GAF Fellowship

#MCN2020 Day 1

As we are currently not allowed to leave the country, I have been looking for different ways of kickstarting my Fellowship that I can work on remotely. The real silver lining of this global pandemic has been accessing the thoughts, experiences, and expertise of people around the globe, so I am very grateful to be able to attend the Museum Computer Network conference virtually this year.

I’m going to write a little update each day after my sessions wrapping up what I have attended and what I have enjoyed. I am trying to stick to things that start after 4am Adelaide time to be a little kind to myself, so there are a few I might wrap up post-conference once I have watched the recordings. But for now, let’s go!

Virtual Teen Programs/Real Connections

This session started with the best warm up question I have ever seen asked, “what are you binge watching right now?” and this immediately set the tone. Working at MOD. and spending so much time focusing on programming for a 15-25 year old audience meant I could not pass this one. I really enjoyed hearing from the presenters on the programming that they’ve put in place at their museums, aquariums, and libraries since the beginning of COVID-19. 

Some of the main learnings from the different institutions were:

  • Make your online programming shorter in duration but more frequent in occurrence 
  • Collaborate with other institutions or organisations that work for and with young people
  • Try and get the young people to lead the programs or take some responsibility 
  • Use approachable tech, so free/low cost alternatives are great or go places they might already use, like social media
  • Consider accessibility, the digital divide and access to technology/internet at home was a big issue for lots of these institutions

We finished up emphasising the importance of creating seamless, comforting, and uncomplicated experiences that leave our participants feeling cared for. 

Touch and Multi-sensory Experiences: Developing Safe and Inclusive Practices During Covid-19

There were two presentations as part of this, the first titled “Safety, comfort, inclusion: we choose all” which is also a great way of summarising this talk. 

The first presentation started with the premise that we all exist in an eco-system where the digital and physical merge, and that there are many ways of creating accessible interactions within that that benefit more than just the people with accessibility requirements. This is especially evident in a COVID world, where it’s not just those who are unable to physically touch things who are avoiding touch. Access should be implemented at the design of experiences, not retroactively added. This is something that we have been working on improving at MOD. at the moment, so it was great to hear it from their perspective.

The next half of this presentation was by the NYU Ability project, a tech/disability/design lab at the University. This explored their findings of work they have carried out at the Intrepid Museum. Ultimately, we need to continue to present tactile experiences for blind/low vision visitors and it’s best if these are professional and consistently presented throughout museums. These sorts of tactile experiences cannot be replaced by audio/digital solutions, they are so vital and can continue to serve communities if we continue to sanitise and clean. 


Finally, I watched the Ignite series of lightning talks. This clearly is traditionally a post-conference, looser version of MCN and it was really entertaining to watch this unfold on my side of the world over my breakfast.

“Audience Engagement is Your Goal, Not Theirs” by Kyle Bowen — this was a great look at re-considering the way that we assess ‘broken’ audience engagement. My favourite part: “Do people want to be engaged? No.”

“Welcome to my 2D World” by Sandy Goldberg — Sandy has 2D vision and cannot drive. For her whole life she has walked everywhere, but more recently she has been creating really cool data visualisation of her walks. My favourite part: her Instagram @walksonpaper

“Communities of Imagination and Learning” by Michael Riordan — Michael emphasised the difference between education and learning and had OF/BY/FOR/ALL vibes as he called for our communities to work as curators. My favourite part: more communities as curators!!

“Your Data Are Probably Racist” by Yvonne Lee and Meredith Steinfels — Yvonne and Meredith called out all of the excuses that institutions make, it was great. My favourite part: the theatre of the presentation.

“Future Wisdom via Metadata” by Virginia Poundstone and Garrett Grady-Lovelace — Virginia and Garrett talked about quipus, the knots that Incans would tie that recorded much of their life for some 4,600 years. They were all destroyed of course post-colonisation and were “borrowed” by Yale University (still not returned). My favourite part: quipus as metadata, quipus as proto-computing binary codes.

“Craft, Work, & Kraftwerk” by Tim Boutelle — One word stood out to Tim when he saw the new ICOM Museum definition: polyphonic. Where else has he seen that word? Only on synthesisers. It turns out that the two have a lot in common. My favourite part: Tim’s amazing moving Zoom background that included a live synth performance.

“They Will Save Us If We Let Them” by Jeremy Munro — Jeremy explored the way that Vines have been archived by a community of teenagers onto YouTube, which has allowed for their resurgence on TikTok today some 5 years since Vine was closed down. My favourite part: This whole thing was amazing, communities need to BE the process. 

How much do I miss going to conferences! How great are museum people! I am so excited for day 2!

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