MCN 2017: Looking Back, Thinking Forward, Taking Action
So this post is a million months late but better late than never! This past November, I went to my first Museum Computer Network conference as 2017's MCN Scholar. I was nervous but so excited because it would also be the first time I would present on ALIM and talk about it to an audience. ALIM has mostly been shared online with a few friends/colleagues and grown from there. But presenting this in a room of people as a project was a new and important step for me in legitimizing the initiative.
Not that I needed a conference or a public talk to legitimize what I was doing but I think for me personally it was reassurance that I was on the right track. I spent many years working jobs that did not inspire me so to finally be doing something I am very passionate about with a real long term goal in mind has been very exciting. I made so many new friends and got so much more out of it than I really thought I would. The experience I got out of the MCN conference was about so much more than the amazing sessions and the great speakers.
I was among a smart group of scholars selected and tbh, I was pretty intimidated. Reading their bios online and what they were working on, I thought, 'How could I possibly compare? I'm just posting stuff online.' This was just a little bit of insecurity talking. I know what I am doing is valuable and what it means to me but I'm glad I pushed passed it because I really opened myself up to what a person can gain from taking risks and being open to new experiences. I'm so used to sitting in the corner and just observing. This time I participated.
And it really started before any of us got to Pittsburgh. I am extremely shy and socially awkward (some of you might not believe that, which is the trickery I am able to present via social media). I mean, like, I really get anxiety in spaces with strangers and generally try to avoid it unless accompanied by someone I know. I get annoyed at my own shyness because I want to just be the outgoing, extrovert for once because it seems like so much fun but no, I am a ball of stress and anxiety and would rather observe from afar. Anyways, I thought about posting about my anxiety going to a conference alone but even that gave me anxiety lol I don't really like to put my business out there (and trust, with ALIM I've really said a lot I never thought I would ever admit to). But I took a deep breath and posted a short tweet (that I hoped no one would read):
But everyone did read it and the first comment snowballed into a group dinner that I could not have been more thankful for (thanks Nikhil for your kindness and everyone else that responded to the tweet). It is always interesting to me that one could make so many friends online but here they all were ready to welcome me into the MCN fold and so with that out of the way, I was ready for MCN.
The MCN Scholars session was towards the end of the week. It was a small room with a small crowd but I was beaming with pride because I had my support group who joined the session to hear me speak (and take photos, Instagram-live it, quote-tweet it, etc. - thank you all, you know who you are). I don't really care if it's a group of 5 or 500; these facts on Latinx in museums are important for all to hear so I was ready to kick butt and take names. I did mess up a few times but I think overall I'd give myself an A. I'll make sure to upload my PowerPoint presentation to the website.
What about the rest of the week? Let me give you the highlights of that week that stood out to me the most and what has contributed to an unforgettable experience:
- THE KEYNOTE! Okay, maybe I should have left the best for last but that keynote was everything! Adrianne Russell, Jamil Hill, and Aleia Brown answered the crowd's live questions and spoke on museum inclusiveness. I hung onto every word as they answered question after question. I also live tweeted it, furiously typing away before another brilliant Twitter-fitting point was made (some of you may know the feeling of how intense live-Tweeting can be lol). I actually looked back at the tweets recently and it brought me back to the feeling I had sitting there in that room. Sometimes when I am doing the work alone I feel like it is never ending and that I am just a hamster spinning on my wheel. But hearing from these three speakers reminds me that I need to keep going because I am not alone in this work and that we all are contributors to creating more inclusive cultural institutions and contributors to a greater story.
- The MCN People of Color dinner (#mcnpocdinner). Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler wrote a wonderful post about the dinner where a small museum community gathered to talk museums, struggles, stereotypes and our journeys. It was incredible and we decided that day to be each other's support through the next week (and beyond). This was special for me. I made friendships here and in an instant went from not knowing them at all to trusting them with my insecurities.
- A. Andrea Montiel de Shuman. Okay I hope I don't embarrass her by putting her on the spot but she presented at Ignite MCN and I sat at the edge of my seat on the balcony screaming, clapping and hollering. She is the digital experience designer at the Detroit Institute of Arts and a proud Mexican-American. Her immigrant story is amazing, she is brilliant at what she does, and I'm lucky to have women like her representing Latinas in museums everywhere. I won't go into her story because that is for her to tell, but I will link to here presentation here. I HIGHLY suggest you watch it because it was so impactful and a prime example of the powerful effects an inclusive museum can have on a community.
Thank you to every single person I interacted with both on and offline during #MCN2017. Your support, your kindness, your words of inspiration, I remember every single moment and I truly appreciate it. As I continue building on ALIM, it is with the kindness of my community, both Latinx and the museum field, that I am able to evolve and push forward. MCN would absolutely not be the same without these people who gave me the courage to turn these new experiences into permanent memories that will be the foundation of my future success. ✻