Each year, we are pleased to offer scholarships to 15 talented individuals from the cultural heritage sector to attend the annual MCN conference and join the MCN community. This year the Scholarship Committee received 88 strong applications from museum professionals located all over the US, UK, Europe, and Australia. As we do every year, the Committee had a tough time choosing 15 recipients.
We’re very excited to introduce the #MCN2016 Scholars! From an interactive media producer to a principal project officer, this year’s scholarship recipients represent a strong, diverse group of emerging leaders in the museum technology field. These individuals were chosen based on their ability to demonstrate a serious interest in MCN, explain how they will contribute to MCN community, and their involvement in exciting or innovative #musetech projects.
This year, we have been making some changes to improve the scholarship program before, during, and after the conference. To streamline the process for applicants, we have moved up the application deadline and reviewing process.
Additionally, we are highlighting the scholars’ unique experiences and impressive projects through a brand new series of lightning talks during the conference on Friday morning, November 4.
As a former scholarship recipient myself now serving as a Co-Chair of the Scholarship Committee, I want the scholars to feel as welcome to the MCN community as I have felt. We hope each scholar will become an active member of the MCN community throughout the year, engaging online, in-person, and through our Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
Meet our 2016 MCN Scholars online and meet them in person at the conference in November!
MCN 2016 Scholarship Committee
Every year, the MCN conference evolves in response to feedback from the community. This year, we dug into several years of MCN’s attendance data, and discovered that as many as 50% of attendees are new to the conference annually. Wow! This prompted us to rethink our assumptions about how knowledgeable attendees are when they arrive. As a result, we’re trying to be more deliberate about the information we provide, to help ensure everyone–whether new or a long-time attendee–gets the most out of their experience. So here are some of program highlights for New Orleans:
First Timer’s Session: Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Are you an MCN newbie? Be sure to attend our first-timer’s session to meet new people, and learn everything you need to know to make your first MCN awesome. We loved the first-timer’s session that Emily Lytle-Painter and Margaret Collerd Sternbergh ran at Museums and the Web 2016. It’s time for a similar event at MCN!
Meet the MCN 2016 Scholars! Lightning Talks, Friday AM.
Every year, MCN offers scholarships to 15 qualified applicants from the cultural sector to attend our annual conference. These individuals are chosen based on their ability to demonstrate a serious interest in MCN, explain how they will contribute to MCN community, and their involvement in exciting or innovative #musetech projects. Scholars are asked to add to the conference experience by capturing important ideas and themes that develop during sessions and events. This year, for the first time, you’ll also have a chance to hear directly from our Scholars about their exciting work during a series of Lightning Talks.
MCN Professional Development Sessions
One of MCN’s strategic priorities is to better accommodate professionals at different stages in their careers. This year, the Program will include a few short “professional development” sessions that will bring together seasoned, mid-career, and emerging professionals to discuss topics related to professional development. One session will feature tips on presenting at MCN. Speed networking will also be returning as part of this new thematic track. We will also have a session addressing how the conference is put together, including insights into what makes proposals stand out. Come along if you’re interested in putting together a proposal for future years, or want to get involved with the Program Committee.
Speak Up! MCN Discussion spaces
We have access to two great rooms away from the main conference hall that make perfect discursive spaces, so we’re going to use these for explicitly intimate or discussion-based sessions. We are not programming these rooms at all times, since we don’t want too much competition during sessions, but we will use them when appropriate. This is also where we can make room for your conversations. Stay tuned for more details about how you can use or book these spaces for your emergent discussions.
MCN Annual Meeting
Join the MCN Board of Directors for our annual business meeting. This is a great chance for MCN members and other interested conference attendees to hear the latest about the organization from MCN’s leaders. Following brief presentations, there will be time for your questions to the MCN Board.
After consultations with the Special Interest Group (SIG) Chairs, we heard that many of the SIGs would like an opportunity for a formal business meeting at the conference. We have blocked off time for these important community discussions.
Other Changes to the Program
We heard your feedback from MCN 2015 that our case study format didn’t work particularly well, so these sessions will now be in 30 minute blocks of paired case studies. Additionally, we received so many wonderful proposals that we’re extending by an hour on the final day to fit a few more in.
All-time Favorite Events
Of course, the program still includes many of your favorite sessions, such as Ignite MCN, and our keynote in conversation with plenary speaker Catherine Bracy. Get ready to dive into a living collection at our reception at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Rejuvenate your motivation while rubbing elbows with MCN newcomers, oldtimers, and otters!
Still want more?
We’re pleased to support the Cultural Heritage and Social Change Summit, taking place just after MCN 2016 and hosted by Southern University at New Orleans MA Museum Studies Program. The Summit invites delegates from across the cultural heritage fields in a two-day unconference to dig deeper into issues of cultural equity and move toward collaborative and concrete strategy. There is a separate registration and application process for the Summit, which can be found athttp://chscsummit.net.
This is just a taste of what you can expect at MCN 2016 this November. The draft timetable will be online next week, and we look forward to bringing you more updates as the conference gets closer.
The overall quality of proposals was exceptionally high this year and we are so excited about all the sessions we have lined up. That being said, due to the high number of proposals we received (nearly 300), we have unfortunately had to reject a high number of proposals, so we wanted to provide some insight into the evaluation and selection process.
How it all starts…
The Program Committee is made up of 28 people, each bringing a different perspective from across the sector. Every proposal was assigned for review by three Program Committee members with relevant professional expertise on the topic. Evaluators were asked to provide feedback in three ways:
A recommendation about whether the session was a “must have,” “nice to have,” “ok,” or “not suitable.”
Number-based ratings on a series of criteria, such as relevance to the conference theme and the session’s potential to contribute to the museum sector.
Additional descriptive comments to contextualize ratings, including recommendations to the Program Co-Chairs about things that could improve the proposal.
Putting the program together
Once all of the proposals were reviewed by the Committee, the Program Co-Chairs spent an entire weekend locked in a hotel room putting the first draft of the program together. (This involved a lot of Post-It notes!) Each session’s name was written on a Post-It showing its overall rating, and the three descriptive tags its owner included with the submission.
Our first job was to look for the top-ranking proposals from all of the session types (workshops, case studies, presentations, and professional forums). Then, each session was reviewed to ensure that the comments and recommendations supported the high rankings. From there, the process became a little more complex. We looked at topic representation. Were key topics areas covered? Were there any redundancies? We also considered the diversity of presenters. We wanted a good mix of speakers, including first timers and more experienced presenters, small museums, non-art museums, and sessions that included a gender mix. Next, we looked to include topics relevant to each Special Interest Group (SIG), prompting us to reach out to some SIGs with follow-up questions. In response to the Committee’s comments, we reached out to some of the proposers to ask whether they would be willing to edit a few things. Finally, we assigned sessions to time slots and to conference rooms in the hotel, looking for ways to get the most out of every minute possible.
Getting excited for an inspiring conference in November
This process took around three weeks, leading up to sending acceptance emails on Tuesday morning. Ultimately, the Chairs trusted the qualified opinions of the Program Committee. When tough decisions had to be made, we returned to the language of the original proposals in question and evaluated their merit for ourselves. Each Program Co-Chair brought her own partialities and priorities, but all decisions sprung from open and generative discussions about what kind of experience we wanted to create for attendees. Our goal was to build a challenging and surprising compilation of sessions with real world applications that would, together, create an inspiring conference. We think MCN 2016 is going to be exactly that, and we cannot wait to share the full program with you soon. If you did receive an offer to the Program, please confirm your acceptance by June 20. If your session was not selected, and you’d like feedback, please contact us at [email protected]. We’ll also be running a short session at the Conference on how the Program Committee works, including some trends we noticed amongst the strongest proposals. Please come if you’d like to learn more or want to register your interest in being part of the MCN 2017 Program Committee.
Thank you to all the members of the MCN 2016 Program Committee for the hard work they’ve done to guide us in shaping the MCN 2016 Program.
Do you have access to a lunch room, student lounge, or community bulletin board? Then you can help us spread the word and widen the MCN community. This printable flyer includes all of the information you need to submit a proposal, apply for a scholarship, or volunteer with MCN. Pick one of two full-color designs, thanks to volunteer Chris Evans.
Let us know where you post it! We’d love to see your photos. Use the hashtag #MCN2016.
I’m delighted to announce that Jennifer Foley and Trish Oxford have agreed to join me as Co-Chairs for #MCN2016! Every year, the conference Program Committee has the daunting task of shaping the conference, from creating the Call for Proposals, to reading, discussing and deciding on the conference sessions, as well as the overall organization of the conference. It is a large and challenging task and I look forward to working with Jennifer and Trish to build this year’s event. Please join me in welcoming them to the team!
This is the first year that we ran an open call for the conference Co-Chair and the response from the community was amazing. If you haven’t yet been in touch, but are interested in helping shape the future of the annual conference, we’d love to hear from you. All ideas are welcome. Please write to [email protected]
Jennifer Foley is the Director of Interpretation at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She and the CMA’s Interpretation team focus on connecting visitors to the museum’s collection and the intersection of digital technology and interpretation through exhibition audio and multimedia tours, exhibition interactives, and digital content in the museum’s collection-wide app, ArtLens. Before joining the CMA she held positions with the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Trish Oxford is a technologist, writer and artist specializing in digital communications to market and promote cultural initiatives driven by results. Most recently she served as the Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications at Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC. Her professional experience is anchored in technology, sales, and project management having worked for Yahoo! Inc., Cisco Systems, and her own online furniture company. Trish’s academic experience is entrenched in the creative arts. Having earned her M.F.A. in Media Arts at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA and her B.A. in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the mother of two little ones and wife to a wildcard artist/businessman, both of which serve as fodder for her passion for stand-up comedy.
Here is a list of recap blog posts and Storify stories from #MCN2015. Of course, we have our 2015 scholarship recipients blog posts but we wanted to make sure we collected as many of the conference recaps we could find. Enjoy!
By Rachel Ropeik, Manager of Public Engagement, Guggenheim Museum
I’ve been wanting to attend an MCN conference for years now, and I was excited and grateful that the scholarship made it possible this year. I’m a museum educator who’s always been interested in how digital tools can impact visitors’ experiences in museums. I expected to come away from MCN with inspirational ideas about creative uses of technology that might eventually spark programming ideas and keep me up to date on what other museums are working on.
That happened, for sure, but even more than that, the conference turned out to be much more than my expectations. It turned out to be all about the people.
That was true in officially scheduled ways like the excellent workshop on design thinking led by Dana Mitroff Silvers and Susan Edwards in which we each had to interview a partner and prototype a plan to make our own museum a more comfortable place for that partner. There was Liz Ogbu’s inspiring keynote, reminding us all to pay attention to the people at the heart of any of our projects. There were Ignite talks and conference sessions about accessibility and cultural agency that called for all museum professionals to focus on how we can open our field and our institutions to new voices and new visitors.
There was a great session about mentoring in museums (collective notes photos by Jennifer Schmitt).
But it wasn’t just the scheduled events that reinforced the human heart of MCN2015. In addition to the above official session about mentoring, there was the unofficial #musewomen mentoring pilot helping people connect (shout out to my clever and cool peer-to-peer mentor, Alie Cline!). There was a group field trip to the Mill City Museum organized through Slack and graciously hosted by Jesse Heinzen.
(here we are, looking panoramariffic[ally distorted in some cases])
There were dinners and bar conversations and fireside chats (literally, thanks to the hotel lobby) that dug deep into why we’re all in this field to begin with. There was even karaoke in a bar well outside the city that cemented some bonds between people who’d never met in person before this conference.
It was all this focus on people that got my brain and my heart revved up. That’s what sent me home with a list of new collaboration ideas and the people to collaborate with. That’s what made leaving feel like it was the end of summer camp (cheers to Ed Rodley for finding just the right metaphor for that one). That’s what made a conference that’s ostensibly for museum technologists feel like a welcoming space to this museum educator.
There are people out there (I’ve read the articles) who claim museums are misguidedly jumping on the digital bandwagon because they’re seduced by the lure of shiny, new tech. I dare those people to attend MCN and walk away still singing the same tune. Because I have never been to a professional museum conference anywhere that was as much about the human side of what we do.
As a first time MCN attendee, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m not entirely in the technology world, but I’ve got one leg in
and so I was worried I’d be overwhelmed by talk of frameworks, blasted by acronyms, and completely unable to contribute to the conversation. That, my friends, was completely unfounded.
I’ve attended many, many museum conferences, and I have to say that MCN was the most welcoming and refreshingly honest conference I’ve ever been to. I’m impressed that there was a safe space policy, which, as a woman, says that you take concerns about harassment, intimidation and assault seriously. I was also impressed that the Ignite talks openly and publicly talked about power, inclusion, equity, and accessibility, and that these issues were not seen as a niche but a thread that continued through the conference.
MCN was also really important for me in terms of my professional development. I was paired with an amazing mentor through #MuseWomen, and not only did my mentor talk through things with me, the people he introduced me to were also more than willing to connect around some of my career progression questions. Further, I was finally able to put faces to all of the amazing people I follow on Twitter, and see just how equally amazing they are in real life. I’ve not had that many hugs from “strangers” in a very long time.
The continued coalescing around the Museum Swear Jar, my accidental side project, really surprised me. I continue to learn that the problems we experience are pretty universal across departments, we just call them different things. I’m hoping that the physical manifestation of the Swear Jar can keep the conversation going, and I’m curious to see how the Jar can help the profession, aside from being a venting vehicle.
I always refer to the first day back from a conference as the conference hangover, and not only because there was a sweaty group rendition of Wonderwall at 2:15AM. I came away from MCN feeling like I immediately wanted to go out and code the snot out of an HTML interactive, go through and make descriptive captions for all our images online, and write an amazing social strategy. Buuuut then I open my e-mail and the reality sets in that I’ve not been doing my normal job for four days, and these projects will have to wait. Sadness ensues.
To fight the post conference hangover, I’ve got a plan. I’m going to follow up with my mentor and the others I met so that we can keep the conversation going. I’ve forked the Stele repo from Bryan Kennedy’s talk on dumping Flash for interactives, and I’m going to challenge myself to code a rudimentary interactive before St. Patrick’s Day. Why Saint Patrick’s Day? Why not? And in response to Sina Bahram’s Ignite talk, I’m going to get with our Diversity Catalyst and Web and Digital Media Manager to see how we can include audio descriptions into the upcoming work on our website, and try to evangelize it into the curatorial workflow.
And so, armed with a few goals and guidelines, let’s do stuff!
Having been aware of the existence of the Museum Computer Network for years, this year I applied for a scholarship and was very lucky to receive one! A great thank you to the MCN organizers for giving me such an opportunity!
Somehow having missed the registration desk when I checked in at the hotel, I met with an enthusiastic group of peers at the Science Museum of Minnesota, who immediately adopted me into the group. At the science museum we went through the galleries discussing the design and affordances offered to visitor experiences through the design of the exhibitions. This culminated in a meeting with a group of staff members who were brave enough to take in all our comments. Such exercise can be very fruitful and inspiring, and maybe museum professionals should more often just go into the galleries and meet their users face to face.
Yes, MCN is something special!
Driving from St. Paul to Minneapolis in a vintage, sixty+ years old bus provided from Minnesota Transportation Museum set the scene for further discussions and networking as well as it brought us safely to the Pourhouse, and an evening full of talking, food, drinks and a very inspirational Ignite session. On stage, Koven Smith from the Blanton Museum of Art demonstrated excellent moderator skills and should consider pursuing a career of hosting the Oscar’s, Emmy’s and similar grand events. The “Igniters” came through with important messages, demonstrating the great diversity of the community. These inputs made my brain rumble ever since: No matter what kind of output you are producing through your particular job, you are most probably going through numerous highly creative processes of which you may be unaware.
Museums inherit qualities of great importance to the society and individuals. It is critical to continuously evaluate and unleash these powers. Museum visitors and non-visitors have a lot to offer museums, and both sides should be considered as equal partners, which should also be reflected in communication models describing this relationship and in the accessibility efforts conducted by the museums. Awareness of the relationship needs to be emphasized constantly and may even lead to anti-oppression. How do we involve people, and how do we communicate with them? Many of these topics may involve digital technology, but what do people actually mean when talking about the digital?
At The Pourhouse: Nikhil Trived igniting us Towards an Anti-Oppression Museum Manifesto
Thursday morning, Keynote Liz Ogbu asked her audience the important question “What is it that you want to change by the work you are doing?”, and encouraged us to be a human being! Important reminders that should spring into mind, when struggling with everyday annoyances like spreadsheeds, budgets, visitor numbers, or technological calamities. The responsibility addressed by Ogbu is of great importance for museum professionals as we are in a powerful position: as David Fleming from the Liverpool Museum advocates, museums change lives.
As a lucky recipient of a MCN scholarship, I was able to attend this year’s Museums Computer Network conference in Minneapolis. It was a great opportunity to get new ideas and inspiration, both for my organization, and to share through my role on the Museums Computer Group UK committee. You can read a detailed post on my conference thoughts here – and I wanted to share a few overall thoughts on the MCN blog.
Two sessions really established the main themes of the conference for me, and these came up again and again in all the sessions. Liz Ogbu, an urbanist and social innovator, gave an amazing keynote that left me with two main messages:
Take a holistic approach to identifying ‘the problem’ by looking at the broader context
Examine the user’s perspective – consult them as experts in their own lives and behaviour.
The session on Implementing Digital Strategy, featuring Jane Alexander from Cleveland Museum of Art and Douglas Hegley from Minneapolis Institute of Art among others, also framed the conference.
For me I took away:
The importance of investing in underlying infrastructure and processes
The need to transform where we see digital in our organizations – it is core activity!
These messages reverberated in all the sessions I attended. For example, there was a focus on digital asset management throughout the conference, and I particularly enjoyed a talk by Nik Honeysett from Bilboa Park Online Cooperative who described DAMS as ‘mission critical’ for rich media organizations like museums. In another session Nik focused on shared services to reduce expenditure as a business model in a time of financial constraint. That same panel also saw Kaywin Feldmen from the Minneapolis Institute of Art considering the changing demographics of our audiences and the difficulties of balancing the priorities of traditional museum visitors and the emerging American demographic – this is a ‘wicked problem’ that could benefit from Liz’s holistic approach.
Liz’s other key message about approaching problems from the perspective of the user was brought out for me by Laura Mann from Frankly Green + Webb talking about designing multimedia guides for the Van Gough Museum. They had to move the project away from one of a list of guide ‘features’ and refocus on user needs. The problem from the user’s perspective was not that they were unhappy with the content – and recent research shows that more sophisticated technology does not improve visitor experience – the problem was how long it took for them to purchase and understand the guide. In the end it was a service delivery project
Overall I found the conference hugely inspirational and I am so grateful to MCN for the scholarship that enabled me to attend, but also a bit worried, as I think I may now be an addict and will need to come back next year.