• Image 1
  • Image 2
  • Image 3
  • Image 4


Pre-conference Workshops are half-day interactive sessions held the day before the conference (Tuesday, November 1, 2016) that provide hands-on learning and key learning opportunities. This is MCN’s premiere in-depth learning opportunity, and attendees pay an additional fee to attend these sessions. 

Advanced Registration Required!

  • Workshops are optional and must be purchased in addition to the conference registration. 
  • Workshop Fee: $125 per workshop.
  • Space is limited so make sure you make your selection early.

MCN workshop attendees work together to problem solve

Interpretive Writing for Museum Audiences 

This workshop will give participants tools to write engaging and informative interpretive text for museum visitors, using storytelling techniques, museum visitor studies data, and creative nonfiction principles. The workshop will provide time and space for participants to focus on writing practice and participate in activities that make ideas stick for museum visitors.


Kris Wetterlund, Director of Education and Interpretation, Corning Museum of Glass
Kris Wetterlund is the Director of Education and Interpretation at The Corning Museum of Glass and the Editor of Museum-Ed (www.museum-ed.org). She is also the author of an online interpretive writing guide: If You Can't See It Don't Say It.


Beginner Hacking - Wearables

Have you heard about things like wearables, microcontrollers, and Arduino? Want to get your feet wet? Here is your chance! Maybe you want to learn how to integrate physical computing into your exhibits. Maybe you want to use electronics within your programs. Or maybe you just want to learn more about computer hardware. Whatever the reason, let your inner geek shine and get started with this workshop. 

In this half-day workshop, we will get acquainted with sewing using conductive thread, microcontrollers, circuits, input (buttons and sensors), and output (sound and light). You will get your hands dirty building your own pre-defined, small-scale project. Don’t be intimidated by the coding—we’ll walk you through that part and show you how to tweak it. This is your chance to join the maker world, create alongside your fellow museum geeks, and charge forward with some tools to turn your ideas into reality. 
This workshop requires an additional $50 for a parts kit including a microcontroller, thread, buttons, lights, wires, etc. You will be able to take these items home after the workshop. 

Be sure to bring your own laptop. Before the workshop we will email out instructions to install software. But we will also have a few floating computers available. 


Chris Evans. Sr. Designer, 106 Group 
Chris Evans is the Sr. Designer at 106 Group, a nationally recognized leader in cultural and environmental planning, resource management, interpretation, and design. Chris selects and implements the best interpretive media to convey a project's message. Chris is also a professor at Northeastern University, a musician, and a tinkerer.


Power, Privilege, History, and Race

As technology workers in museums, operating outside many common barriers of our institutions uniquely positions us to push our institutions towards a justice-centered future. But how do we begin? Using race as a foundation for our conversation, this workshop will lead museum workers through an examination of ourselves, our relationships and and our institutions so that we may better be able to define, recognize and dismantle oppression in our lives, and be better equipped to put more humans at the center of our work. 

This workshop comes from Museums and Race 2016: Transformation and Justice, a national convening of multiethnic, multigenerational museum professionals at all career stages in January 2016 who believe that it is the persistent and pervasive structural racism in our institutions that is at the heart of the museum field’s failure to diversify its boards, staffs, collections, members and visitors, and are committed to effecting radical change in our field. This workshop will be one of many taking place in museum conferences around the country in 2016.


  • To create a safe/brave space for learning about personal identity and the intersection of race and how it impacts our work. 
  • Identify a broad range of strategies that participants can take back to their own institutions in order to address those issues – for example, exclusively internal conversations, with audiences engaged, in what format, etc;
  • Build relationships and create opportunities for people to learn from one another across racial and other differences.

After this workshop, participants will:

  • Have an anti-oppression framework and language to begin to understand racial dynamics in their institutions
  • Have made a direct connection between personal experiences around race and institutions and structures that perpetuate racism.
  • Have a concrete plan and resources, such as relationships and information, to address issues within their own institutions.


Nikhil Trivedi, Senior Systems Analyst at a museum in Chicago
Nikhil Trivedi is an application developer at a museums in Chicago where he builds software connected collections, including internal workflow system, interactives, websites and infrastructure to share data. In addition, he's a regular contributor for The Incluseum, and co-created Visitors of Color, a project sharing museum experiences of marginalized people.


Measure, Rinse, Repeat 

Let's be honest: GLAM institutions aren't flush with staff to individually reach the millions of constituents interested in their collections and resources. Plus, today's landscape of communication platforms is dizzying; from "traditional" websites to apps, from Twitter to Snapchat. However, in a resource-constrained world, making those connections is critical to demonstrating organizational value. 

We will step you through the process of defining clear, measurable goals and target audiences in order to streamline your digital communications and help you use data to tell your story. Additionally, we will help you understand what free and paid tools can help you evaluate your communication strategy. Finally, we will go over different ways to communicate your successes, or that rare failure. 

In this updated half-day workshop, Smithsonian's Brian Alpert (Office of the CIO), Sarah Banks (National Air and Space Museum), and Effie Kapsalis (Smithsonian Archives) will work with participants through a series of methodologies, case studies and a small group activity. In addition to presenting a manageable, common sense approach to developing goals, selecting metrics and extending the web analytics process to social media, examples will demonstrate how the metrics served to support organizational goals, what tools proved to be most useful, and which of those tools have taken hold as favorites at Smithsonian.

Brian will present the process for measuring websites and social media. He will also discuss basic Google Analytics concepts and the required conversion (for ALL users!) to Google Analytics "Universal" code. Effie will present a case study showing how a smaller division with no defined digital goals developed a comprehensive plan for web and social media, and how she and her team have used qualitative and quantitative data to update the UX and UI of their website. Sarah will talk about Google Analytics for mobile apps, show a framework she devised to help measure a museum's impact through its social media outreach, and share a social media case study from the National Air and Space Museum’s Star Trek 50th anniversary #BoldlyGo50 campaign.


Brian Alpert, Web Analytics & SEM Analyst, Smithsonian Institution 
As the Smithsonian's Web Analytics and Search Engine Marketing Analyst, Brian helps practitioners with training, analysis and hands-on facilitation. Previously, as Texas Instruments' Worldwide Search Engine Marketing Manager, he created and managed TI's first comprehensive SEM program. Brian also plays drums for several bands in the Washington DC area.


The Lean Museum: metrics driven continuous improvement (lean sigma white belt training)

Metrics driven continuous improvement is an important tool for leaders wanting to reduce inefficiencies, increase value focus and drive focused technology enablement. Lean sigma provides a management framework for disciplined, experimental and metrics based organizational change management. This white belt training workshop provides a comprehensive introductory overview of lean sigma for change leaders wanting to implement continuous improvement programs, or going on to continue further belted certification. Working with real life museum examples (such as accessibility, diversity and community), we'll cover the origins of management thinking, an overview of the lean sigma framework with DMAIC, lean sigma project methods in PDSA and analysis tools. We'll also look at a different side of lean thinking: the lean museum (inspired by startups) for innovation, research and development with new business models.


Angie Judge, Chief Executive, Dexibit 
Angie Judge is the CEO of Dexibit, providing data driven insights to cultural institutions. Angie has a 10 year career in telecommunications transformation and innovation, working with museums worldwide in the field of big data and analytics.


Unleash the Power of Video

Video is the powerhouse content on the web today and overcoming the limitations of video such as the ability to search within the content of a video, user bandwidth limitations and annotating entire film collections can easily be overcome with today's technologies. This workshop will cover: 1. how to trigger on-page behaviors based on the video timeline using JavaScript. 2. how streaming video works and the benefits of using it. 3. how to convert videos to the m3u8 format using PHP and ffmpeg. 4. annotating video frame by frame using the open source tool https://github.com/eFilms 5. alternative distribution options for video collections such as tvOS. Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptops. This workshop will be presented in a tutorial format with starter projects and final code solutions provided to attendees. *intended for all skill levels.


Chris Brown, Web Developer, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
With over fifteen years of experience as a professional web developer Chris is an expert in process automation and optimization, developing systems that handle all levels of user traffic and deliver content quickly for all user experiences.


The Human-Centered Blog: Strategies for Content, Consistency, and Community

In the realm of digital engagement, the museum blog may seem like old news—but it’s actually more important than ever! While social platforms ebb and flow, a museum’s content can remain steadfast on its blog. The challenge lies in content creation, publication consistency, and community-building. How can we best utilize our blogs to increase access to our collections and expertise, while also providing a platform for highlighting diverse perspectives from inside and outside of our museums? 

This workshop will help participants breathe new life into their existing blogs and strategize for future blogs by considering strategy, audience, content, and resources. Topics will range from day-to-day logistics and survival tips to brainstorming new and unique ways to incorporate contributions from staff and our underutilized community members and social influencers. 

This workshop will bring together two blog managers from museums that have been leading the way in building robust digital content. Lori Byrd-McDevitt has managed The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis blog since 2012, and has experimented with the idea of community blogging since 2013. In addition to sharing about the successes and surprises of community blogging, Lori will also provide insight into managing a content calendar, aligning it with marketing goals, and strategically dispersing content via eNews, social media, and social influencers. 

Annelisa has managed the Getty’s blog since its inception in 2010, moving it from a fringe one-off to an increasingly valuable content hub and SEO driver for the Getty’s digital presence. Where “blog” was once a dirty word, today the entire Getty community, including senior curators and leaders, contributes on a regular basis. She’ll provide tips on getting staff motivated and equipped with blogging skills, crafting successful story angles and outlines, and handling the mechanics and politics of the editorial process, from light polishing to total teardowns.


Lori Byrd-McDevitt, Manager of Digital Content, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis 
Lori Byrd-McDevitt is the Manager of Digital Content at the world’s largest children's museum, where she coordinates content across the museum’s blog, eNews, and social media. She is most proud of her experience managing and nurturing online communities, from Wikipedia and #musesocial to the Mommy and Daddy blogosphere.


Hands-On w/Open Source Hardware - Arduino and Raspberry Pi 

Arduino! Raspberry Pi! It's very likely that you've heard of these open source microcontrollers and minicomputers. You might even own them. Unfortunately, there’s a huge gulf between beginner “blink an LED” tutorials and advanced projects, with few useful things in between. Our goal in this workshop is to introduce you to open source hardware (OSHW), and get you started by building two basic-but-practical projects you can use in your museum (a video player and an infrared visitor counter). We’ll let you choose one of them to expand upon with advanced lessons, and then discuss ways you can move beyond them to other projects with your newfound knowledge. 

Participants should bring a laptop computer, and will be given software to install before the workshop. Hardware and tools will be provided for the duration of the workshop, and participants will be able to purchase a kit to take back with them to their museums. All code for the projects will be made available to participants.


Jason Alderman, Experience Designer, Cloud Chamber / Balboa Park Online Collaborative 
Jason is an experience designer and museum technologist who builds Fun Interactive Things for museums in Balboa Park.


Experiencing the Visitor Experience

While museum professionals regularly reflect on their own and others’ exhibitions, in practice we rarely get a chance to have deep discourse with our colleagues while engaged within the visitor experience itself. This workshop offers an opportunity to thoroughly review and discuss the museum experience with a group of peers. While most of us have had some sort of direct experience with exhibition design and development, the facilitators believe it is important to have a broader view of the different elements that go into the eventual visitor experience. In this half-day workshop, a small team of seasoned exhibit professionals (Bruce, Kate, Ed) deconstruct the visitor experience at the National World War II with 15-20 colleagues. All three of our experienced professionals have had a hand in different aspects of creating exhibits from start to finish and frequently detour at conferences to examine an exhibition’s approach to ideas, space, interaction, and audience. Fashioned as an ongoing crit and discussion, the workshop will frame aspects to observe in different spaces of the museum, drawing upon multiple disciplines to help colleagues reflect on the multiplicity of factors that make a good experience even better. Starting with the exterior of the building, continuing into the entry, through multiple galleries and exhibit, interstitial spaces, restrooms, the cafe, and more. The group will look at physical spaces, how content is featured, interactive experiences, content, storytelling, object display, engagement techniques, lighting, and audio components to see what succeeds, for whom, and how. Along the way, colleagues will be encouraged to briefly explore on their own before coming back together to debate, debrief, and review.


Bruce Wyman
Ed Rodley
Kate Haley Goldman

Seeing with Words - Visual Description for Museum Websites 

In recent years, museums have begun to focus on making their websites accessible, not only to comply with federal regulations, but also because an accessible site signals a museum’s commitment to welcoming visitors with a range of needs. For blind and low vision visitors, visual information is key to making a website useful; this is especially true for museum sites, with their image-heavy designs. And museums with image description projects find that these descriptions--many of them creative, lyrical, and profound--are useful to all website visitors, not just the blind. Unfortunately, describing images is rarely a part of a museum’s content workflow. 

This hands-on workshop will provide training in describing images using methods developed by the Art Beyond Sight Institute. Attendees will use the Coyote image description software to author short (alt) and long descriptions together. We’ll start the image description training with a shared image set, and--to broaden the scope of the description exercise--move on to describe images contributed by attendees.

The workshop will also prepare attendees to implement a visual description project at home. We’ll review staffing, workflow, and technology models and needs, look at questions of policy (including standards and vetting of descriptions), and think about how to develop local guidelines for descriptions of many image types--including collection, event, and exhibition images--as well as decorative and graphical elements. We’ll think together about other applications for visual descriptions and provide some ideas about how to advocate for visual description projects with your institutional leadership, boards, and funders.

The workshop will be led by Susan Chun, Chief Content Officer at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Anna Chiaretta Lavatelli, Director of Digital Media at the MCA, and Sina Bahram, accessibility advocate, expert, and consultant. The three have recently collaborated to develop to implement visual description across the MCA’s website.


Susan Chun, Chief Content Officer, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago 
Susan Chun is Chief Content Officer at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago where she is responsible for the museum's design, publishing, and new media division.


Evaluation Tips, Tricks, and Shortcuts for Evaluation Skeptics 

Evaluation. That word is often accompanied by heavy sighs, eye rolls, and substantial fear and loathing. While potentially a powerful source of onsite or online audience insights to inform decision-making, evaluation is often synonymous with boring surveys, dense reports, confusing charts and graphs, baffling terminology, complex statistics, and findings that don't inspire action. It's time for evaluation to evolve. This workshop is designed especially for non-evaluators and evaluation skeptics-- whether required to incorporate evaluation by a board, boss, or funder, or whether acknowledging evaluation is needed but unimpressed or unsure where to start. It's true. Evaluation can be underwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Facilitated by a known disruptor of evaluation in our field, attendees will engage in participatory, fun (yes, fun!) evaluation activities that result in practical skill building. They will leave with definitions and jargon demystified, knowing how to plan for, articulate and measure outcomes, having gained experience writing questions that aren't leading or boring, and moving beyond surveys into understanding more creative and generative evaluation methods that measure learning and experiential goals. They will become evaluation advocates, better equipped to incorporate evaluation into future projects and proposals. Think you hate evaluation? This workshop may change your mind.


Kate Livingston,  Principal, ExposeYourMuseum LLC 
Kate Livingston is the founder and Principal of ExposeYourMuseum LLC — a boutique consultancy delivering the tools and data needed to better understand current and potential visitors, teams, communities, and audiences. Kate uses equal parts evaluation, facilitation, capacity building, and strategy to make awesome museums even more awesome.


How to Write the Perfect Tender for Digital Projects 

As a commercial supplier in the areas of collections management, website and interactive design for the past 14 years, Keepthinking evaluates and responds to tens of tenders every year, with a success rate of over 50%.

What we have found over all these years is how differently tenders are approached across the sector. Some of them are thorough, comprehensive and well thought and written - making them a joy to read and respond to. These are the tenders that help deliver the best results, as they mean that the tendering organisation have spent time and effort into understanding what they need and would like to engage a commercial partner to help them get there. Suppliers will be more likely to want to spend time engaging on tenders that show commitment by the potential clients.

However, this is not always the case. Quite a few tenders we come across are failing their primary objective of creating the right conditions for effective and successful procurement. The pitfalls usually lay around the areas of:
- Unclear business objectives
- Poor audience consideration
- Ill-informed judging criteria
- Too prescriptive or too loose on requirements
- Inadequate budget, timescale or priorities

This workshop will help cultural organisation that engage commercial partners create the best conditions for successful tendering, including:
- Doing your homework in respect to business and functional requirements and avoid being too vague
- Maximise the contribution by suppliers by capitalising on their expertise, as opposed to being too prescriptive
- Maximise budgets and timescales, including managing expectations and priorities
- Create the right conditions for choosing the best technical solution in each case
- Understand the impact of waterfall, agile and time & material working practices
- Evaluate the impact of open-source versus proprietary solutions


Cristiano Bianch , Keepthinking 
Cristiano Bianchi holds degrees in Architecture and Virtual Architecture and lectured extensively on both, as well as in interactive design and software development. He started Keepthinking to work with museums, archives, libraries and other cultural organizations and help them organize and present information in a beautiful and accessible way.


Web Analytics and SEO: Learn the Ropes, Work a Plan, Measure the Right Stuff... Declare Victory!

The ability to draw actionable conclusions from website data has come a long way from the days of "logfile" analysis ("How many hits did we get?"). Today's analytics tools are sophisticated and easy to use. Great, right? Actually, no! Today's ecosystem poses challenges for practitioners such as multiple domains and subdomains, 3rd-party donation platforms, and mobile-friendly sites with beautiful but complex design. Implementing a tool and collecting data must be approached with a mixture of planning and training. Practitioners must be mindful of pitfalls such as the ability to easily pair metrics and dimensions that provide reasonable-seeming data, but data which is in fact wrong!

Another lingering challenge is improving a site's "findability" in search engines, a practice still referred to by the somewhat anachronistic name Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Like web analytics, many early best practices still apply, yet today's vastly evolved search landscape presents its own traps: innocent attempts to make a site more findable could result in a penalty, effectively disappearing the site from the face of digital earth.

Join the Smithsonian's Brian Alpert for this workshop designed to make Web Analytics and SEO both understandable, manageable and actionable. Recognizing that most practitioners don't have much time yet need to show measurable results, a common sense, multi-stepped web analytics process will be introduced. Tool-specific highlights will be largely oriented toward the world's most popular web analytics tool, Google Analytics, and carefully-crafted exercises will help familiarize attendees with GA's most powerful features. Automation tools to lighten the load will also be presented. The conversation will shift to today's SEO landscape, and safe, effective steps practitioners may take to improve findability. The metrics focus will continue with a discussion of search-specific free tools and specialized metrics that are effective in demonstrating whether or not website findability is improving.


Brian Alpert Web Analytics & SEM Analyst, Smithsonian Institution  
As the Smithsonian's Web Analytics and Search Engine Marketing Analyst, Brian helps practitioners with training, analysis and hands-on facilitation. Previously, as Texas Instruments' Worldwide Search Engine Marketing Manager, he created and managed TI's first comprehensive SEM program. Brian also plays drums for several bands in the Washington DC area.


Social Media

Back to Top