This time last year, as the days crawled towards the start of 2011, I had very few expectations for what the year would bring. I knew that I’d been accepted for my PhD, and that I’d received a scholarship – and I knew I’d been accepted for Museums and the Web 2011. But little did I have any sense about what that might mean, and how much my life would change in the months after the conference.
The first months of the year were quite normal. I got into a study routine, and threw myself into reading. My PhD research started on a different tangent than the one I am now pursuing, and I was trying to get my bearings in a new academic territory.
Then April arrived, and changed everything.
Prior to Museums and the Web, I had never even attended a professional conference, much less spoken at one. I was out of depth, and drowning. I remember hoping desperately to get too sick to travel in the days before I left, so scared was I of doing everything wrong. And I did make some mistakes. Despite this, MW proved to be a true turning point in not only my career, but also my life more generally. Whilst there, I met others who shared my passion for museums, technology and all the nuances and difficulties they bring. People like Bruce Wyman and Koven Smith, in particular, helped me feel like there might actually be a place for me in the field, despite my newness to it.
I also met Seb Chan, and approached him to let me start interning a day a week at the Powerhouse Museum. After reading his blog for four or so years prior to this time (which ultimately lead to me joining the profession and moving to undertake research in the field), this was an incredible opportunity, and I still appreciate that he said yes to an unknown Aussie ambushing him in Philly (Thanks Seb!).
From there, the year only continued to bring new and surprising opportunities. Koven invited me back to the States in November to be part of his panel at MCN2011 on the very subject that helped re-focused my PhD – on What’s the Point of Museum Websites? I had no money, and no immediately foreseeable way to get there, but I of course said yes.
I had started volunteering with the MCN2011 marketing committee just prior to this time (bringing lovely people like Vicki Portway and Neal Stimler into my life), and so the idea of aiming to actually make it to the conference for real was tantalising. Thus I applied for the MCN conference scholarship, and also for a $3000 arts grant from ArtsNSW – our state arts funding body. And, upon receiving both, suddenly I was heading back to the States for the second time in about 7 months.
If these were the only note-worthy things that had happened during the year, it would still have been amazing. But I was also given the chance to participate in the Digital Culture Public Sphere, contributing to a publicly peer-reviewed submission to Australia’s cultural policy and speaking on my vision for the coming ten years of digital cultural policy in Australia in front of the Minister of the Arts, Simon Crean, Senator Kate Lundy and many more (thanks to Pia Waugh for inviting me to be part of such an amazing process).
I also entered and won an art prize, with a conceptual work of art that played with museological/tech ideas (which, I recently found out, has been accepted for a demonstration at MW2012! So hopefully that means I’ll be back to the States again. Thanks to Tim Hart for suggesting that I apply); I went to THATCamp Canberra (thanks to the Kress Foundation for giving me a THATCamp grant!), and I got to spend two weeks at MCA Denver after meeting the inspirational Adam Lerner at Reprogramming the Art Museum in Sydney.
Finally, at MCN2011, I met even more wonderful people, played with arduino (inspiring the purchase of an arduino starter kit, which arrived for my birthday a couple of weeks ago), and started an interesting research project on the side with Eric Johnson (which I’ll write about sometime in coming months, once it’s a bit more established).
In between all this, I have researched, written sections of my PhD, thought a lot about museums, had incredible conversations, and met people who will be lifelong friends. I’ve recently started to work with a few interesting digital culture people in my home town of Newcastle on some projects that will hopefully break down some of the silos between cultural bodies in my own city, and I’m also trying to get a semi-regular “drinking about museums” event kicked off too.
As the year draws to a close, I face 2012 with some trepidation, not wishing to farewell a year like this in which everything has changed. This has, without question, been both the most amazing and most significant year of my life. I could not, in my wildest imaginings, have guessed at where it would take me. However, for all the events that have occurred and the opportunities I have been given, it is the people I have been lucky enough to meet that have really made the difference.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my 2011. You are amazing to me.