So, how far along are we with cloning? Because I could have really used a clone or two in order to cover the many (sometimes concurrent) interesting sessions at this year’s Museum Computer Network conference in Seattle. Since this was my first MCN, I’m probably looking at this with more of a beginner’s “gee whiz” outlook, but the presentations were not only interesting and relevant, they were well presented. And, it was nice to see a community that was so enthusiastic and supportive of the presenters.
I can’t do the conference justice in this short blog post (and, I’m on a deadline!) so I’ll just point out some of the highlights from the sessions I did attend. And thanks to all the tweets coming out of #mcn2012, this helps to fill in the gaps and provide context. In general, that’s my favorite use of twitter, anyway – a good way to create some group conference notes. (For reference, I’ve provided links to the relevant hashtags for the sessions below.)
Ignite Talks (#IgniteMCN)
This was something a bit different than the usual “lightning talks” from other conferences I’ve seen. There were nine presenters who used 20 slides in 5 minutes to make their case – certainly, “lightning” enough. This was a good introduction to the kind of creativity that was to be on display all week. All these talks (covering topics such as open authority, museum education, etc, but with interesting philosophic angles) were stimulating and thought provoking. And, it was held at the EMP Museum – how cool is that?
The most unusual talk, and a first for me at any conference, was maybe not so much a talk as a performance from the Smithsonian’s dynamic Michael Edson entitled “Jack the Museum”, done in poetry slam style. Yes, you read that right. Here’s an excerpt:
“Network action makes old school broadcast reaction a distraction to this powerful new faction: 6 billion people, connected, on the web.” (That’s just a taste – for more, here’s the whole brilliant thing). As @museum_mash noted on twitter, “Instant classic.”
Keynote Talk (#mcn2012key)
You think YOU’VE got big data? Microsoft’s Curtis Wong got the main conference off to a great start with his Keynote presentation, “Breaking out of the Box – Interactive Video and the Transformation of Storytelling”. Wong says he always wanted to be a museum person, and bring the storytelling and interactive together – and to illustrate, he demonstrated some amazing tools in which he did just that. His project, the World Wide Telescope, enables nothing less than tours of the universe using high resolution images. He also demonstrated Chronozoom, an interactive timeline of history, going all the way back to the big bang!
Wong also described the stages of what he calls the “information architecture of learning” – first, engagement, then build a mental model, and then validate that model. He said his ultimate goal was to make things easier to use, and, reusable. A sample tweet, from @simontanner: “I think Curtis Wong’s keynote shows benefits of high bandwidth access just when I thought mobile access wld dominate.”
Tales from the Blog (#mcn2012tale)
Summed up, the reports of blogging’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. In this lively session, panelists gave first person accounts of their rationale for starting or contributing to museum community blogs. Panelist Ed Rodley, noting a common reluctance to put it all out there, summed up his philosophy – “feel the fear and do it anyway”. (Thanks, glad to know I’m not the only one!) Another panelist, Mike Murawski, says blogs should really be less “look how great I am” and more about testing ideas and theories. (For a list of blogs from this community, many are noted at #mcn2012tale on twitter.)
All those 1’s and 0’s (#mcn2012dams)
This panel session was focused on standards for large digital media files, and started out with a bit of nostalgia – revisiting the floppies, zip drives, other media from days of old. This was of course a way to illustrate the growth of data files to what we have today, and what we may end up with in the future. Mainly, it raised the relevant questions to frame a discussion, such as:
- what’s the best backup system?
- what happens when a commercial storage company changes hands, or closes down?
- how will we support current file formats into the future?
- how do you identify what’s in those files, once stored?
Other problems such as low bandwidth, and limited staff to tackle all this only adds to the challenges. This kind of discussion indicates the museum community is indeed thinking about digital preservation, and starting a good dialog to help further these solutions.
Google Art Project on Trial (#mcn2012goog)
Again, the MCN folks came up with an interesting way to have a discussion. For this session, the Google Art Project was the focus of a mock trial – with panelists volunteering to serve as either defendants or prosecutors, with Michael Edson as moderator and the audience as jury. And to keep things interesting, Piotr Adamczyk, Google Art Project, Google Cultural Institute was also there (winning the Good Sport award for the conference!) Many issues were raised in this lively discussion, here’s a sampling of issues presented on both sides:
- Defense – publishing platform for small museums, democratization of knowledge, institutions choose which art to contribute, GAP is not an art museum.
- Prosecution – highjacking of culture, google-centric, “top ten” type project, no transparency.
And on it goes (and will go). This was a valuable discussion to help frame this project within the museum community.
This is just a mere sampling of the conference content. Other great sessions I attended included Preserving Digital Art; Value, Sustainability and Disruptive Technology; Preservation of Email, and the closing plenary, which was a nice event wrap up, with highlights presented by way of small group discussions. Of course, since I’m involved in the digital preservation program here at the Library of Congress, it was great to see that subject represented, not only as the focus of some sessions, but occasionally in general conversations. It was indeed a topic of interest at the conference. So, for all those in the museum community eager for more information on this, in addition to the above website, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance is another resource – membership is free, and provides easy access to discussion with others who are grappling with the same digital preservation challenges.
One of the great things about MCN 2012 was that they provided live webcasts of selected sessions for those who couldn’t attend. In addition, all the sessions were filmed for viewing later on, and will be available on the MCN Youtube channel in the near future. I will need this, too, because there was so much, and now it’s all a blur.
In the meantime, any other thoughts from MCN goers???