Archive for March, 2020

A Befitting #MCN2020 Theme | Sustainability: Preserve/Progress

Written by Andrea Montiel de Shuman and Andrea Ledesma, MCN 2020 Conference Program Chairs, and Meredith Steinfels and Mimosa Shah, Co-Chairs. 

“Sustainability.” The word evokes an array of thoughts and emotions, which vary greatly by your profession, location, or worldview. It can bring to mind the idea of maintaining the status quo, while in the next thought “sustainability” could allude to pushing boundaries thanks to our perpetuity-inspired missions. Now, in this new age of COVID-19, the idea of sustainability is rapidly taking on a whole new meaning for museums.

Each year, the Conference Program Committee has the extraordinary task of choosing a timely theme that is not too specific, not too broad, and will resonate with the diverse skill sets of our community. Incredibly, the Program Committee finalized this theme in early February—and even after Coronavirus swept through our lives, we’ve decided we’re sticking with it as-is!

Directly from the Committee, the #MCN2020 theme description…

Sustainability: Preserve/Progress

This year, we invite proposals that investigate sustainability: a tension between transformation and longevity. Sustainability has many facets—technological, financial, environmental, cultural, social, and personal. These stand at the forefront of our practice as we strive for both survival and relevance. We want to learn how you position your work to meaningfully meet present needs. Weighing impact against cost and risk is one of many calculations that determine valuable products, effective strategy, and efficient systems. How do you temper innovation with a mind for long-term support? 

We recognize the increasingly fraught nature of sustainability—amplified now as we navigate global crises in health, labor, climate change, decolonization, and more. In a time of uncertainty and accountability, let’s confront these issues together. We encourage you to explore what enduring technologies and practices look like in the face of disruption. Question what we are striving to preserve. How do we care for the health of our living environment, our communities, and ourselves? 

Sustainability informed many of our conversations before COVID-19 and will continue to as our sector grapples with the unprecedented impact of mass-closures and their downstream effects. Now more than ever, we’re thankful for the program committee’s insight and empathy. It helped us arrive at a theme that is current, compelling, and flexible. We hope this theme inspires sessions that are creative, productive, and even cathartic.

What does this mean for the conference?

The show WILL go on in November, but how exactly that plays out remains to-be-decided. MCN (including the program committee, conference managers, and board) is working hard to adapt the program so our community can gather safely. We’re following CDC Guidelines and recommendations from the city of Baltimore and reviewing options for virtual conference participation. Reassessing our pricing and participation model is also important. This includes registration costs and the logistics around our scholarship program. The severe impact of COVID-19 on our sector cannot be understated. We want to be sure that everyone who  wants to share their work and participate in MCN 2020 has the means to do so. Stay tuned for more information.

That said, the Call for Proposals will open April 17. Mark your calendars!

We encourage you to look to November as an opportunity to document this historic moment for our sector. The idea of sustainability invites us to reflect on the means of resilience for our organizations and ourselves. It’s been a year of challenges for our physical spaces, virtual platforms, and personal opportunities. Yet, we also have had the chance to shine a light on the value of our community through our projects, our collaborations, our advocacy, and the many ways we support our missions.

Camaraderie, conversation, creativity

Whether your roles require preservation, progress, or both, the theme of sustainability casts a wide net. But as always, innovative projects and dialogue are happening all around us that don’t neatly fall within a defined theme. MCN welcomes all submissions relevant to our community’s mission, “To grow the digital capacity of museum professionals by connecting them to ideas, information, opportunities, proven practices, and each other.” Above all else, we are a humans-first community.

Let this theme embolden you to write down your thoughts, to reach out to others, and to think of that new way you could share your experience with the MCN community this November. Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #MCN2020 and tagging @museumcn. If you have questions about the program or suggestions about how to update or improve the conference in November, please email us at program@mcn.edu. Our hearts and inbox are always open.

Andrea, Andrea, Meredith, and Mimosa

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The 8 Essential Things Museums are Providing Right Now

We’re all in unique little bubbles at the moment, learning how to navigate this continually shifting stay-at-home environment. It’s impacted different people in very different ways. But one thing has been consistent from day one—in spite of their doors closing, the museums of the world have stepped up to fill the void. It was stunning to see the speed in which thousands of museums pivoted to bring valuable cultural opportunities to the homes of millions.

Behind the scenes, museum pros aren’t just working from home in meetings with their own teams. The cultural sector has been organizing cross-institutionally to achieve our missions. The goal is to be efficient in our collaborations with other museums, disperse new learnings and best practices, and amplify one another’s efforts as quickly as possible.

The result are eight essential elements that museums have provided us for weathering the storm, and impressive examples of new initiatives created in the past weeks to get us through.

Peace

With all of the uncertainty in our daily lives, bringing a sense of calm seemed the obvious choice for museums. Many are retreats to take a deep breath and spend time slow-looking at your favorite artwork. Others hold special memories or objects that bring you peace and calm. Enter #MuseumMomentofZen, one of the first cross-institutional hashtags to hit the ground running. It’s simple. Museums share a beautiful moment on their social channels and encourage you to relax.

@FieldMuseum on Twitter

Humor

To the general public, museum folk seem serious. We’re anything but. When your life revolves around fossilized poop, tying a bonnet, or mundane requests from contemporary artists, you must have a sense of humor. Many museum social media managers jumped at the chance to bring levity to the moment by sharing some of our more ludicrous scenarios. In Chicago, penguins need to stretch their legs at the Shedd. Then the Field’s T. rex got in on the action. (And the Adler followed with…Chris?)

But no one stole the world’s heart more than Tim, the National Cowboy Museum’s security guard. Left to his own devices, he was asked by “Seth in Marketing” (who is really Seth in Marketing) to share his experiences on the museum’s social channels. His pure-hearted efforts have us all sending him a “cheers” beer emoji. It also has an international audience excited to visit a museum they’ve never heard of thanks to a simple, well-executed idea.

@NGADC on Twitter

Escape

In the early days of quarantine, museums quickly began featuring existing virtual tours, 360-degree videos, and Google Arts and Culture partnerships to bring exhibits directly to our living rooms. The news media was quick to compile lists of these resources as a way to escape the day-to-day. But museum staff took it one step further, creating new, live tours on the spot or documenting behind-the-scenes moments. The Castello di Rivoli in Italy was an early example of a curator who went to great lengths to bring the cultural treasures of her institution to online audiences. In the US, the National Gallery of Art is doing extremely in-depth #MuseumFromHome tours of each gallery in order to keep a behemoth institution accessible for the public.

Carlos Museum on Facebook

Sharing

Even as museums face furloughs and layoffs of their own, giving back is top of mind. With PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) shortages reaching crisis levels, museums around the world are sharing their materials. Beyond basic cleaning supplies, museums have something many companies don’t—conservation departments (and their impressive protective gear.) To take it one step further, museums are now organizing their own campaign to thank the health heroes who are on the frontlines of the crisis. #MuseumsThankHealthHeroes takes place April 1 at 11 a.m. ETD.

@tussenkunstenquarantaine on Instagram

Creativity

For those who find themselves with more time while staying in, it’s the perfect opportunity to get creative. Museums have answered the call for all ages and across many mediums. For antsy kids, children’s museums are providing at-home DIY activities tied to art and science. Others have quickly turned freely available collections images into printable coloring pages—an easy way to relieve stress. The Rjiksmuseum discovered and shared a Dutch Instagram account with a genius Stay-at-Home Challenge: choose your favorite artwork, then recreate it with objects from around your home. The result will leave you amazed, laughing, and inspired.

The Children’s Museum on Facebook

Education

The mission of nearly every museum is focused on learning. It only made sense to bring that learning online when the doors closed, if it wasn’t already. For those who already had e-learning resources, this meant updating the focus of their website to put these tools at parents’ and educators’ fingertips. The breadth and depth of online learning that’s possible through museum websites and social media is mind-boggling, you can “Spy From Home” with the International Spy Museum, go on a virtual spring break at the Museum of the American Revolution, or binge-watch  the Brain Scoop for an ample dose of natural science knowledge. The world’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis, which includes a STEM Lab, paleontology lab, Chihuly sculpture, train, carousel, and a sports complex to-boot, is creating an impressive amount of new educational resources with their staff experts and sharing them on their social channels.

 

A screenshot of a Tweet from the MERL featuring their challenge to join the #AniMERLCrossing campaign

@TheMERL on Twitter

Connection

Museums are stepping up to remedy the feelings of isolation that come with social distancing by creating unique ways to connect us. In online spaces, museum staff are cleverly tying their missions and collections to familiar activities for digital audiences. In one example, President Lincoln’s Cottage is hosting a Virtual Game Night for families (the first one sold out in a couple of hours!) The MERL (Museum of English Rural Life), known for always being a step ahead of the latest meme, has found its niche with the popular Animal Crossing gaming community. Within the game, users can intricately design their own smocks, which is a direct tie to the MERL’s collection. And so, #AniMERLCrossing was born.

@NYHistory on Twitter

 

Collaboration

Above all else, what the museum technology and museum social media communities do best is collaborate. And boy have we been. We’ve been out-ed before for our “secret society of museum social media managers” that must exist somewhere (shhhh…). This community is churning out the campaigns, for sure. From #MuseumAlphabet to #MuseumBouquet, we’re banding together to amplify content across our institutions–small and large–in ways that resonate with audiences. Likely the most logistically ambitious, #MuseumGames is a broader hashtag with a uniquely interactive campaign embedded within it—a weekly Sunday cross-institutional crossword puzzle.

Sorry, not sorry. I have two…

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Participate and amplify

Join in the virtual conversations and activities. Share the content with others. Engagement numbers matter now to us more than ever. A Facebook “Share”, a Twitter “RT”, a Blog shoutout all are important forms of support.

Keep your membership

It’s understandable that everyone is pinching pennies. Museums are too, and thousands in the cultural sector are losing their jobs as well. At the very least, you can support us by not cancelling your membership. The dollars matter. But also, the morale that comes from the additional member family on our roster matters. Your support is more valuable now than at any other time.

Help us advocate

We were lucky that museums were included in the recent economic relief legislation. It took tireless effort from our professional networks and support systems to ensure this, and it won’t be the last time we’ll need support. Help us advocate at every opportunity. We rally around AAM’s advocacy initiatives.

Donate if you can

If you are comfortable doing so at this time, donations to your community museum will go far in making an impact…not only in the lives of the staff whose jobs you’ll save, but in the programs that you’ll be continuing to support.

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The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections

 

In the blink of an eye, once-crowded museums sit empty. We’re preparing ourselves for social distancing and potential quarantine. This is the time for museum technology to step up and fill the void. The potential of online collections, virtual tours, and social media campaigns have always been there, but now the opportunity for impact is incalculable.

Access to endless open content. Educational resources for e-learning. Virtual retreats to art, culture, and history around the globe. This is the museum technology community’s time to shine!

If you’re a museum tech enthusiast looking to be part of the conversation, join one of MCN’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs). They are currently free for non-members so more can share resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This list will be continually updated with examples of museum and museum-adjacent virtual awesomeness. It is by no means exhaustive. If you have a virtual museum or museum-adjacent resource to contribute on behalf of your organization, please fill out this Google Form.

Every resource is free to access and enjoy.
Much of it, though not all, is also open content, in the sense that it’s freely reusable and re-mixable under Creative Commons licensing. Open content is clearly labeled on its respective website.

PORTALS

Image: V21 Artspace

VIRTUAL TOURS / ONLINE EXHIBITS

Art and Culture Museums
History Museums
Natural Science Museums
National Parks

Online Exhibits

E-LEARNING

Created for Kids

ONLINE COLLECTIONS

Art and Cultural Collections
Science Collections
History Collections

DIGITAL ARCHIVES & LIBRARIES

Huge thanks to the many who have written helpful blogs with their favorite museum tech resources. Your contributions are all included here: Cuseum, Mia Ridge, Jenni Fuchs, and Alicja Peszkowska.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Articles on COVID’s Impact on Museums
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Announcing the 2020 DEAI Advisory Board

 

Please join me in congratulating the latest cohorts of the MCN Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion advisory board members! This year marks the third iteration of the advisory board since its inception (see Charter). New members this year will serve a two-year term (ending December 2021) working on various initiatives and projects that further diversity and inclusion throughout the MCN organization. In addition to the newest members, several of last year’s advisory board members were selected to remain on the advisory board for a second year of service. 

I look forward to our work this year as we continue striving to make MCN and the museum technology sector more inclusive, accessible, diverse, and equitable!

Yvonne Lee
Board member & DEAI Board Liaison

Yvonne Lee



Jessica BrodeFrank
Jessica BrodeFrank (she/her) is the Digital Collections Access Manager at the Adler Planetarium, and pursues a DPhil in Digital Humanities with University of London researching implicit database bias, and the use of crowdsourcing metadata projects as engagement tools. She is currently interested in incorporating diverse voices towards creating representative museum narratives.


Emily Hardin
Emily Hardin (they/them, she/her) is set to graduate with their MA in Museology from University of Washington in June.  They have worked and volunteered at various art and history museums and galleries, the Seattle Aquarium, and the Burke Museum of Natural History, and are very passionate about inclusion for the LBTQ+ community and accessibility in all museological spaces.


Marina Piza
With a background in Visual Arts and Museology, Marina (she/her/elle) has spent the past ten years working in museums around Canada. She is part of a small group of immigrants and visible minorities currently working in the field. Marina is invested in supporting under-represented groups and is delighted to join MCN DEAI.


Gurpreet Singh
Gurpreet Singh (he/him/his), with a background in AI, ML, and NLP, is an instructor at Lethbridge College and lab coordinator for the Digital Humanities lab (University of Lethbridge). As a project manager for the ‘Visionary Cross’ project – a Digital Cultural Heritage project in the Anglo-Saxon era – he specializes in Data Management and Dissemination.

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