MCN 2016

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.





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.




Pronoun stickers at MCN 2016

Guest post by Nikhil Trivedi

Nikhil Trivedi delivers his MCN 2015 Ignite talk

At MCN this year we had pronoun stickers (along with lots of other fun stickers!) that attendees could optionally add to their name badges. I’d like to share some background of this sort of thing at conferences, what sort of thinking went around our stickers, and how I had them printed.

Some background

In recent years there’s been a growing number of conferences that have allowed attendees to identify their pronouns with each other is some formalized way. What’s being challenged here is the notion that the ways we may perceive each other’s genders doesn’t always match our gender identities and the pronouns we use.

I’ve seen some conferences ask for people’s pronouns during registration and print them on attendees’ name badges. Others have had pins that say “Ask me for my pronouns!” to encourage attendees to have conversations about their pronouns.

Some people appreciate the opportunity to identify their pronouns in spaces that don’t often encourage that. Some folks don’t want to feel like they’re being forced to out themselves to a room full strangers. And other folks feel all sorts of ways that I haven’t yet learned about. All these feelings and criticisms are totally valid.

The stickers at MCN

So as conference organizers, how do we do navigate all these concerns and implement a system for our group of attendees, specifically?

I’m connected when a network of radical tech workers via a conference called AlterConf. I went to them for some guidance on how to make gender identification easier for folks who wish to share it, but it’s really complicated. As I mentioned above, for some, pronouns can be a really personal thing to share with a room full of 618 other people they don’t really know. For others, they want the opportunity to put it out there. In hindsight, I see that ultimately the best way to do this would have been to ask attendees who don’t conform to the gender binary what they want for their conference experience, and to have done that. With a little more foresight, we could have done that. If the stickers didn’t sit right with any of the attendees, I’d love to hear your feedback and criticisms. So please do reach out to me!

As a cisgendered man, I recognize that I may not have been the best person to have made the final decisions about how to implement a mechanism like this. I do know that we have had trans people in our community in the past, and we have lost some of those folk due to awful, tragic circumstances. I think about that when I’m planning my sessions and participating in the program committee. What would they have wanted? What can we do to support trans first-timers and old-timers to feel welcome at MCN, and how can we support cis attendees in being thoughtful about our trans attendees?

Here are some of the things I thought about when deciding if and how to make the stickers. All this stuff came out of my conversations with folks through AlterConf:

  • They shouldn’t be mandatory. If folks want to share their pronouns with other attendees, great! If they prefer not to specify their pronouns, that’s great, too! I thought it was important to make it clear to all attendees that the stickers were totally optional for all people.
  • People should be able to choose multiple pronouns. Some folks use multiple pronouns and appreciate when people mix it up.
  • The options shouldn’t be limited. Gender is a spectrum, and there are many, many ways people identify, and people use any number of pronouns to represent that.
  • They should be easy to read at a quick glance or for someone who is visually impaired.
  • They should be fun and colorful. And I didn’t want them to conform to traditionally gendered colors (blue and pink). Because people who all use a same pronoun can think, act, and be totally different from each other.

In the end, clearly optional, easy to read stickers were the best option.

How I made them

While I was chatting with AlterConf friends, someone went ahead and designed the stickers that we ended up using at MCN! Amazing!

Pronoun stickers in use at MCN 2016

I used the Sticker Book on and chose the option where I could upload my own artwork. Here are the final images I used to print. And here are the source files, in case you want to make any changes. let you lay out the stickers in a way where you can order more of some stickers than others, so adjust the quantities as you see fit. It’s super cheap, it comes out to about $10 for every 90 stickers you order.

At the conference we placed the stickers down at the registration desk with a sign stating clearly that all stickers were totally optional for all people. And we laid them out with other fun stickers, too–like cats in chef’s hats! Unicorns! Pigs making snowpeople!

Here’s what Justine Arreche (@saltinejustine), the designer, had to say about the stickers:

“When I saw the discussion regarding pronoun stickers I was excited. I thought it was such a great idea and was I surprised I hadn’t seen anything like that before. After a quick Google search with limited results I decided to create my own set of pronoun stickers for people to use. I wanted the design to be respectful yet still fun enough for attendees to want to put the stickers on their badges or shirts. The colors were carefully chosen to avoid gendered colors while also preserving readability for those with any visual impairments. After sharing a screen shot of the designs on Twitter my mentions were inundated with people requesting how they could print them for their events. I quickly created a public Dropbox folder with a variety of file types allowing people to have them printed locally or online. Additionally I included the live files so there was the ability to change the designs as their needs required.”

I was excited to provide the stickers at MCN 2016. I’d love to hear what you thought about them, how they may have changed your conference experience, and any feedback or criticism you might have. Please reach out to me on Twitter and let me know!


My first MCN event, not my last!

Guest post by MCN 2016 Scholar, Andrea Ledesma

MCN 2016 attendees take part in Ignite at the House of Blues, New Orleans

I’d have been crazy to turn down a week in New Orleans. And, when that week promises days filled with talks of museums, tech, and a little karaoke…well, I packed my bags as early as June.

This November, I attended MCN 2016 as an MCN Scholar. I didn’t know what to expect. Admittedly, I was a little nervous, hanging with museum professionals, many of whom I admired on Twitter, in blogs, and other niches of the Internet.  

MCN 2016 was all about the “human-centered museum.” This theme inspired an array of presentations, from web design to oral history, apps to activism. I attended as many as I could, and looking back I found myself returning to a number of my own central questions.

First, who is the human at the center of this museum? We threw around a lot of names during the week:









These categories are not mutually exclusive, nor are they restricted to folks outside the museum. We and our publics embody each, and this changes our expectations of and responsibilities to the museum. What I learned from the conference is that discerning between each is a matter of empathy. We need to ask ourselves how we see each other and ourselves in the museum and the community at large.

Second, what makes data meaningful? David Newburry’s ignite talk had me cheering for linked open data in the middle of the House of Blues. Brian Alpert, Sarah Banks, and Effie Kapsalis from the Smithsonian gave me a crash course in user metrics. I even got really excited metadata (though, I’ve always been a fan). With Andrea Wallace I embraced the public domain as the space in which we “let our imagination run wild.” Good data, at the very least, is clean and accessible, growing and stable, transparent and interpretive.

Finally, what does it mean to be a cultural worker in the digital age? I’m currently pursuing an MA in Public Humanities. I focus on the use of technology in museums and cultural institutions, with an emphasis on new media theory and public history. I’m also graduating in May. So, this conference was as much about creative exploration as it was professional development. I appreciated not only the sessions like speed networking but also the honest conversations about labor. Elissa Frankle talked about “radical trust.” While we talk about trusting publics, centering their perspectives and insight when (co)creating content, designing experiences, etc., institutions must also apply this principle within. How can we recognize and nurture the talent of our colleagues? How can create we culture of risk (without blame or fear of reproach) that ultimately makes for better, more exciting work?

I’m still coming down from my MCN 2016 high, finding myself craving another beignet and reminded of conference panels in the middle of class. Thank you to the MCN Scholarship Committee for this amazing experience.

This was my first MCN event, but it surely won’t be my last.


Tactical MCN

Guest post by MCN 2016 Scholar Emily Kotecki, Distance Learning Educator, North Carolina Museum of Art

MCN 2016 Keynote

As a first timer to MCN, I wasn’t sure how similar or different it would be to Museums and the Web. Similar crowd, similar topic. However, in talking to another conference goer, she explained it best: MCN is tactical, Museums and the Web is thought leadership. Don’t get me wrong, each conference has elements of both. But MCN felt on the ground, applicable and relevant, starting with the theme of the human-centered museum. At the North Carolina Museum of Art, we are launching several new digital projects with the prime focus of creating personalized, engaging and relevant experiences with art.

On the first full day of the conference there were a lot of sessions dedicated to evaluating interactive technologies. Perfect! These sessions identified key evaluation questions that I can bring back to my team as we install two interactive screens. The second day seemed to focus on thoughtful, audience-centered website redesigns. Check! The panelists shed light on interesting ways to gauge visitor motivations as we explore integrating our homesite and teacher resource site. On the last day of the conference, I had the opportunity to be part of the MCN Scholar Lightning Talks as well as present with my colleague about a new model of collaboration at the NCMA.  It helped to have a colleague from another department with me at the conference so that we could divide and conquer in attending sessions and come back with a shared language when we returned to work.

Looking ahead, MCN also helped me understand what questions I can ask my colleagues at NCMA so that as an institution we can continue to meet the needs of our audiences:

  • How are we connected, internally, on a systems level?
  • What systems (DAMS, CRM) do we need to better collaborate internally and share content and understand our visitors?
  • How are we collecting, utilizing, and sharing data?

The sessions, these questions, and the people, helped shape my experience so that I could take ideas and turn them into action.

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