Making a conference (+ a book club!)

Posted on October 17, 2016

1


The MCN conference is only a couple of weeks away now, and I’m finally starting to relax and enjoy the run up to the event. The program is off to the printers, the timetable is locked down, and we’re putting on the finishing touches. This is the second year that I’ve been a Program Co-Chair, and it’s the last that I’ll have this level of involvement. Last year we implemented a two-year cycle for Program Co-Chairs that includes recruitment, training, and handing over the reins for the conference, so although I’ve loved working on the Program, it’s almost time for me to let it go. My current Co-Chairs––Jennifer Foley and Trish Oxford––will now take it over and shape its next iteration.

The conference team has achieved a lot over the last couple of years, and I wanted to share a few of the things I’m most proud of. In 2015, we affirmed our commitment to ensuring a positive and constructive experience for all participants with the introduction of our Friendly Space Policy. We also worked to better integrate networking throughout the program so that people had plenty of informal time as well as session-based learning opportunities. That conference was our biggest MCN, and it was a great pleasure to work with my then Co-Chairs Ed Rodley and Morgan Holzer making it come to life.

This year, we wanted to increase transparency about how the conference is put together, and improve communication with speakers–both of which I think we’ve achieved. We’ve asked all speakers to help us improve the accessibility of the conference by being mindful of accessibility when creating presentations. We’re also trying to be more thoughtful about scaffolding the experience for for first time attendees. In any given year, up to 50% of the people at MCN are new to the conference, so we’re offering a first timer’s orientation to help newbies have a great experience. If this is your first MCN, make sure you join Elissa Frankle for her wonderful, creative introduction to MCN. She’s taking your questions now to tailor her content to your needs. Our scholars now have a voice at the conference, too, with all 15 presenting lightning talks on their work.

I think our theme this year, which is focussed on the human-centered museum, has prompted some really interesting sessions this year (props to the Program Committee for that). Some that I’m most excited about are: The Intersections of Social Media, Race, and Social Justice for ProgrammingMuseums & Incubators / AcceleratorsTrue Stories: Learning from Storytellers Inside and Outside the Museum FieldSleep Stories at Wellcome Collection: manifesting digitally submitted stories through an embroidered quilt and translating that back onlineCreating Anti-Oppressive Spaces On-line; and, of course, our keynote with Catherine Bracy, a pioneer in civic technology and digital democracy who has led organizations such as Code for America and the TechEquity Collaborative. Check out our big ideas playlist to get excited.

Finally, I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to partner with the Cultural Heritage and Social Change Summit, which will be held in NOLA immediately after MCN. The aim of the Summit is to promote movement building across the cultural heritage sector. Our hope is that it continues the work and conversations we start at MCN. It will definitely be worth sticking around for.

We’ve had an amazing group of people working on the conference over the past couple of years, so if you see or meet any of them, please make sure you thank them for their hard work. Something as complicated as MCN doesn’t come together overnight, and it’s taken a lot of people many, many hours to pull it off. I am so grateful to all the people who’ve worked and volunteered to make it real. Y’all rock.

PS: Ed and I are running an informal book club at MCN. You’ve still got time to join us, so pick up a copy of Post Critical Museology: Theory and Practice in the Art Museum, dip into its goodness, and meet us at there to discuss. We’d love to see you there!

Posted in: Conferences