Archive for January, 2019

Announcing the 2019 DEAI Advisory Board

By MCN Board Member, Desi Gonzalez

I’m thrilled to announce the 2019 MCN Advisory Board for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion! The mission of MCN’s DEAI Advisory Board is to represent and advocate for the interests of the MCN community on these matters. We were overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm for MCN’s new initiative in DEAI—we received over 40 incredibly strong candidates for 16 spots on the Advisory Board.

Over the next year, the Advisory Board will support and guide the work of MCN in DEAI initiatives and begin our ongoing process to make the organization—and the field of museum technology—more inclusive. I’m excited to welcome our new advisors, who bring a rich panoply of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to our efforts. Congratulations, and I’m looking forward to getting to work!

Rumana Chaudhuri

Rumana Chaudhuri (she/her) is a visitor experience volunteer at the National Museum of the American Indian, helping pioneer human-centered design at the museum. She looks forward to strengthening diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion at MCN and to initiating DEAI-based transformation in museums. Rumana attended Wellesley College, Georgetown University, and George Washington University.



Jim Fishwick

Jim Fishwick (he/him) is an award-winning director, performer, and experience designer based in Melbourne, Australia. He is currently an assistant curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and general manager of Jetpack Theatre Collective. He enjoys promoting queer, trans and non-binary representation in the arts.




Erin Harper

In her work as a museum producer and journalist, Erin Harper (she/her) is especially interested in telling stories that challenge common narratives and amplify essential voices. As a member of the LGBTQ community, Erin continuously stands up for inclusion and equality in both the personal and professional realm.




Nora Pinell-Hernandez

Nora Hernandez (she/her) is an Exhibits Fabricator at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Her exhibit designs have created palpable experiences for underrepresented stories of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Hernandez is developing an online hub called Atomic Carrots for museums that want to design and fabricate impactful exhibits.



Scarlett Hu

Scarlett Hu (she/her) is the Assistant Director of Getty Digital. In her IT career of 30+ years, she has created opportunities for underprivileged minorities and made attempts to close the digital divide whenever she can. She is an immigrant and a strong believer of “America Can”—she brought an outsourced department back home and won the Help Desk Institute Team Excellence Award in 2014.



Wided Rihana Khadraoui

Wided Khadraoui (she/her) is a Business Development Associate with Art Processors. Previously she managed a commercial art space. She holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics and an MA from CSM in Arts and Cultural Enterprise. She is passionate about technology’s potential to foster diversity and inclusion in the creative sector.




Ryan King

Ryan King (he/him) is the Digital Experience Designer at the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler. Ryan is the co-chair of the Smithsonian GLOBE (LGBTQ) Employee Group and the F|S accessibility task force, and an active member of the AAM LGBTQ Alliance.




Yvonne Lee

Rooted in experiences as a 1.5 generation immigrant in the largest Korean diasporic community in America, Yvonne Lee (she/her) has advocated professionally for strategies of inclusion including Los Angeles County’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative. She is the Head of Collection Information and Digital Assets at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.



Nameiko Miller

Nameiko Miller (she/her) lives in Nassau, Bahamas where she works as a museum curator. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2018 with an MA in Museum Studies. Her master’s thesis, “Beyond the Walls: Inclusion, Equity and Community Engagement in Museums,” examines issues of racial equity and inclusion in museums.



A. Andrea Montiel de Shuman

Andrea (she/her) is a Digital Experience Designer based in Detroit, where she has lived since immigrating from Mexico in 2013. She has been involved a variety of nonprofits that exposed her to consistent DEAI needs. Currently, she is interested in exploring opportunities to use digital in serving traditionally underrepresented audiences, especially indigenous communities.




James Neal

James Neal (he/him) is a Senior Program Officer in the Office of Library Services of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in Washington, DC. He cultivates and manages discretionary grants in the domain areas of digital inclusion (broadband access and digital literacy), privacy, open data and civic technology, open education resources, and e-books.



Alessandra Pearson

Alessandra (she/her) is currently a Digital Coordinator at David Zwirner Gallery in NYC. She recently received her Master’s Degree in Emergent Digital Practices from the University of Denver where she researched art, tech, and disability. In Denver, she managed the online presence for the newly-formed Art of Access Alliance, a partnership between arts organizations highlighting access programs for disability communities.



Mimosa Shah

Mimosa Shah (she/her) is the Adult Program Coordinator at Skokie Public Library, where she develops, manages, and evaluates public programs. As secretary of the library’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, she’s committed to helping increase staff’s knowledge and awareness of issues related to DEAI and how it affects our community.



Halee Sommer

Halee Sommer (she/her) is the Editorial Associate at the Jewish Museum in New York City, where she bridges the realms of marketing and digital, streamlining all audience-facing content. Halee’s area of focus on the DEAI advisory board is to build strategic initiatives to make MCN economically accessible for all.



Lanae Spruce

Lanae Spruce (she/her) leads the award-winning social engagement team at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is working to build the museum’s digital presence to foster learning, creativity and shared discovery as a means to transform our understanding of the African American experience, American history, race, and modern society.



Coleman Tharpe

Coleman Tharpe (he/him) strives to create inclusive and positive working environments within his companies by evaluating intersectionality, privilege, and power against policies, procedures, and culture. He holds degrees in Anthropology and Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin and splits his time between Austin and London.


The Museum Technology Charter

A visitor engages with technology and the collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art

By Koven Smith

The nature of how museums use technology and digital tools has changed significantly in the last ten years. Perhaps even more critically, the expectations of what museums should be able to produce using digital tools have increased significantly in the last decade. Given this, what is a museum of the 21st Century expected to do in order to deliver on these increased expectations? What is required for a museum to be digitally literate, and what are the appropriate means for achieving this literacy? These questions are particularly acute for smaller museums, who often lack the resources to investigate these questions, or even to assess their own digital literacy. Sector-wide publications like the Horizon Report: Museum Edition once provided peer-reviewed resources (and a critical lifeline) to these museums. These publications no longer exist, but the need they satisfied still remains.

In seeking to address this sector-wide need, the Museum Computer Network is developing a prototype online publication called The Museum Technology Charter, which will be unveiled at MCN 2019 in San Diego. The Charter will be a handbook for museums seeking to develop their own technology and digital capacities in effective and ethical ways. As the end result of six months of deliberation and discussion among leading thinkers in museum technology, the Museum Technology Charter will serve as a sector-wide benchmark against which a museum’s own digital efforts might be evaluated.

The Museum  Technology Charter will be an online publication consisting of four primary components:

  • The Technology “Stack”: The first component of the Charter will be a comprehensive list of technology elements that project participants consider to be sufficient (and in some cases critical) for the normal operation of a museum. These elements will be inclusive of more obvious considerations (websites, mobile apps) to the less obvious (time-based media acquisition strategies), to the future-focused (AR/VR implementations).
  • Values and methodologies: There are multiple ways to implement a given element in the technology stack, some of which are consistent with museum values and some of which aren’t. The goal of this component of the Charter will therefore be to identify values that are non-negotiable (such as accessibility) and those that might be ideal and reflective of a more digitally mature organization, but not necessarily critical  (such as open licensing of digital collections).
  • Maturity matrix: Once the technology stack elements and values have been identified, these two components will be combined into a matrix that will allow a museum to self-assess its own “technological readiness.” This matrix will, in effect, have capabilities on the x-axis and values on the y-axis, allowing a museum to take both elements into account when assessing its own maturity.
  • Skills identification: The final component of the report will be to identify skills that are necessary for moving between capability areas of the Maturity Matrix. This will help museums to better understand what training might be required or what roles may need to be hired in order to improve their overall technological maturity.

With these four components identified, the hope is that The Museum Technology Charter will provide a comprehensive accounting of the state of museum technology and digital efforts circa 2019. Stay tuned for more updates as this project evolves leading up to MCN 2019.

The Museum Technology Charter is made possible with the support of MCN (Museum Computer Network) acting as fiscal sponsor.


The #MuseTech Water Cooler

If you have an update or announcement, an upcoming event or call for proposals, a new job, an important blog post or other museum technology content that you’d like to share in our monthly newsletter, submit it using the form below no later than the 10th of each month.



MCN 2018 Through the Eyes of a Museum Educator, Museum Studies Instructor, and High School Teacher

By: Hillary Hanel Rose

In November 2018 I had the honor and privilege of participating in the MCN Conference as a Scholar. I first learned about MCN in 2016 as I searched for resources to share with my museum studies students and have been eager to become more involved with the organization since then. Determined to attend the annual conference, I submitted my application for a scholarship in 2017 and again this year. I was excited to learn that I had been chosen for a scholarship to the 2018 conference, meaning that I would get to travel to beautiful Denver, Colorado, present a lightning talk on some of my work, and learn from fellow museum professionals from around the world. I expected to learn about new resources that would fit into my museum career, but I also came away with inspiration for my work as a high school teacher.

My lightning talk was focused on my work at Girl Museum. I have served on the all-volunteer staff since 2012, and am currently the Education Advisor. Girl Museum is unique because it is a virtual museum with no physical location and a remote staff working from around the globe. Virtual museums are a new idea, so the overall concept of this was the basis for my presentation. I shared the benefits (free for visitors, open 24/4, etc.) and implications (time zones, marketing, funding, etc.) of being a virtual museum. I also highlighted our 52 Objects exhibit to show how digitized collections can be used to humanize the digital, which was the theme for this year’s conference. There was a lot to fit in a time limit of 5 minutes! Luckily, I was able to chat with many other MCN attendees throughout the week to discuss Girl Museum more in-depth.

Hillary Hanel Rose’s lightning talk.

In addition to the experience of presenting at an incredible conference, I enjoyed learning from fellow museum professionals. As I attended sessions, talked with exhibitors, and chatted with fellow attendees, I found myself constantly jotting down names of resources, case studies, and statistics that have already proven useful in my work with Girl Museum. For example, I am now exploring ways to make our museum more accessible, and we are working on a fun set of girl-centric memes to celebrate our 10th anniversary in 2019!

I must mention that I am writing this blog post six weeks after the conference. This is because I also teach high school full-time and I am finally able to spend some time reflecting on my experience at MCN now that it is winter break. I previously mentioned that the conference unexpectedly inspired my teaching career. I attended a session highlighting the Smithsonian’s Learning Lab and was able to use it in my classes the very next week. As a history and science teacher, there are so many ways for my students to use this resource. I really shouldn’t be surprised that a museum conference impacted my classroom teaching – I wrote my dissertation on museum-school partnerships, and this is just another example of the importance of museums in education.

Winter break is also my time to prep for the upcoming semester of teaching “Museums, Communities, and Stakeholders” at Central Michigan University. Though I have taught the class before, the MCN Conference inspiration flowed into this area of my work as well, and I will be making several adjustments to my syllabus. I was so pleased to meet several museum professionals who are interested in doing a virtual chat with my students. It is essential for our future museum professionals to hear multiple perspectives and to see examples from a variety of museums as they prepare for their careers. MCN will continue to be a great resource as I plan my Museum Studies lectures this spring.

This year’s conference was so wonderfully diverse in its sessions, attendees, and conversations and its impact will expand beyond the few hundred people who attended in-person. As just one person sharing and implementing what I learned at MCN 2018, thousands of visitors to Girl Museum, over 200 high school students, and at least 20 undergraduate museum studies students will be reached this year. Thank you MCN for this opportunity!


Don’t Forget the Small Museums

By Kelli Huggins, Visitor Experience Coordinator, Catskill Center

I am an accidental museum tech person. As a career small museum/non-profit employee, I have often found myself taking on social media, online exhibits, and other basic technology projects by default. They’ve never been the main part of my job, however, just something I ended up doing out of curiosity or being the only one willing to try. That’s why I was so excited to be one of the 2018 MCN scholarship recipients. It was a chance to pick up some new skills and talk shop with real experts. And I learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned how much I don’t know.

Now, I am going to boldly, unashamedly profess my own ignorance in this blog post in the hopes that it will help other small museum employees, and also MCN as it goes forward with its crucial efforts to increase diversity and access in the museum tech world. When I got the MCN program schedule, there were session descriptions I flat out didn’t understand. I actually had to Google some of the acronyms, like UX or IIIF or DAM.

When it came to choosing sessions, I tried of course to choose those I felt best met my personal and institutional goals, but I also sought sessions that I knew would be over my head. You can’t learn if you don’t toss yourself in the deep end, right? That’s why I went to sessions on VR (and hey, I didn’t even have to Google that acronym to know that it meant virtual reality. Though, in fairness, I didn’t fully understand the difference between VR and AR before MCN, so this is the tiniest, most humble of brags). Even though I might not have understood every technical part of the presentation, I’m now introduced to the conversation. If my institution ever wanted to explore VR, now, at the very least, I’d know some people to ask for advice.

Of course, I left MCN with plenty of practical takeaways, too, like how we can better explore digital storytelling through podcasts and virtual tours or ways to track social media analytics. But, I maintain, the most important thing for me was getting thrown into a more specialized conversations.

And you were all so, so very kind to a novice like me. Thank you for that. That’s why I’d love to see MCN actively work to get more small museum professionals at the conference (and I mean really small museums, like under 3 total staff members small). There are a whole lot of people like me out there who desperately want to learn this stuff, but just haven’t had the opportunity. People for whom keeping up with the latest tech literature takes a backseat to leading 400 4th graders through a site on a field trip or fixing a sink.

This wouldn’t be a one-sided relationship, either– small museum people have a lot to teach, as well! Small museums can serve as a kind of research and development lab because there is often less bureaucracy and red tape to cut through to get project approval. That’s exactly what my co-presenters, Max Evjen, Shelby Merlino, and Sammy Kay Smith, and I discovered in our research for our panel on Twitter museum mascots. Innovation is happening at these small sites because staff are given a lot of autonomy to experiment.

I don’t have answers for how to achieve any of this. As with everything, it probably mostly comes down to money. Small museums often don’t have the funds to send employees to conferences like this. That’s why the scholarship was so vital to me this year, my first MCN. I’m not sure next year if I will be able to secure the funds to return, even though I want to. In the meantime, I look forward to taking advantage of the benefits of my MCN membership, asking questions in the SIGs I’ve joined, and telling other small museum people about these opportunities and what I’ve learned.  


MCN statement on the government shutdown

MCN would like to express its support of our colleagues in the community who are experiencing hardship as a result of the government shutdown.

Museums, libraries, parks, monuments, and other cultural heritage agencies funded by the United States’ federal government provide vital services and economic contributions. They enrich the lives of all Americans and strengthen American democracy. In addition, federal granting agencies, such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services, serve the work of many private, nonprofit institutions, and the cultural heritage sector as a whole.

Dedicated to growing the digital capacity of museum professionals, MCN believes a political impasse simply should not disrupt or threaten these critical services. Thousands of federal employees – cultural and information professionals, support staff, and contractors – are currently furloughed without pay, unable to perform their duties or carry out the essential missions of their agencies. All workers, including non-federal contract workers, deserve to be paid in a timely manner, and to be able to work without threat of future disruptions.

We urge our government to find ways to end the standoff and allow everyone to return to work as soon as possible.

MCN (Museum Computer Network), Board of Directors and staff


MCN Field Trips Open up Dialog With Host-City Artists

by Marty Spellerberg

MCN is all about facilitating connections for museum professionals. For the 2018 conference in Denver, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to help introduce a new format, MCN Field Trips, that opened up opportunities for spatial and dialectic exploration.

The day before the conference has always been an opportunity for attendees to tour cultural sites or take a deep dive into a topic in a workshop. This year, museum pros also had the chance to venture out into the community to engage with local artists in their home venues. By introducing visiting cultural technologists into an established discussion series favored by Denver practitioners, the Field Trips program facilitated the exposure of these communities to each other’s concerns and points-of-view.

Denver’s two Field Trips took place on Tuesday, November 13 2018. About half of the attendees came from MCN, and half from Tilt West, a Denver non-profit that promotes critical discourse on arts and culture. Each discussion dealt with aspects of our relationship to the internet, as individuals and cultural workers.

“Proud To Be Flesh”

The first Field Trip, Proud to be Flesh: Cultural Spaces After the Internet, took place at Next Stage Collaborative, an interactive gallery space located in the Denver Performing Arts Complex and administered by the University of Colorado Denver and Denver Arts & Venues.

I wrote and delivered the discussion prompt, which can be read online. In it I attempted to survey the contemporary relationship between online and offline cultural spaces, motivated by the question:

“As much of the world moves online, what’s next for engaging, enriching, in-real-life experiences of art and culture?”

The discussion, which was recorded, grappled with the structure of cultural organizations digital departments and their engagement with social media influencers, as well as the effects of online networks on artist communities and new forms such as Instagram-ready selfie spaces. It was complemented by the environment in which it took place, an installation / performance venue titled Special Guest, presented by Meow Wolf and created in collaboration with local artists.

Following the discussion, Tilt West commissioned a response from Meagan Estep. Her piece, which can be read on Medium, expanded on my question to ask:

“With both digital and physical experiences blended in a museum setting, can we even distinguish one from the other? Are they even separate?”

“Nightmare Machines”

The second Field Trip, Computer Lib / Nightmare Machines: Technology’s Impact on Cultural Communities, took place at  Emmanuel Gallery, a non-profit art facility housed in Denver’s oldest standing church structure and situated on the Auraria Campus.

Sarah Wambold prepared and delivered the prompt, a version of which can be read online, examining the broken promises of digital technology utopianism. The discussion, which was recorded, grappled with cultural organizations’ complicity with an online culture of frightening user tracking, and user’s changing expectations of privacy. It, too, was complemented by the environment in which it took place, artist Aram Bartholl’s exhibition, Your Shopping Cart Is Empty, which presents work created at “an interplay between internet, culture and reality.”

How do our taken-for-granted communication channels influence us? Bartholl asks not just what humans are doing with media, but what media is doing with humans. Tensions between public and private, online and offline, techno-lust and everyday life are at the core of his work.

— Emmanuel Gallery

Following the discussion, Tilt West commissioned a response from Matt Popke. His piece, Nightmares of Our Own Making, examines the event’s themes in relation to The Cluetrain Manifesto, an essay that has had influence within Silicon Valley.

A Foundation for Growth

The 2018 Field Trips were developed at the intersection of MCN and Tilt West. This intersection was manifested in the person of Sarah Wambold, the Clyfford Still Museum’s Director of Digital Media, an MCN 2018 Local Committee member and Tilt West founder. The success of the program is in large part a credit to her vision and organization. As well, our appreciation extendeds to Jeff Lambson, Director of Emmanuel Gallery, for facilitating use of the venues.

In my view, the Field Trip format adds depth to the MCN offering, directly supporting the organization’s mission and expanding its reach. I hope that its success in Denver paves the way for the program to grow in 2019 and beyond.

About the Author

Marty Spellerberg is a designer, developer and curator based in Austin, Texas. He has twenty years of experience, with over a decade working primarily with museums. He presents regularly at industry conferences and is co-lead of a study of museum visitor motivation published in the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing. In 2016 he founded Spellerberg Projects, a cultural space and contemporary art gallery with two locations in Lockhart, Texas.


Happy New Year from your 2019 Conference Program Co-Chairs!

Believe it or not, work is already underway for MCN 2019. I’m pleased to share that we had many outstanding applicants for the two Conference Program Co-Chair positions. From these, we’ve recruited Andrea Ledesma and Andrea Montiel de Shuman, who will serve as Co-Chairs for MCN 2019 and 2020. Both Andreas bring a wealth of professional experiences, deep involvement in the MCN community, and fresh ideas for innovating the conference program—learn more about them below.

Together, our “A-Team” will draw from our engagement in the sector and the community’s feedback from 2018 to facilitate a rigorous, engaging, and inclusive program for the 2019 conference.

Want to be involved in MCN 2019? We are seeking applications for the 2019 Conference Program Committee through Sunday, January 13, 2019. (You can apply here!) This essential group of professional volunteers establishes the MCN conference theme, identifies a keynote speaker, and evaluates session proposals. All of these activities are performed asynchronously online with proposal evaluations occurring in the first weeks of May.

Questions? Email [email protected].

—Adrienne Lalli Hills, MCN 2019 Conference Program Chair

Meet your Conference Program Co-Chairs

Adrienne Lalli Hills | @PrairieTrawler

Howdy, I’m Adrienne. In my spare time, I’m reading science nonfiction, experimenting with 1950s Jell-O mold recipes, and chasing a toddler around my home.

Presently I am the founding Manager of Exhibitions and Public Programs at ahha Tulsa. I work with artists to organize inclusive and accessible exhibitions and lead operations and pedagogy for a 2,600 sq ft arts-focused maker space and six community art studios. Working in a small, startup environment has been a fascinating change of pace from the previous positions I’ve held at larger institutions over the last decade.

In addition to serving as an MCN Program Co-Chair for the 2018 and 2019 conferences, I’m a member of the board of directors of the Museum Education Roundtable (publishers of the Journal of Museum Education) and Convening Chair for the Association of Art Museum Interpretation.

Andrea Ledesma | @am_ledesma

Andrea Ledesma headshot

Hello, I’m Andrea. As a public humanist and digital devotee, I’m fascinated with how digital technologies impact how we engage with history, culture, and each other.

Currently, I’m the Digital Content Coordinator at the Field Museum in Chicago. I support the maintenance of and development of digital storytelling projects while keeping a keen eye on user experience and digital strategy. Before coming to the Field, I enjoyed working on digital projects for Brown University, the Tenement Museum, Digital Public Library of America, and National Park Service.

If not in a museum, I’m cooking up a new recipe, filling my head with pop culture, or continuing my search for the perfect bowl of noodles. I care deeply about the MCN community and am thrilled to serve as a program co-chair for MCN 2019. See everyone in San Diego!

Andrea Montiel de Shuman | @AndreaMontielS

Andrea Montiel de Schuman headshot


I’m Andrea with the longer name, born and raised in Puebla, Mexico, where I grew up surrounded by music, colors, and museums.

As a Digital Experience Designer at the Detroit Institute of Arts, I lead public-facing digital experiences that help visitors find themselves in art. My favorite tasks are to collaborate with community advisors and user-test, teamed up with different departments, largely with the Interpretation team.

Lately, I’ve been interested in how digital innovation can help serve communities that museums can struggle with.

I am passionate about indigenous textiles, enjoy illustrating, watch anything from Studio Ghibli and hunt for new music & weird books.

MCN has been a wonderful family since I first attended, so it is an honor to now serve as Program co-chair for the next two conference cycles.