’ve probably never thought about X in this way before.” Or, “I’m here to change your mind about Y.” Or, “This is an aspect of museum culture that you’ve probably not given too much thought to.” Ignite talks aren’t a great place for repeating the established wisdom, or presenting a project you’ve worked on. Enlighten us, but make it quick.

  • A sense of performance: Unlike more traditional conference presentations, Ignite talks are more like performances. I’m usually looking for some sense of this in the proposal. Humor can get this across, but so can a sense of excitement and/or evangelism. If I feel like the proposal is trying hard to convince me as the reviewer, then there’s a good chance that this enthusiasm will come across in the Ignite talk as well.

  • An understanding of the format: If you’ve never given an Ignite talk before, but mention in the proposal that you want to change the format (“I want to have 50 slides instead of 20” or “I want to have videos on every slide”), that proposal will probably not make it in. It can help if you’ve attended MCN and the Ignite event before, and seen this special event with its certain aesthetic in action, so that you know what to expect.

I’m looking for 7 to 9 talks that all work well together. Sometimes this can mean that great proposals are rejected just because they don’t fit in well with the rest. If you’ve submitted a talk in the past and didn’t get in, by all means re-submit! It may be a better fit this year. You never know!


Koven J. Smith
Director of Digital Adaptation
Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin


#MCN50 Voices: Dana Allen-Greil & Arielle Feldman

Dana Allen-Greil and Arielle Feldman were paired up for the #MCN50 Voices project, which invites members of the MCN community to interview each other about their careers and the field of museum technology as a whole. Being #musesocial gals, Dana and Arielle decided to conduct their interview live on Twitter–emojis, gifs, and all.


Here is the full Storify of the conversation


And here is the best tweets compiled into a Twitter moment by Arielle


MCNPro – CollectiveAccess for Museums

Presented by the Small Museum SIG

Friday, April 28, 1pm ET

CollectiveAccess is a free open-source software for managing and publishing museum and archival collections. Join John Turner, Senior Manager of Museum Technology at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, as he shares his experience installing, customizing, and using CollectiveAccess to manage the Museum’s extensive collection of artwork, loan tracking, exhibitions, and conservation and inventory workflows.


John Turner headshotJohn Turner has been playing cat and mouse with technology since birth. 

Inspired by his grandfather who worked for Heathkit and surrounded by unassembled electronics, cameras, and Lionel Trains, he began his lifelong fascination with gadgets after being electrocuted at an early age. 

Now after nearly four decades and surviving subsequent brushes with loose electrons, he has lost his hair and has been working with technology within the museum world for over a decade starting in San Francisco at the premiere hands-on-science museum, the Exploratorium in 2001. 

After serving as the primary technical contact with research partners at Intel Labs, HP Labs and the Concord Consortium for multiple museum handheld and RFID research projects, he left the Bay Area to circumnavigate the globe with his wife before they landed in Ann Arbor to raise their family. 

Working in multiple technical capacities at the University of Michigan Museum of Art since 2006, as the Senior Manager of Museum Technology he currently manage all aspects of the museum that can be rendered on a screen or plugged in. In his free time, he owns a photography studio:




#MCN50 Voices: 10 Words and 2 Challenges from Holly Witchey & Angela Spinazzè

This year MCN celebrates its 50th anniversary. Just as MCN has established a network of established and emerging professionals, #MCN50 Voices brings members together, old and new, near and far.

In this video conversation, experienced professionals Angela Spinazzè, Principal at ATSPIN Consulting & Holly Witchey, Principal at Relevant Museums Consulting, take us back to revisit their first projects of the early 2000s, and explain how technology has played a role in the changing culture of museums ever since. They highlight the importance of collaboration, generosity, and compassion in their careers, and in the MCN community as a whole.

Stay tuned for more MCN50 Voices interviews in the coming months. Learn more and sign up to participate here.