Tag Archives: MCN

Unpacking MW2014 – Part One

by Ed Rodley

March has been a busy month at work, and when that hasn’t been occupying my attention, CODE | WORDS has. Think lots and lots of phone calls, Google Hangouts, and collaborative editing of documents. It was therefore a wonderful break to escape to Baltimore for a few days for the Museum Computer Network board meeting and Museums and the Web 2014. 
MW2014

Museums and the Web 2014 has ended, and I am so glad I was able to attend! The sessions were excellent, the conversation lively, and I came away feeling energized and excited about what the coming year holds for us. There was so much going on that my attempt to unpack it in a nice, brief post failed before it even left outline form in my notebook. So, I’m going to have to spread it out based on the themes that emerged for me.

Comings…

After you’ve been in the business awhile, one of the reasons to go to conferences is to see who’s moved in, who’s moved up and who’s moved along. And there was plenty of two of the three. Which is both encouraging and discouraging.

Given the price tag of conferences these days, it is always a pleasure to see younger colleagues, and particularly students coming and participating. I had some great conversations and inevitably, a lot of “What should I do?” talks with people. Some of the things I found myself saying over and over again included the following observations.

  • I think Museum Studies certificate/degrees continue to become less of a differentiating variable, and more of a box to tick. The resumes I see will almost all have some kind of museum studies credential on them, so if you’re looking to stand out from a crowded field, that will only save you from the initial cull. All of the resumes I’ve seen in the past few months that really caught my attention had something else in them; a concentration in media studies, design courses, education, etc… Don’t get me wrong, I think Museum Studies credentials have merit, but I don’t think they’re enough to get you into the field. And if you’re just embarking on your career, getting in is all that matters, right? I’m also not suggesting getting even more degrees. Just look at your courses, and your peers’ courses and find that thing that’s  going to make you stand out.
  • It’s nobody’s job to get you unstuck other than you. Can’t break into the sector? Can’t move on? Difficult boss? Visionless administration? Chronic understaffing/budgeting/resources? Whatever the problem, in the end, it comes down to you. Seeking outside advice and counsel is a great tool to helping you get clear about your goals, but it’s no substitute.
  • Stop thinking about where you want to work, and think about who you want to work with instead.  Given the peculiarly public-facing nature of digital projects and products and the small size of the community, it’s relatively easy to look at interesting, innovative work and figure out who made it. They also move around, so if you focus on the museum instead of the person, you run the risk of applying somewhere where someone innovative used to work. Do your homework. Find examples of work that speak to you, figure out who made it, and find out where they are. Go to the conferences. I know they’re expensive, but most of them offer scholarships and/or volunteer discounts. Find them and ask them about their work. Very few people I know hate to be asked about the work they’ve done. It’s a great conversation starter.

It was a lovely pre-conference gift to hear in January that Nancy Proctor had been appointed Deputy Director for Digital Experience at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Nancy has been a friend and colleague for many years and it was heartening to see another colleague who combines a passion for museums with a deep understanding of digital technologies climb into the senior management ranks. I look forward to seeing what she’ll do in the coming years. There’s a lot to look forward to. The number of C-level positions like Nancy’s being created seems to be going up every year. And the pool of candidates is full of some of the brightest, most committed, thoroughgoing professionals you could ask for.

…and Goings

I only worry that the growth rate of CDO-type positions won’t match the rate of colleagues leaving the field. Some flux is inevitable in a workforce, but this year has been particularly turbulent, and mostly flowing out of the field and not so much in. A couple has turned into more than a handful very rapidly.  I joked with someone that in a few year’s time, I’d find myself sitting alone at the bar at MCN or MW if things don’t change. It wasn’t a very pleasant picture. And I don’t know what to do, other than hope at this point.

That’s a bit of a downer, I realize, but one of the wonderful things about conferences is that they crystallize things. You start to see big pictures arise out of lots of little things. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes not. But I’d always rather have specific fears than vague ones. The next post will be peppier and look at all the energy around grass-roots museum advocacy. There’ll be invasions, clubs, and drinking!

MCN 2012 – Directors’ Roundtable

  1. This is going to be a long post on love. If you’re feeling a bit jaded, or just not in the mood, you may want to come back another time when you’re more open. You have been warned…

  2. The thing I love about conferences is the way they surface themes and trends that may lie bubbling in the minds of colleagues all over the world. Put a critical mass of people in an anonymous hotel and suddenly; magic happens! For those of us interested in museums and digital technologies, we are doubly blessed, because of this weird dynamic where we have two intensely dynamic, fruitful international conferences that happen six months apart; Museums and the Web (MW) in the Spring, and the Museum Computer Network (MCN) conference in the Fall. Ideas that arise in one venue often get expressed in the other in a kind of virtuous circle of innovation that I’m not sure would work if there were only one conference or the other and there was a year-long gestation cycle.

  3. Months ago, a group of us had a long talk about strategy and leadership over Twitter and then a shared Google doc which bore some wonderful fruit. The two main strands of that discussion involved broadening the voices in our discussions of how digital technologies can advance our practice, and figuring out ways to provide professional development around digital technologies, so more people are able to participate. At the Museums and the Web conference, which I only sort kinda went to, a lot of these ideas reappeared and got processed. This was timely beyond belief, because the MCN Board of Directors was starting to consider major new initiatives like MCNPro, as well as more low-hanging fruit, like “should we suck up the not-inconsiderable expense of videotaping all the sessions, and livestreaming select ones to maximize their impact?” I love that feeling of flow, when everything seems to build on everything else and new understandings rise up. I also love the way MCN commits to translating that into action, and follows through.

  4. The professional development part seemed to be well in hand, so I decided to focus on bringing new voices to the table. If you’ve ever been to one of these conferences, you quickly find out that there are two major tribes of people who don’t attend: curators and senior managers. And common conversational tropes are, “I’d love to try ____, but our curator would never go for it.”, and “if only my director would ____, we could ____”  What would a group of directors have to say about our pet issues? What kinds of questions would an audience at MCN want to ask? So I started sending out emails.

  5. And you know what? Nobody said “Get lost! I’m busy.” Janet Carding had never been to MCN and thought it would be good to see what it was about, and agreed to come with only the vaguest assurance from me that there’d be some useful role she could play. Eric had been once and thought the idea was important enough that he invited Dan Spock, who said yes immediately, and *then* asked for details. Brian Ferriso agreed, even though he had just about enough free time to drive up from Portland, attend the session and drive back. Even the people who declined, declined for solid reasons, Stephanie Stebich, who was flying to New York for a dinner event, even offered to Skype in if we needed her. Thus was the Directors Roundtable put together. It was my first inkling that the tribe of unconcerned, aloof “Directors” might be more of a mental construct we create to disenfranchise ourselves than a reality. By the time our session ended, that idea had been pretty well destroyed.

  6. I don’t know about you, but I am *not* one of those people who can participate in an event and live-tweet it, or even take decent notes. As the moderator, I was focused so much on the time, the mood of the speakers and the room, whether anybody sneaking out due to boredom, etc… that I didn’t have a chance to really process everything that came up. I can’t wait for the video to get posted so I can relive it. I’ll post a transcript too, because I think there are are cite-able pieces of wisdom in there. For now, though, here are some of the moments that stuck out for me.

  7. Everybody reports to somebody

    I’ve known this intellectually for years, but hearing museum directors talk about how they have to manage up just like the rest of us was instructive.

  8. It’s not just somebody else’s job to understand your museum’s finances

    Money and the lack thereof is such a sore spot. The panel was pretty clear, though, that nobody has unrestricted income sitting around any more. The notion that directors hoard piles of money that they don’t bestow on new initiatives was roundly dismissed. The money that does exist is usually restricted in some way, so everything boils down to making the case for why something has strategic value to the museum. If you can’t make that case, chances are good that it’ll never happen. And who’s job is that? Anybody who wants to get something done. Coalition-building, horizontal management, and just getting together to discuss how to do things better came up repeatedly. And none of these things require a huge budget and much, if any, managerial buy-in.

  9. PDXCollections
    “Technology is part of what we do; it’s not an add-on.” RE: Science/Tech museums . . . how to make this true of ALL museums? #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:27
  10. PDXCollections
    Great question, @shineslike re: strategic thinking vs. good ideas and how to teach not-yet-senior-staff how to translate/learn #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:30
  11. richbs
    Using technology to increase access to collections will help protect tax-exempt status #mcn2012dir #mcn2012

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:29
  12. sluggernova
    Yes! Janet Carding: staff reluctant to bring new ideas thinking they wouldn’t happen. Started workshops to change culture. #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:34
  13. It’s not just somebody else’s job to understand your museum’s mission

    One of the most unexpected moments of the session was delivered by Eric Siegel, who said that one of his most intractable problems was getting his staff to actually communicate up. People come to him and say, “I’ve got a great idea!” to which he would respond, “Great! Write it up and send it to me!” and that will all too often be the end of the story. Anything less than an unqualified “Let’s do it!” from him would seem to be received as a “No.” And to drive home his point that this is a common problem he offered up his services to anyone in the audience who had a great idea they needed or wanted feedback on how to turn into something actionable. He gave out his email address and promised to respond with comments in short order. And he bet the audience that his inbox would not overflow. And Dan Spock joined the offer. Two museum directors at your beck and call to give you personalized feedback. What an offer! And the silence that followed it was deep and complete. You could almost hear the crickets chirping. It was exactly the kind of dialogue that couldn’t happen inside our community of practice. I love being challenged like that! I’ll have to ask Eric if he’s gotten many responses. And, yes, I’m working on my idea to send him. And, no, I haven’t sent it to him yet. Go figure…

  14. PDXCollections
    Eric Siegel reiterates the importance of integrating/incorporating more people into strategic thinking at high levels. #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:28
  15. sluggernova
    Yes! Brian Ferrizo @PDXArtMuseum: Managing up. Try to put yourself in your bosses shoes. #MCN2012 #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:30
  16. PDXCollections
    “What are the practical steps that we can do so that the ideas that you think are important can gain traction?” Eric Siegel #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:28
  17. sluggernova
    Eric: working on coaching people thru steps to success. Need to work on communication & involving others #MCN2012 #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:30
  18. PDXCollections
    We have a social contract that constantly needs to be renewed. #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:28
  19. sluggernova
    .@shineslike: How can staff learn language of sr. mgmt to communicate more effectively re: new ideas? #MCN2012 #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:30
  20. PDXCollections
    “There are things you can make irresistible if you have allies.” Daniel Spock #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:31
  21. PDXCollections
    BEST QUESTION: What is the ratio of people coming to you with problems : people coming to you with great ideas? Which is worse? #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:33
  22. caw_
    Lateral learning, invite staff to teach you (before you complain that you don’t know) Likewise, be open to teach @janetcarding #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:32
  23. PDXCollections
    “Learn how to communicate the core of your idea. [In two pages with pictures.]” Eric Siegel #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:31
  24. richbs
    Teams are human dynamic chemistry sets #MCN2012dir #mcn2012

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:34
  25. Leadership is about creating disruption, management is about avoiding disruption

    Janet talked at length about the joys of working at a large, encyclopedic museum where you can’t even assume that people have ever met, let alone worked together. I was struck by a remark she made about expecting something to be transformative being unrealistic unless it was intentionally transformative. Doing something new and expecting things to change is not how things change. And that’s where leadership comes in. Good leaders disrupt the status quo, and work to create a new normal. Janet’s example involved launching ROM’s latest website and how it is being built to democratize staff access. Everyone will be able to blog or tweet, without moderation or asking someone in IT to post something for them. The product is the same – a new website. But the kind of product ROM is making is much more likely to be a model for the field, because it was designed to be disruptive.

  26. PDXCollections
    “Museums have a built-in public face. Let’s use it correctly.” Janet Carding #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:33
  27. sluggernova
    .@PDXArtMuseum Director Brian Ferriso: “I think NOT having technology is disruptive” #MCN2012 #MCN2012dir #MCNbuzz

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:29
  28. PDXCollections
    “I assumed that any big project would be transformational, but learned that projects have to be intentionally transformational.” #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:35
  29. PDXCollections
    “I don’t care what the technology is. It doesn’t work if you don’t have the right people.” Again, well said, Brian Ferriso. #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:29
  30. rondlg
    Giving people the open access and the ability to reuse data/information freely helps to make museums relevant. #mcn2012 #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:31
  31. And as a delicious little bon bon after that, Janet said she obviously couldn’t expect her staff to blog if she didn’t, so she guessed she was going to have to learn. That’s what leadership looks like. The whole panel demonstrated that same quality at one point or another. To say it was inspiring doesn’t do it justice. I learned a ton just from being in the room.
  32. PDXCollections
    Listening to @JanetCarding talk is like hearing lightbulbs pop all over the place. Totally inspirational. #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:35
  33. sluggernova
    Leadership: @janetcarding joined twitter to model behavior for staff & move things fwd. Soon she’ll start a blog #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:36
  34. shineslike
    Cannot wait for @janetcarding to start blogging! Great to hear directors talk about modelling behaviour. #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:35
  35. cb_sexton
    @janetcarding You are inspiring me! Great leadership advice. Thnx #mcn2012dir #mcn2012

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:33
  36. innova2
    @janetcarding you’re an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your fresh ideas #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:36
  37. caw_
    Impt to see directors leading by example : twitter, blogs, etc @janetcarding #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:36
  38. Tribes are useful, to a point

    The “us vs them” mentality is a natural one, and conferences, even ones as diverse as MCN tend to be tribal.  Sometimes, it’s wonderful, like when a newcomer realizes that they’ve found their tribe and that there are others out sharing their passions and concerns. Lots of hugging happens at the beginnings of these conferences, which I’ve never seen at AAM.
    That said, tribalism is a way to downplay one’s own ability to affect change. Which was part of the reason to have this discussion in the first place.

  39. PDXCollections
    “We need to be GREAT listeners. Much better than we are.” #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:27
  40. richbs
    Avoid “them and us” conversations. Different points of view are a strength #mcn2012 #MCN2012dir #MCNbuzz

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:37
  41. sluggernova
    Hear, hear! @janetcarding recommends no more “us and them” – embrace variety of perspectives & see it as a strength. #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:37
  42. PDXCollections
    “See the diversity of perspectives that you have in your organizations as a strength and not a weakness.” @JanetCarding’s advice #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:37
  43. caw_
    This session a great solution to that RT @richbs: Avoid “them and us” conversations. Different points of view are a strength #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:37
  44. (As usual) It’s not about the technology

  45. sluggernova
    .@erodley at Director’s Roundtable “I’d like everyone to notice how little we’ve talked about technology.” #MCN2012 #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:32
  46. PDXCollections
    “It’s not so much about technology. It’s about doing good work.” Eric Siegel #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:36
  47. rondlg
    Technology isn’t a bauble any more it’s a given. #mcn2012 #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:37
  48. weatherlore
    @danspock: Museums are better at generating curiosity than answering questions. #mcn2012 #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:33
  49. rondlg
    #mcn2012dir People live their live anecdotally, the world behaves statistically. How do you link them? With stories. #mcn2012

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:30
  50. PDXCollections
    “There is a difference between a thesis and a story.” Daniel Spock #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:29
  51. PDXCollections
    “We have a desperate need for safe, rich environments that have the potential to make your kids’ lives better.” Eric Siegel #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:33
  52. rondlg
    No idea is too ridiculous: An Experiment in Creative Practice. #mcn2012 #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:34
  53. And of course, the quotable moments…

  54. shineslike
    Love that @danspock just referred to himself as a “meat space guy”. #mcn2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:32
  55. PDXCollections
    Best quote of the directors’ roundtable MIGHT be “Boop beep bop boop.” Thank you, Eric Siegel. #MCN2012dir

    Tue, Nov 13 2012 19:30:32
  56. My personal favorite was when Dan Spock said that he saw his job as “not being a dick.” Priceless.
  57. For more information:
    The conference video (coming soon)
    The transcript is here! 
    Download and take a read.  

Next Drinking About Museums: BOS, Nov. 28, 6PM

Outtake 38:365 CC BY-ND 2.0 by Flickr user david.dames

Greetings, y’all!

We’ll be kicking it old-school this month and just hanging out. Fear not, though! Your continuing professional development/drinking needs will not be neglected. Jenn Schmitt from the De Cordova, Jim Olson from PEM, and I will be happily  discussing our experiences of the MCN conference in Seattle (which ruled, btw).

Come join us at the  Cambridge Brewing Company in Kendall Square, Cambridge on Wednesday, November 28th at 6PM. I’ll be there a bit before 6PM and try to scope out a good spot. Call or DM me if you need directions.

See ya there,

Ed

P.S. As always, forward this to your friends and colleagues you think should join us!

Tales from the Blog @ MCN 2012

  1. My bit

  2. As the organizer of this little carnival I went first and for the first time ever told the story in public of how and why I started blogging, which was something I’d avoided for some time, and later told people in small groups, over drinks, and informally. Doing it in front of an audience while being filmed was a bit more nerve wracking than I let on, but boy am I glad to have come out! “Hi! My name is Ed, and I blog.”
  3. cshteynberg
    The blog post that started it all for #erodley: seeing two amazing exhibits and writing down observations #mcn2012tales http://ow.ly/f8lQ7

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  4. adriannerussell
    Tales from the blog! I’ve found my museum blogging tribe. :) #mcn2012tale #MCN2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  5. shineslike
    @erodley’s post that he’s referring to is the first post I remember reading of his. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  6. 5easypieces
    Shoutout for Halsey Burgund’s “Scapes” Roundware app at #mcn2012tale Evolver article here: http://bit.ly/RlWbQW

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  7. 5easypieces
    @erodley sez: “We’re a niche community; it’s not like we’ll ever rise to the top of Reddit.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:20
  8. adriannerussell
    “Blogging is way to explore ideas that are interesting to you & your colleagues.” via @erodley #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:20
  9. adriannerussell
    Blogging is fast, responsive & a vehicle for engagement and immediate conversation. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  10. DWCabinet
    When thinking about blogging – “Feel the fear and do it anyway” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:21
  11. cshteynberg
    @erodley: “If I had to describe blogging in one word, I’d say ‘terrifying'” But there’s no substitute for it. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:21
  12. 5easypieces
    @erodley made a conscious choice to separate his blogging persona from his work persona. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  13. forwardretreat
    “Tales from the Blog”: Confession: I was busted for blogging in 2001, as a curatorial assistant. http://bit.ly/PH9aOY #MCN2012tale #MCN2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  14. cshteynberg
    .@forwardretreat What happened as a result? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  15. forwardretreat
    I never stopped, & the folks who were upset now get it (and me!). Moral of the story: Blog carefully, but blog no matter what. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  16. forwardretreat
    @cshteynberg In 2001? Not much—Internet was a smaller place; no FB, no Twitter though I would re-pub anything from then, now. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:23
  17. cshteynberg
    @forwardretreat Glad you were brave enough to do so! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:23
  18. cshteynberg
    No surprises here: content is king, traffic comes from search engines, and it’s not all the same people talking to one another #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:23
  19. 5easypieces
    @erodley sez: “Blogging makes me do my thinking properly.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  20. Mike Murawski, Portland Art Museum

  21. When I was putting the panel together, I looked for someone who ran a collaborative blog as a way to round out the kinds of blogging represented. I had just started reading Mike’s fabulous “Art Museum Teaching” blog, and I am so glad he agreed to join us. His presentation was great and the discussion it triggered was fascinating, both in the room and in the Twitter backchannel. And I’ve made another professional contact.  I may have moaned about how oversubscribed I was at MCN2012, but getting to really connect with the people who I served with on panels was a highlight of the event. I recommend it. If you’ve got people you’d like to meet, then coming up with a conference session that you can invite them to is a pretty neat way to meet and work together.
  22. cshteynberg
    Blogs as way to continue awesome conversations that start at places like #mcn2012 #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  23. cshteynberg
    @murawski27: How we should blog: less about “look at how awesome I am” and more about testing ideas/experiments #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  24. 5easypieces
    Wow–@murawski27 says that http://artmuseumteaching.com is 25% posting and 75% commenting. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  25. DWCabinet
    Clickership = understanding your audience. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  26. 5easypieces
    @murawsi27 estimates that museum blogs reach several million people a year. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  27. cshteynberg
    @murawski27 Sometimes museums do suck, so need space to talk that through (for example, teen engagement: http://ow.ly/f8o2O ) #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  28. cshteynberg
    @murawski27: instead of waiting three years to publish article in journal, start conversation now with colleagues by blogging #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:26
  29. forwardretreat
    “How well do we, as bloggers/digital authors play across national, global boundaries, fields, networks?” Excellent question. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:26
  30. erob1
    @5easypieces Wow, looks like some good convos happening at #MCN2012tale. Think I might have to make the trip next year

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:26
  31. DWCabinet
    How do we connect cross disciplines and professionals in the blog sphere? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:27
  32. adriannerussell
    @shineslike “kamikazed” her way into blogging. Nice! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:27
  33. 5easypieces
    @shineslike sez: “My blogging persona defines my professional persona.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  34. Suse Cairns, University of Newcastle

  35. Suse is a dear friend and her blog “MuseumGeek” has really blown up over the past year. It’s a delightful blend of deep thought rooted in theory (PhD programs can do that you, I’m told) and soul-searching questions about the profession that hooked me and loads of other people almost immediately. Her experience of blogging really being her persona, as opposed to the rest of the panel, made for some lively back and forth.
  36. forwardretreat
    @shineslike: “My blogging persona defines my professional persona.” But ideas aren’t smart just because they’re spoken loudly. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  37. cshteynberg
    @shineslike: no institutional affiliation can be freeing for blogging, but sometimes cowgirl approach can get you in trouble #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  38. DWCabinet
    Many different approaches to blogging – cowboy and kamikaze #mcn2012tale can be scary and risky

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  39. 5easypieces
    @shineslike sez: “Hitting ‘post’ right before you go to bed is a really bad idea.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:29
  40. cshteynberg
    @shineslike conflict is worth it if your blog creates genuine, thought-provoking conversation! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  41. Eric Siegel, New York Hall of Science

  42. I’ve known Eric longer than anybody else on the panel and his work at NYSci and now online is amazing. While we slave away in our cubicles, he’s working with MakerFaire, Björk, TMGB, and loads of other interesting folks.  And blogging as a senior manager carries even more burdens than other kinds of blogging.
  43. innova2
    Blogging allows you to share the behind-the-scenes of your museum and richly interact w/ ur users/readers #MCN2012tale #mcn2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  44. Jennifer_Dick
    #mcn2012tale Speaking truth to power is important! Marketing voice v. authentic voice in museum blogs; there’s a way to balance I hope

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  45. 5easypieces
    Eric Seigel sez: “In order to keep a listserv healthy, people need to meet in person at least once a year.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  46. 5easypieces
    NY Hall of science encourages staff to blog within an “ecology” of blogs. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:31
  47. cshteynberg
    Listservs don’t always make people think long and carefully before talking, plus the convo is clunky = why I like blogs better #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:31
  48. nealstimler
    @5easypieces ? utility & real connective power of listservs. Can they be reformatted for social media environment? #mcn2012tale #MCNbuzz

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  49. shineslike
    @nealstimler @5easypieces Or do you think their power is the fact that they aren’t visible? A safe space. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  50. nealstimler
    @shineslike @5easypieces if we support openness & transparency as #musetech values – why hide ideas in listserv silo? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  51. cshteynberg
    Plus, if search is king, than as @nealstimler says: transparency and searchability is important #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  52. shineslike
    @nealstimler @5easypieces Because not everyone is comfortable in public. Different affordances. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  53. forwardretreat
    @shineslike Yet, that is precisely what subject-specific blogging does: establishes authority by creating a public record. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:33
  54. forwardretreat
    @shineslike The professionalization of blogging has reified this authority. See also: blogger payment models (i.e. Gawker). #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:33
  55. forwardretreat
    @shineslike So, subject-specific blogging is an ongoing public job interview, in essence. Establish authority –> hired. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  56. Question and Answer

  57. adriannerussell
    Museums can use blogs to share information, archive work, & encourage conversation. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  58. cshteynberg
    With professional writing, you what kinds of people are going to read a piece of writing, with a blog, that’s up for grabs #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  59. DWCabinet
    How far is too far and how do you know when to filter yourself when blogging? Do you ask colleagues? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  60. forwardretreat
    @5easypieces @erodley Let’s discuss separation of personal/professional personas online. Functionally impossible, I suspect. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:35
  61. cshteynberg
    Many props to those bloggers in #mcn2012tale who risk job security and put the risky ideas out there to have the meaty, difficult convos.

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:35
  62. shineslike
    @erodley “Blogging is a place to ask questions.” Yes, I think so. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:35
  63. Decipher_FP7
    Completely agree we need to focus on discussing process not product. But it can be scary! #mcn2012tale #MACDecipher

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:36
  64. DWCabinet
    Blogging about process- just as important as end product &excellent way for us to learn from each other during building stages. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:36
  65. forwardretreat
    @thisisaaronland Re: Blogging: “We are terrified of being wrong in public.” This is radically, palpably true. #MCN2012tale #MCN2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:37
  66. cshteynberg
    @5easypieces: on an individual level we’re able to go out on a limb, but institutionally we’re not–why? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:37
  67. innova2
    The most succesful posts when I blogged at the Museu Picasso where always those abt processes not results #MCN2012tale #mcn2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:37
  68. cshteynberg
    Part of problem: until blogging is part of job description, people won’t be able to have convos online. Must be sanctioned! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  69. nikhiltri
    Is remaining anonymous the only way to separate your personal and professional personas? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  70. forwardretreat
    @thisisaaronland #MCN2012tale #MCN2012 What is your most favorite mistake on the Internet? When were you *most* wrong in public?

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  71. DWCabinet
    “Send us your resume and link to your blog” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  72. cshteynberg
    What role does individual “brand identity” play in professional blogging? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  73. Polackio
    @cshteynberg Individuals face smaller risks. Individuals also have less robust mechanisms for assessing risk so cognitive bias. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:24
  74. adriannerussell
    Blogging definitely = branding. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:39
  75. dustinkyle
    Is it a “build it and they will come” type of thing? How do you build an audience? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:24
  76. shineslike
    The best thing aout my blog is the community around it. It’s the people who respond so thoughtfully that define it to/for me. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:24
  77. Jennifer_Dick
    #mcn2012tale attendee: “Blog is for process. You can put results at the website.” Awesome distinction.

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:25
  78. shineslike
    If you want to get comments, you need to ask for them. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:25
  79. 5easypieces
    @DWCabinet Anonymity consistency is authoritative. Lack of either of those is somewhat problematic. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  80. shineslike
    I want to know who in this room either blogs, or has thought about it. Why, why not? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:36
  81. 5easypieces
    “Hello, my name is Judy and I’m a lurker.” “Hi, Judy.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  82. innova2
    Blogging is about storytelling & offering a personal approach. For the neutral, institutional communication there’s the web #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  83. micahwalter
    Internal blogs are called meetings #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  84. 5easypieces
    Great point. RT @ChristineHealey: @shineslikeconcerned about the IP issues around it. Personal vs Professional boundaries… #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  85. cshteynberg
    Key to increasing blogging audience/convo: Identifying key people in field and directly contacting them by email to weigh in #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  86. shineslike
    The Q about time is interesting. How long does everyone spend on the blog a week? For me, it definitely eats up hours. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:27
  87. 5easypieces
    @shineslike I try to keep up with a demanding 2-posts-per-year schedule at http://kovenjsmith.com #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:27
  88. erodley
    @shineslike How do you manage to live-blog *and* present? #mcn2012tale #overachiever

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:27
  89. rosemarybeetle
    @5easypieces: List of museum blogs http://bit.ly/XnNXNa from #mcn2012tale updated

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:28
  90. cshteynberg
    @shineslike: Even though it’s slightly corporate, this WSJ article made me think of #mcn2012tale discussion re: brand http://ow.ly/fbsqR

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:28
  91. The Aftermath

  92. And now, the processing begins. Mike was first out of the gate with a great recap. This counts as my recap. Soon the actual video will up, courtesy of MCN and your registration fees. I’ll add that link when I get it.
  93. murawski27
    @shineslike @erodley @erictsiegel @5easypieces let the post-MCN blogging begin – “When Bloggers Collide” http://wp.me/p1V79B-ix #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:28

What questions would you ask your director about museums & digital technologies?

It’s almost time for the Museum Computer Network conference to begin and in a few short days, I’ll be on my way to Seattle.

On November 10th, I’ll be moderating a roundtable discussion with four directors, about what they see as the pressing issues for the museum field when it comes to digital technologies and what we all do. We will explore themes that emerge, and open it up to questions from the floor, and hopefully everybody will come away something useful. All the details are here.

The session is an outcome of a long Twitter conversation I blogged about months ago on the need for broadening the scope of the conversation about digital technologies, instead of just talking endlessly in our comfortable peer groups. It’s also a testament to the MCN Program Committee’s flexibility that they found a spot in the program for this session even though it grew up organically outside the session proposal mechanism.

I am very excited to sit down with group and hear what they think. I’m hoping for some lively discussion amongst the panelists and with the audience, but I’d like to include some voices from the wider world. So I have a question for you.

If you could ask a group of forward-thinking museum directors a question about the intersection of digital technologies and museum work, what would that question be?

I will be collecting responses all week, and will try to make sure they get asked in Seattle!

 

 

The other side of “the tech skills divide”

Making a museum from scratch: Part Eight

So my last post on digital skills struck a nerve with a few people. The biggest takeaway for me was one of Matt Popke’s insightful comments. He pointed out that there are in fact two simultaneous skills divides and that while we in the profession tend to talk a lot about getting the museum field in general more digitally literate, we never talk about how to let people in digital media postions (most of whom come into museums via their trade, be it software development, web design, hardware, project management, or what have you) get up to speed on museum skills.  It was one of the those moments when you suddenly see the elephant in the room and realize its been there awhile.

What makes the divide so much more unfortunate, as Matt points out, is that techies are, by and large, inclined to be self-starters and active learners. The Web is full of tutorials, podcasts, and courseware that they use to keep their skills up to date, and learn new ones. Why is it that there is so little out there about museum work that isn’t part of a Masters’ program course of study that people who are already working full-time just won’t be likely to do? (And, yes, I do know that there are certificate programs out there. I think my point still stands, though.)

Moving from closed to open practice

At least part of the reason is that museums tend to be very closed about their practice. And moving from that “Should I share this” mindset, to a more open, “Is there a reason not to share this?” mindset is another one of those “tech” issues that really isn’t a technology issue when you scratch the surface. And it’s not an issue of “us” being more accommodating to “them”. Being more transparent should be a personal imperative, because it’s a great way to improve one’s own work. We all need to adopt a more open mindset towards our own learning. We don’t know everything, and we should all be open to learning new skills and modes of doing our jobs. So adding digital skills to our existing museum work seems like an incremental improvement. However looking at it from the other direction is very different. “Museum work” is a disparate stew of professions and jobs. The list of things we do that someone coming in from the outside might want to know about – curation, education, conservation, exhibition, administration, marketing, development – is long indeed. Where would one even begin? Is it too much of a hydra to even try to tackle?

I don’t think so. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about the importance of being open about one’s own practice. Being able to share not only what you do, but your process, is an invaluable tool for a reflective practitioner. For me, that’s one of the main personal benefits of blogging. The mere act of writing down what I do concretizes it in a way that no amount of thinking does. Documenting your work, sharing it and reflecting on it, are essential ingredients to improving. It is something we should all be doing more of, and the more we do it, the more we increase the resources available to the Matts of the museum world. And if it sounds like too much work, consider this. The Harvard Graduate School of Education has run a program for many years called Making Learning Visible http://www.pz.harvard.edu/mlv/.html which seeks to understand how to create and sustain cultures of learning in public schools through documentation and group learning. And if you think you’re too busy, go shadow a classroom teacher around for a day. If they can do it, we certainly can.

So, here’s my question for you:
If you’re a digital media person, and you’ve been in museums awhile, what are the things you’ve learned the hard way that you wish somebody had told you?

If you’re a digital media person, and you’re new to museums, what are the things that you wish you had a better grip on? Imagine you’re looking at MCN’s shiny new professional development program, MCNPro, and you saw a webinar listed that covered _______. What is that blank that would make you say, “I want to take that!”?

And, last but not least, if you’re a non-digital media person, what are the things you wish the digital media folks at your museum “got” that they never seem to?

I look forward to your replies!

Additional Resources:

The chorus of voices suggesting museums think about education as something more than what the Education department does is growing daily.  Here’s just a few from the recent past:

Nina Simon has a great post on Khan Academy and free choice learning that has some really insightful commentary from Beth Harris and Steve Zucker of Khan Academy (and formerly of MoMA)
http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2012/10/khan-academy-and-online-free-choice.html 

Gretchen Jennings posted a wonderfully incendiary question on Museum Commons about whether museums identify too much with formal education at the expense of exploring other skills and disciplines to do their work. Though aimed directly at museum educators, I’d say it is food for thought for all of us. Check out the comments in particular.
http://museumcommons.blogspot.com/2012/09/museum-educators-what-next.html

Erin Branham at Edgital, a new blog positioning itself “at the edge of museum education and digital media”, has some easy ways for educators to get into the action.
 http://www.edgital.org/2012/10/06/first-steps-to-embracing-digital-literacy-for-museum-educators/ 

Kajsa Hartig in Sweden is actually working with two universities to examine digital literacy in the heritage sector and what kinds of skills the rising generation of heritage professionals should have as they enter the workforce.
http://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/digital-skills-in-the-heritage-sector/

In the same vein, there’s a wonderfully heartening post by on Art Museum Teaching about “Challenging Ourselves: Strategies to Reflect on Our Practice” It’s aimed at museum education managers, but I think anybody interested in reflective practice should give it a read.
http://artmuseumteaching.com/2012/10/06/challenging-ourselves-strategies-to-reflect-on-our-practice/

Last, but not least, Beth Harris and Steve Zucker posted “Museums and open education” at e-Literate, which is a nice blueprint for thinking about museum education in a different light, and  in general being a more open, experimental, and reflective practitioner.
http://mfeldstein.com/museums-and-open-education/

UPDATE: I forgot Oonagh Murphy’s PDF “Museums and Digital Engagement: A New York Perspective” which is a veritable Who’s Who of New Yorkers Doing Cool Things in Museums. Worth the download!
http://www.wcmt.org.uk/reports/1065_1.pdf

The peculiar joys of not attending the conference you’re at

I just came back from Museums and the Web 2012 because the Museum Computer Network scheduled its Board of Directors meeting the day before the conference. For a variety of reasons I couldn’t extend my stay in San Diego, but I had a nice comfy seat in the lobby to watch the first day of MW2012 unfold around me.

This was not entirely how I woulod’ve chosen for things to unfold. MW has been my favorite conference for years, and the learning I’ve done there and the friends I’ve made form the core of my professional practice. It is a deep, deep well for anyone interested in the intersection of museums and technology.

So, for those of us following the #mw2012 tweets, here’s a view from the chair in the back of the lobby by the windows.

The old digital debates seem to be over

It feels like we’ve finally hit an inflection point in the past year where the larger forces of technological change have so radically reshaped society, that many of the tired old museum/tech tropes have been rendered moot. I don’t think the “my (curator/director/boss) doesn’t get it” meme will go away, but I feel like we’ve now come far enough to stop worrying. Whether or not you think Wikipedia is a good idea (I do), your visitors are using it in your museum right now. Worried about people “stealing” images of your collection? NGA just published 20,000 open access images from its collections. Every personal electronic device seems to include a camera now, so the old blanket prohibitions on photography I reckon will soon go the way of the ashtray as typical museum furniture. And more to the point, why on Earth would any museum not want people to be able to access their content?

To bastardize Bob Dylan, “The times they aren’t a changin” The times have already changed. How we respond to that change becomes the question. And I was amazed at how much more thought was being given to this communication problem. Most of the conversations I took part in revolved around this idea articulated awhile ago about talking outside the bubble. How do we make the case that digital modalities for interacting with audiences are core to what museums will be about? “How do they become part of the soul of the new museum?” was the dominant meme, whereas in years past, there was often a technology-specific buzz, like RFID, mobiles, QR codes, iSomethings…

The digital discourse has matured to the point where both the hype and hysteria can be acknowledged and set aside in favor of more productive topics, like how to communicate our vision and passion to the profession at large. And that’s a topic I find infinitely more interesting.

Tending one’s garden

Late in the last century, Xavier Perrot slipped me a note during a panel presentation we were on in Paris. “Il faut cultiver notre jardin.” it read.  “We should cultivate our own garden.” It’s how Voltaire’s Candide ends, after suffering all the indignities the world can heap on him. He gave it to me as a response to a statement I had made about websites, like gardens, never being “done” the way an exhibition is. They require constant tending. Websites are never done, only abandoned, or killed.  The Voltaire quote also has the connotation of not trying to solve all the world’s problems, but to mind that patch that is yours. You can’t do it all, or even most of what needs to be done, so it’s important to ask those hard framing questions like, “What can I do right now? How will doing that lay a foundation so that I can do better tomorrow?”

Professional networks are much like websites, in that both require regular nourishment. Despite the best intentions, I never managed to keep in touch with Xavier. He died of cancer a few years back – far too soon. I never acted on the desire to continue the discussion we started in Paris, and now it’s too late. Not being tied to a conference program meant that I could concentrate on connecting with the people I most wanted to see.

Three highlights

Hanging out with Suse Cairns (@shineslike) was at the top of my list. museum geek is one of the best museum blogs out there. I had the feeling we were going to be friends, and after about five minutes it was hard to remember that we hadn’t known each other for years. You know when you meet someone and realize they’re one of your tribe? Yeah, like that…

Attending my first Museum Computer Network Board meeting inspired a bit of trepidation, but it turned out to be the most exciting, exhausting mental labor I’ve done in awhile. After five hours of talking about strategy and the future of the organization, I was completely spent. And I’d happily do it again. Brainstorming with that might insightful thinkers (masterfully facilitated by Eric Longo) was like eating a 12-course meal – filling and infinitely varied. Stay tuned for exciting things! And don’t foreget to register for the conference! Check out the program here and propose something.  I hope to see you there!

Despite her frantic schedule as one of the conference co-chairs,  I managed to squeeze in a long breakfast with Nancy Proctor(@nancyproctor) to discuss all manner of interesting possible collaborations, which I always enjoy. It was enriching and to top it all off I finally got to meet her and Titus’ daughter,  Pearl! She may be the world’s youngest museum Tweeter (@pandapearl) but I find she offers a refreshing new perspective on things. And watching Nancy take time out of trying get a conference off the ground to play peek a boo was magical.

Paying it forward never goes out of style

One of my favorite things about MW and MCN are they are both full of wicked smart, generous practitioners, who are particularly good at being welcoming to newbies of all stripes. Conference-going can be an essential part of starting a career, And it can really suck if you don’t know how to do it, as Nina Simon and I both blogged about awhile back.

Jan Crocker took me to my first conference, back in the late 1980s. It was AAM or ASTC and I was petrified. She seemed to know everybody, and everybody knew her. And I was her awkward shadow. Through her, I met pretty much everybody active in the field at the time. In three days, she’d shown me the landscape, my place in it, and a personal impressions of the major players. And she probably didn’t even know she was doing it. She was just maintaining her personal professional network.

One of the many, many things I learned from Jan was the importance of paying things forward. If you’ve received any wisdom or guidance that has helped, you should feel obliged to share what you’ve learned and keep propagating it. If the museum profession is any more humane than it was in 1970, it’s because of all the Jans out there, mentoring, sharing, seeking talent and nuturing it so it can grow.

This year, I encouraged her to apply for a scholarship to MW and she got it! I not only learned about paying it forward, but actually got to pay it back and introduce her to some of the many people she should know.

 

Hi Jan!

What do you wanna be when you grow up?

The most personally enriching theme of my time in San Diego was having the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” conversation with several people all at different points on their career trajectory.  Careers are funny things. They twist and turn and go in unexpected directions. Or not.  It was remarkably clarifying to talk about career hopes and plans with a broad range of people, emerging professionals as well as more established ones, colleagues making dramatic course corrections, and those folks I look up to as model museum people, the kind of professional I want to be when I grow up.

It’s not the sort of conversation I’d have with just anybody, but it came up more than once, and having to verbalize things that I tend to just think about was good practice. Things that hard to say are often the ones that need the most examination, and conversation is a great way to expose them to the light and really look at them.

It’s an exciting time in the field, full of potential and interesting work to be done.  I feel fortunate to be in a position to take part in it. And I suppose the sign of any good conference is that you come home with a bigger perspective on what’s important, examples of what the field is up to, inspirations for your own work and career, and personal connections with people who nourish you. Even though I didn’t go, MW2012 certainly delivered on all those counts.

I’m still sorry I waited too long to find some way to work with Xavier. The rest of you on my “I wanna work with you!” list are on notice. I don’t intend to let that happen again. Have a good conference!