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Pre-conference Workshops are half-day interactive sessions held the day before the conference (Tuesday, November 7, 2017) 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: $150 per workshop.
  • Space is limited so make sure you make your selection early.


Digital Storytelling for Museums—Open Source

Andrew David, Kjell Olsen, Misty Havens, Meghan Tongen

Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia)


Museums bring their collections to life by sharing stories with their audiences, which leads to deeper engagement, enjoyment, and learning. In addition to the traditional methods of museum storytelling—such as guided tours—there is a significant demand for digital storytelling, which has the capacity to reach broader audiences and provide new entry points into the collection. However, there are two significant challenges: existing solutions are cost-prohibitive and usually require deep technical expertise for implementation.


The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) has improved and expanded its open-source digital storytelling platform, delivering a new version that includes more features and is easier for organizations across the field to install and use. This workshop will walk attendees through the setup and best practice use of the platform.




09:00 Welcome & introductions

  1. Getting to know the tool: Tech tour (frontend, backend, authoring tool)

10:00 Break

10:15 How to get started: Step-by-step tutorial

10:45 Hands-on authoring tool demo: Create a story and see it go live

11:15 Draft a proposal: How might you use this at your organization?

11:30 Questions, next steps for adoption, and opportunities for collaboration


Goal 1: Opportunities for digital storytelling with open-source platform


Goal 2: Step-by-step instructions on how to get started with the tool at your own museum.


This workshop is ideal for anyone who is involved in creating compelling narratives for museum audiences, from designers to editors to authors to digital media producers to developers.


This storytelling platform will work for any collection, as long as there are assets (photos, video, audio) to support the text.


What's FUN got to do with it?

Keillan Adams, Green Door Labs

Erica Gangsei, SFMOMA


Games have overtaken film as the highest-grossing and most popular form of entertainment worldwide. At the same time, digital native millennial audiences are coming through museums’ doors and to our digital channels expecting populist and participatory forms of engagement. Museums are hastening to catch up with these trends, developing “learning games” or “gamifying” aspects of the visitor experience. But many museums are wondering how best to strike the balance between their educational mission and FUN. What kinds of games are right for GLAM audiences? And do all these games have to be digital or video games?


This hands-on workshop will model a Game Jam—a time-boxed gathering in which game designers, code artists, museum staff, and other creatives can develop quick prototypes of games for visitors to play—from start to finish, in a way that participants can take home to their own institutions. Participants will learn best practices of game design and develop games which can then be playtested by MCN attendees. Participants will have the opportunity to reconvene halfway through the conference to share player feedback and iterate on games. This workshop will provide a common vocabulary for developing successful games to create engaging and meaningful experiences for audiences of all ages.



1) Introductions: name, institution, favorite game [15 min]

2) Best practices in game design overview [30 min]

3) Identify the problem space [15 min]

4) Pitch game ideas and break into working groups [15 min]

5) Prototype games [20 min]

6) Playtest & Critique [40 min]

7) Iterate prototypes [20 min]

8) Wrap up: next steps, finding game dev resources in your home town [25 min]


Goal 1: Attendees will be able to identify core elements of good game design, and a practical understanding of how to run a game jam at their own institution.


Goal 2: Attendees will be able to place games on a “serious to fun” continuum, and to critically understand games in popular culture and the GLAM sector alike.


This workshop will benefit any GLAM program staff looking to understand more about games as an experiential medium. The Game Jam model is one that can be run at a large or small institution, and can be equally effective no matter what the program budget.


Web Analytics and SEO

Elena Villaespesa, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Brian Alpert, Smithsonian Institution


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 and The Met’s Elena Villaespesa for their workshop designed to make Web Analytics and SEO 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 Google Analytics's most powerful features. Automation tools to lighten the load will also be presented as well as Google’s new powerful dashboard tool Data Studio.




Part I: Web Analytics

- Selecting strategics goals

- Analytics Settings

- Metrics and dimensions

- Segmentation

- Case studies

- Dashboards

- Google Data Studio

- Automation: GA data grabber

- Practice


Part II: SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

- SEO basics

- Improve the findability of your Online Collection

- What's new in 2017

- Measuring the impact of your SEO efforts


Goal 1: Improve Web Analytics knowledge and provide tools for reporting


Goal 2: Understand SEO and create a plan to improve the visibility of your website


Attendees need to bring a computer and access to Google Analytics.


This workshop is ideal for beginner and intermediate digital producers, content producers, editors, and digital managers


Git some version control

Jeremy Tubbs, Founder, Conlectio


This workshop will teach attendees how to use the power of the Git version control system within their institutions digital projects. Version control can and should be used for more than just software projects, and any document that requires a centralized source of truth containing its history can benefit from understanding the core concepts of Git. Museums are utilizing public sites like github.com to share their digital strategy, open access policies and of course collection data with the world. Private repositories can also be created to keep track of internal documents.


This workshop will teach attendees how to use the power of the Git version control system within their institutions digital projects. Version control can and should be used for more than just software projects, any document that you would like to keep a centralized source of truth containing its history can benefit from understanding the core concepts of Git.




- Quick discussion of the benefits of using git for version control.

- Introduction to git online platforms: Github, Bitbucket and Gitlab.

- Review successful museum git repositories: online collections, software projects, digital strategy, etc.

- Introduction to tools desktop applications to make working.

- Brainstorm projects that users would like to create.

- Sign users up for accounts with an online provider of their choice.

- Review the basic git commands

- Help users start repositories and make first commits

- Talk about git hooks and API integrations that can notify users of changes made by collaborators.


Goal 1: Encourage the use of the Git version control system


Goal 2: Make Attendees Comfortable with terms and tools of Git


Hands-on with static site generators

Greg Albers, Eric Gardner

J. Paul Getty Trust


Going back more than a quarter century to the first days of the web, websites were originally delivered as simple, flat HTML files. In the years that followed, the demand for more interactive, flexible and data-driven websites increased, and we became reliant on increasingly complicated backend server architectures that would deliver customized pages and sites on the fly. However, proving that everything old is new again, the past several years has seen a renaissance in flat-file delivery, powered by a new class of modern web tool: static-site generators.


Static-site generators are software designed to take plain-text content and media assets, feed it through a set of customized templates, and output a website as a packaged set of HTML/CSS/JavaScript files that can be hosted on virtually any webserver with no special setup. There are now dozens of different open-source static-site generators available and they can be configured to make just about any kind of website. The Getty has an open source digital publishing tool, Quire, built on Hugo.


In this workshop, participants will get hands on with the Getty’s Quire. As a digital publishing tool, static-site generators allow us to publish in multiple formats, decrease dependencies and maintenance issues and thereby increase site longevity, and keep source content in a human-readable format; all while still offering features like interactive maps, deep zoom images, audio and video, and more. While we’ll use Quire as a framework, the fundamental tools and approaches involved are directly applicable to other major static-site generators as well.


Participants will learn static-site basics including: How to get up and running with basic command line tools; converting and editing content in Markdown and YAML (the two plain-text workhorses of the static-site world); the basic manipulation of CSS styles, and construction of page templates and partials or includes; and site deployment via FTP or GitHub pages.



I. Overview of static-site generators

II. Setting up your machine with Quire (command line and troubleshooting)

III. Starting a new project (Navigating the directory, previewing the site)

IV. Editing and adding content (Markdown and YAML, images and other media assets)

V. Styles and templates (CSS and variables, template basics)

VI. Deployment


Goal 1: To understand the basic operations of static site generators, which ones are out there, and what they can do.


Goal 2: To get hands on experience with the Getty's new open source static site publishing tool, Quire.


This workshop is ideal for anyone interested in digital publishing, those looking for alternative open-source tools for building modern websites, and users with a very modest amount of code/markup experience.


Beginner Hacking—Arduino

Chris Evans, 106 Group/Northeastern University


Back by popular demand, this workshop gets you started with hacking hardware and software.


Have you heard about things like microcontrollers, sensors, 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 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, buttons, lights, wires, etc. You will be able to take these items home after the workshop.


Be sure to bring your own laptop, ideally with admin access to install required free software.


The Future of Cultural Heritage

Desi Gonzalez, Jessica Warchall

The Andy Warhol Museum


Science fiction author Naomi Alderman recently wrote in The Guardian, “The conclusion I’ve come to through extensive speculative fiction voyaging is that the best we can hope for, probably, is to create a society that tries hard not to leave people out...To imagine how it could be different.” Artists, writers, and designers often create visions of the future in order to examine the world we live in now.


In this design-thinking workshop, we use science fiction and speculative design as a framework to probe the historical roles and functions of museums and imagine how they might look 300 years from now. During the first part of the workshop, we will review representations of museums and cultural heritage in science fiction—from The Time Machine’s reappropriation of museum objects to Interstellar’s velvet-rope displays at Cooper Station—as well as discuss contemporary projects that use the museum or archive model to imagine alternative futures, such as the Afrofuturist explorations in the Iyapo Repository by artists Salome Asega and Ayodamola Okunseinde.


Fueled by this discussion, participants in the workshop will design an audio guide from the year 2317 using basic audio recording and web publishing tools. Each team chooses one of several objects or landmarks in downtown Pittsburgh to respond to. By the end of the session, participants will have created an interpretive audio guide through a speculative fiction lens, exploring the impact of what we do and deem culturally valuable today has on our collective future histories.



  1. We have lift off (15 minutes): Introductions and ice breaker.

  2. Discussion (40 minutes): Workshop leaders will lead the group in discussion of the depiction of cultural heritage in science fiction and the trope of the museum in speculative design. Examples of science fiction and speculative design works and projects to be discussed include Interstellar, Ready Player One, The Time Machine, Westworld, Center for Postnatural History, Museum of Jurassic Technology, and Iyapo Repository, among others, as well as brief readings participants are encouraged to read in advance.

  3. Activity (90 minutes): Working in pairs, participants will be assigned an object or location in downtown Pittsburgh. They will be assigned a scenario (“environmental disaster,” “utopia,” “inclusion/exclusion”) within which to interpret their object, or they can use a theme of their choosing. Facilitators will conduct brief demonstrations of simple audio recording and editing tools that participants can use on their smartphones. Pairs will publish their audio stops onto Wordpress or Google maps to create a simple collective audio guide of downtown Pittsburgh in the year 2317.

  4. Share out (20 minutes): Pairs will present their audio tours to the group. The workshop leaders will then engage participants in a discussion about how museum professionals can use science fiction and speculative design as a framework to think about their own practices and inform future decisions.


Goal 1: Participants use science and speculative fiction to examine what it means to be a museum, who museums are for, and what is culturally valuable. Participants are encouraged to think about how our choices now impact the future of museums.


Goal 2: Participants learn design thinking skills and rapidly prototype interpretive audio.


Participants are asked to do a few short readings on science fiction and speculative design before attending this session. Each participant should bring either a laptop and/or smartphone because each group or pair will need at least one of each.


Often, the daily grind of museum life makes it difficult to think critically about the work we do and why we do it. We believe that this workshop benefits museum professionals at all stages of their careers, providing opportunities to reflect while teaching design thinking and prototyping skills.

We’re passionate about science fiction and speculative design, and we know others in the MCN community are too!


We’d like to keep the conversation going beyond the workshop. The resulting audio guide will be published to the web via WordPress and will be available for conference participants and beyond to use during their time in Pittsburgh.



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