A few weeks ago, museum technology professionals from across the globe convened in Denver for the 2018 Museum Computer Network Conference, Humanizing the Digital. Following two and a half days of intensive workshops, talks, and sessions, the conference closed with 45-minute “unconference” sessions proposed by attendees through the course of the conference.
Along with Seema Rao of Brilliant Idea Studio, I facilitated a session centered on writing about museum technology. Referencing a Simpsons Internet meme, we gave our session the tongue-in-cheek title, “I Did a Technology! Now What?”
This session was inspired in part by the inventive ways that our MCN colleagues were distributing content throughout the conference:
- An abundance of zines this year suggested that the DIY ethos is alive and well. I was pleased to snag copies of a handy social media guide titled Hacking the Grid (27 downloads) ; a collaborative UX Cookbook for the “UX Lounge” and popup exhibition; and the Empathi[zine], produced for the “Empathy Jam” session.
- Eschewing the traditional publishing routes, museum communications consultant and MCN 2018 attended Hannah Hethmon self-published Your Museum Needs a Podcast, a practical guide to writing and recording podcasts. She generously shared free printed copies of her book with attendees. Her book is also available via Amazon.
- Many sessions served not just as standard presentations of case studies or evaluative insights, but also focused on the pooling and sharing of insights and resources. For example, sessions such as “Org Culture for Culture Orgs” published a shared an editable Google Doc featuring a growing list of resources and recommended videos, books, and articles.
Together, these self-published and DIY resources underscore the generosity and creativity of professionals working in the gallery, archives, libraries, and museums (GLAM) sector. Yet the breadth and diversity of resources might also suggest that the needs of professionals working in quickly paced, interdisciplinary contexts—like museum educators—aren’t sated only by traditional, slow-moving publications that address specific knowledge domains. Perhaps the more nimble, just-in-time platforms of blogs and zines are an essential complement to books or the peer-reviewed journal. Indeed, I saw more Twitter conversations and Harvard Business Review articles cited in presentations this year than I did traditional publications, our own included.
Seema and I spent our unconference session working with about 15 GLAM colleagues to chart and evaluate the current landscape of publications that address museum technology. Together, we canvassed the following questions:
- What journals, blogs, or magazines do you look to for professional development? Why?
- What types of topics or areas of practice do you feel are lacking?
- What are the qualities of journals and of self-published platforms such as blogs or zines? What possible drawbacks and advantages do each offer?
Our unconference session group also shared what keeps us from writing—whether a lack of time, fear, or constraints from our employers or organizational partners—and pooled together advice on how to get started writing. (For more tips, I recommend watching the NAEA Museum Division’s Google Hangout on publishing in museum education—it features our own Editor-in-Chief, Cynthia Robinson.)
The process of evaluating the publishing landscape in our unconference session yielded rich discussion about the current scope and deficits of literature for professionals in the GLAM technology sector. Following our team’s pooling of resources, I also added many fresh links to my blogroll and gained new ideas on where to share or publish my own writing.
I encourage you to try this exercise with your own colleagues—perhaps with peers working at your institution in other disciplines, such as curators, archivists, or editors. What new resources and insights might you discover?
Adrienne Lalli Hills is Manager, Exhibitions and Public Programs at ahha Tulsa, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Museum Education Roundtable.