Museum Computer Network (MCN) was founded in 1967 to support professionals working to transform the way cultural organizations reach, engage, and educate audiences using digital technologies and new media. For well over fifteen years now, MCN’s Scholarship Program has awarded scholarships to emerging professionals from across the cultural heritage sector. These scholarships have traditionally supported scholars in attending the MCN annual conference and presenting at the conference as part of a series of 5-minute lightning talks, highlighting research and work emerging in the field. Hundreds of former MCN Scholarship recipients have experienced the benefits of the program, contributing to MCN’s mission to build digital capacity across the museum sector by growing a digitally savvy workforce that can navigate and harness the latest innovations. Now, more than ever, this program must continue to expand to reach new talent, sharing their wisdom with the museum sector at large.

In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, MCN was forced to cancel its planned annual conference, scheduled to take place in-person in Baltimore that November, and to redesign the conference into a virtual experience that allowed the community to (virtually) come together. The scholarship program also needed to be redesigned. As part of this move, the MCN 2020 Scholarship Program, made possible by the generous support of the Kress Foundation, was still able to award scholarships to 10 qualified emerging professionals from the cultural sector, representing an international scope and varied interests/specialties. These scholarships supported museum professionals in conducting research, working with the MCN Special Interest Groups, and ultimately creating a peer-reviewed paper of their findings centered around the prompt “What’s Emerging in the Field?” and aligned with the sustainability theme.

The MCN 2020 VIRTUAL conference, “Sustainability: Preserve/Progress,” explored how museums and museum professionals work with the tension of transformation and longevity. Throughout the conference, sessions explored the varied facets of sustainability including technological, financial, environmental, cultural, social, and even personal. As sessions and presenters looked to highlight and amplify the increasingly fraught nature of sustainability currently rippling throughout the global health, labor, racial, and social crises, scholars similarly turned toward these topics in their writings.

The MCN 2020 Scholarship Committee is honored to present this publication, “What’s Emerging in the Field?: Essays from the MCN 2020 VIRTUAL Scholarship Program Recipients.” This volume contains 10 conference-inspired responses to the state of museum technology and sustainability in 2020, including essays, reflections, case studies, and conversations. The topics explore areas as diverse as digital literacy in museum studies programs, GLAM educators adaption to virtual content, museums and open source, sustainability of digital tools, applying citizen science to digital museums, Indigenous materials and authority, film conservation, storytelling traditions, informal online learning spaces, and the ART | library deco, an online African American digital library.

It is the hope of the MCN Scholarship Committee that this volume will help continue to amplify the importance of the MCN Scholarship Program in fulfilling the mission of highlighting emerging professionals within the sector as a key to enriching and enhancing the MCN community and the field of practice. The committee strives to create a diverse cohort of scholars who represent a wide array of institutions, expertise, backgrounds, and projects; and this publication is a reflection of this goal.

It is also worth noting that our editorial process reflected the MCN community values and mission of connecting people to ideas and to each other. Each of the essays included in this volume were reviewed by a panel of volunteers, including the MCN Scholarship committee. We also extend particular gratitude to Elizabeth Bollwerk and Andrea Ledesma for their support reviewing the papers, to Donna Linden for editing them, and to Greg Albers for guiding us through the publishing process.

The Committee also heartily acknowledges and thanks the 2020 Scholarship cohort for their efforts, iterations, and continued support of this project during a particularly challenging year. We acknowledge them here: Maria Arias, Emma Cantrell, Dillon Connelly, Emily Crum, Alexis Garretson, kYmberly Keeton, Houghton Kinsman, Dana Reijerkerk, Paulina Reizi, Julia Sager, and Lucia Taeubler.

We hope this series of essays and insights from the promising emerging professionals of the 2020 MCN Scholarship cohort will inspire and inform; and we look forward to seeing how this work is carried out by the field in the future.

MCN 2020 Scholarship Committee
Jessica BrodeFrank
Isabel Sanz

MCN Executive Director
Eric Longo