"MuseumNext is more than a conference"
The International museum conference, MuseumNext, returns to Edinburgh this March after nine years. For those who've never attended the conference before we asked Mark McLeod, Project Manager - Dunfermline Digital Tours, at Fife Cultural Trust and a regular MuseumNext attendee to tell us more about his experiences.
In autumn 2009 I was a fresh recruit to Scottish Museums after completing an HLF project at the Falconer Museum in Moray. My first paid job in Scotland was rewarding, but I wondered how I could learn more about museums now I had decided to pursue a career in this esteemed field.
An advert for an "Unconference" in Newcastle caught my eye. Nina Simon from Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History was talking about Participative Museums. It looked ideal. With the bonus of meeting a blogger from the other side of the world to learn the art of engagement and how to grow participation in audiences.
Those two days in Newcastle were career defining. We talked Flickr tags, played games outside and had a list of seven wild ideas to help create experiences for museum visitors. I met organiser Jim Richardson, who was running a graphics business at the time. He was curious about how museums could become more relevant to him and his family after some poor experiences. So, who wouldn’t invite an international blogger and put on an unconference in their home town for about 50 people to attend?
From UnConference to Global Museum Conference
MuseumNext sock puppet made collaboratively, 2009
Eleven years and over 30 conferences worldwide later, Jim has left the design world behind to lead MuseumNext into a brand to get museums to think ‘What’s next?’ and stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. MuseumNext now hosts events for cultural professionals to attend on their respective continents; to hear from the world’s best and most experienced in an expanding range of skills and abilities that the 21st century knowledge and experience economies demand.
MuseumNext is more than a conference. It's also a community filled with optimism, ambition and I personally gain momentum from being part of that group. The community which surrounds MuseumNext is so valuable. Delegates come from all over the world, especially to the European conferences, with all levels of role represented. Jim has offered bursaries to Museum Detox, students and introduced innovative special deals for freelancers. This means professionals from all ages; museum sizes and different job titles can benefit from meeting each other. The social side is special. Having one on one time with Van Gogh's work in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum is a highlight. Also having the entire Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum to the delegates one conference evening
That welcoming community begins online before you even arrive. Delegates are invited to join a closed Facebook group where they can share questions about the conference,travel or accommodation. It's also a place to build the excitement for visiting a new city and to meet likeminded peers and explore new ideas. I've made some great friends attending many of the European conferences. They've tolerated me enough to share Air BnBs to keep costs affordable and supply important social and welfare support during the conference.
Aspiration to Personal Development
Attending MuseumNext conferences has also had a lot of impact on me in various different ways including:
- increased confidence in networking. Everyone is so welcoming and excited to attend
- hearing from Local Projects about how 9/11 Memorial and Museum tackles daily interpretation of 9/11 using plugins to the worlds press scouring for any mention of the 2001 event
- regular contributor Dave Patten, Head of New Media at the Science Museum Group, explained how they and Google delivered the complexities of Web Lab of 2013
- Tim Powell of Historic Royal Palaces honest experience for The Lost Palace inspired me to apply for my current role to create digital tours in Dunfermline on a much smaller budget but inspiring none the less
- Speakers can be from smaller concerns too. Two of my career highlights are being on a panel in Geneva for upcoming technologies and last year reading my once-upon-a-time story about GnT growing their education programme.
Why is this of interest to Scottish museum professionals? This March, the European MuseumNext for 2020 comes to Edinburgh. Tickets are available and many of the speakers have been announced. Attendees are coming from all over the place including Scotland. I believe Scotland has a lot to shout about to our neighbours. Our Recognised Collections, approaches to problem solving and innovative projects recently completed, big and small. Not to mention that two local museums are both nominated for the European Museum of the Year; National Museum of Scotland and V&A at Dundee.
Are you keen to get some professional development to find your next job? Want to meet people doing your job in European museums to discuss joint projects? Sign up to MuseumNext Edinburgh and let’s get your next adventure started.
Mark Macleod, Project Manager Dunfermline Digital Tours, Fife Cultural Trust. @MarkMacleo
MuseumNext Europe 2020 takes place in Edinburgh on 23 - 25 March at The Hub. Early Bird at £480 tickets are available until 23rd January 2020.