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Slow Unconference

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Saved by Nancy Proctor
on August 21, 2010 at 10:13:11 am

ThatCamp MCN

A slow un-conference

For more information, contact info@thatcamp.org


What is an un-conference?


ThatCamp MCN 2010 Session Proposals


Chris Anderson has famously written about the 'long tail' of markets, where small communities of enthusiasts for niche interests add up to a larger economic force than even the mass-market. In a sense, museums are classic long tail institutions, both fostering and appealing to specialist interests and in-depth research on specific subjects. As a result, museum professionals have many and diverse needs and interests in new technologies for cultural heritage, and often find themselves pioneering new technologies or working with a small community on highly specialized applications - as much out of necessity as a desire for innovation.


MCN is unique in recognizing and facilitating the full range of this discourse: from niche to mainstream, from webmaster to registrar, from house museum to the biggest museum complexes in the world. This "slow un-conference" is designed to give time and voice to all the special interests and esoteric needs of the cultural heritage community.


  • It is "slow" because we will collect ideas and build un-conference sessions from now until the first day of the conference;
  • It is an "un-conference" because the sessions and speakers will be developed and decided by the community, and can take any of a number of formats.


If the topic or problem you most urgently need to discuss with your peers and experts in the field is not covered by the theme, The Museum Inside-Out/Outside-In, then propose an un-conference session here and MCN will help find the colleagues you need to get the most out of MCN 2010.


Here are some ideas that came up in the process of selecting a conference theme; please edit and add more below!


  1. Open Source, Open Content, Open Learning

    1. Democratizing Access (from SI's Commons proposal)
    2. Finding ways to be open and inclusive of multiple voices without compromising our authority and trustworthiness, which is one of our most valuable assets. - using social media is the easiest way to provide access to them
    3. Trust and Reputation (as in, what do these things mean for museums in the post-Wikipedia age): looking at how communities self-police themselves (I recently moderated a panel on contemporary art bloggers and the issues of trust, community building and managing comments were big topics. Here's a link about it from one of those blogger's blogs http://edwardwinkleman.blogspot.com/2010/01/caveat-lector.html)
    4. Process/Immediacy (as in "Process Journalism," meaning telling stories as they happen, rather than summarizing after the thing is over)
    5. How museums are embracing user generated content, as well as controlling or being gatekeepers of it (social media are examples of how museums are embracing user generated content)
    6. The new authoritative (expert) voice of online users in our community: will museums accept the expertise and content generated by its online users through social media etc.?
      1. See Nina Simon’s post:  http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2008/10/future-of-authority-platform-power.html
      2. IMLS recently released a guide on the Future of Museums and Libraries, in which one of the discussion themes is dedicated to shifts in power and authority http://www.imls.gov/resources/resources.shtm
    7. OpenID
    8. Generative Assets (Kevin Kelly's term for assets that can't be cloned, replicated, or reproduced)
  2. Bridging the Digital Divide

    1. Back-of-house challenges
    2. The increasing costs associated with digital collections
    3. The divide, perceived or real, between on-line visitors and in-person visitors
    4. DAMS solutions for small museums
    5. Integration: e.g. solving problems with dedicated software systems (CIS, CMS, ticketing, membership, e-commerce, DAMS, etc.) that in many cases are not well integrated and result in multiple sets of data about the same things, along with other headaches. User-generated content further complicates the information architecture.
    6. CMS <--> DAMS information flows - how important is it, do we need it, why is it (sometimes) so hard and how can we address it?
    7. Unified vision for communication strategy: easier said than done! The lines between "old" and "new" communication are blurring, some fading away, some emerging, some being re-invented.
    8. Big split between the print and the online way of thinking, mostly based on a staff person's professional comfort level with online technology
  3. Igniting the Imagination: how to increase your local, national and global audiences.

    As museum professionals, we need to spark people’s interest and their imaginations. Due to the diverse and ever-changing interests of our public, we must continue to evaluate our audience’s interests and offer a variety of experiences. As our audiences expand from local to global we must ensure that we engage both, using a variety of the invaluable assets that we have in our collections.


    Our online experiences are unique and no two museums are exactly alike. We must differentiate our offerings, and make our online experience count by showcasing our institution’s strengths and by appealing to a variety of audiences. We need to provide these audiences with information on our collections and give them the means to reciprocate and assist us in our quest for knowledge through the use of social and other media.  


    Studies have illustrated that people trust museums, a public opinion survey commissioned by AAM in 2001 found “that 38% of Americans believe museums to be among the most trustworthy sources of information, while 87% believe they are trustworthy overall.


    [i]” Museums information is credible and educators look to museums for inspiration and assistance. Let’s provide them with the information that they seek by using our technological savvy and engaging them in their quest for knowledge.


    We can also turn online visitors into stakeholders, providing them with virtual tours of exhibits and galleries or better still with virtual tours of artifacts held only in the museum storage vaults. A large percentage of museum collections are rarely exhibited in physical spaces, we can give web denizens a look behind the scenes.


    We can attract new audiences by optimizing our websites for search engines, using keywords that one would not ordinarily associate with museums. For example, I would not think of “quilt patterns” when I think of a museum, but if you included these words in a website of an exhibition on quilts you would attract a large audience of crafters looking for inspiration and ideas. They might also be interested in reading about the creation of the quilts, the materials used and the people who created them. They might find the whole virtual exhibit so interesting that they want to see the quilts in person and subsequently visit the museum and buy the museum catalogue of the exhibit.


    To expand our reach and increase our audiences, we must use our unique assets and play on our unique strengths. Much of the business on the Internet today is conducted by appealing to a new segment of the market, a phenomenon known as the long tail.

    Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want … As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture).


    [ii]” Museums most certainly have offbeat and interesting collections that would appeal to a small market segment in their physical locations, but to a much larger virtual audience worldwide. 

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