4 March 2018




This past Friday and Saturday, the annual iSchool Conference took place on campus, with presenters from both the MMSt and MI programs speaking on various topics. It was an action-packed two days full of learning, organized thanks to the Conference Committee (of which our own Katlyn Wooder was a part!). The theme this year, Information in the Air: Society and the Evolving Media left a lot of room for interpretation, and there were unique talks from a variety of presenters. 

While it's easy to get overwhelmed, our MMSt/CRO students put on an excellent showing and represented our program well. 

To recap it for those who did not attend, I've created a breakdown of the speakers from our program; aka, your colleagues! One thing that particularly impressed me was when speakers were able to deliver such meaningful talks in five to seven minutes. Similarly, to make things easier on readers, I've distilled this recap into a lightning talk-esque overview. Enjoy!  

An expanding constellation of media: Examining interconnected and evolving media through Welcome to Night Vale
Evelyn Feldman

Evelyn talks about the expanding media iterations of "Welcome to Night Vale", which started out as a podcast. Photo courtesy of Serena Ypelaar.
Evelyn looked at the podcast "Welcome to Night Vale", originally released in 2012, and the ways in which its expanding canon changes the format. From a novel series to an upcoming television show, the different forms of media define the storytelling in corresponding ways. Evelyn's talk also prompts the overarching question we in museum studies always grapple with: how does the format of storytelling define the content and direction of the interpreted narrative?

“String Quartets, Not Orchestras”: Evolving Engagement Practices in Alberta’s Small Museums
Kristen McLaughlin

Kristen tells us all about her thesis and her fieldwork collecting date in Alberta! Photo courtesy of Amy Intrator.
Kristen told us all about her MMSt thesis project, in which she travelled to Alberta and talked to the staff at three separate museums. She explained how museums in these small towns are more than museums - they are community hubs, heritage centres, and more, and their engagement practices are very different from that of larger museums. To frame her lightning talk, Kristen used Steve Friesen's metaphor in which small museums are "string quartets, not orchestras" since they work on a different scale to present their subject matter to visitors.

Light the Lamp: Illuminating the Information Behaviour of Sports Fans
Sydney Stype

Sydney got some airtime on the Conference Twitter page when talking about hockey fans' information behaviour! 
How do hockey fans get their information, and why do they choose these sources? In her lightning talk, Sydney spoke about the difference between pursuing sports data and updates online versus asking a friend or family member. Her work in analyzing the information behaviour of sports fans stems from her own love of hockey, and she demonstrated her participants' ways of knowing via their own hand-drawn diagrams.

(DIS)CONNECT: Rethinking the importance of new media in shaping visitor experiences
Maeghan Jerry & Hannah Monkman

Maeghan and Hannah examine technology in museums and how the key is not just to use it, but to use it well. Photo courtesy of Serena Ypelaar.
Ever been to a museum or institution that seems to have just slapped up some iPads without a great deal of thought? Maeghan and Hannah tackled this issue in their panel talk about current trends influencing new media in museums. Examining the effectiveness of digital technology, they outlined some issues and glitches that could undermine the visitor experience. When museums charge for these add-ons, they need to consider the value it's adding to the experience, and the tokenism of technology is a trap many institutions can fall into.

Environmental identity and action: a grassroots exploration of cultural reactivity
Lana Tran

Lana takes us through our associations between nature and culture, exploring the intersection in her lightning talk. Photo courtesy of Serena Ypelaar.
What do we think of and value in nature? How about in culture? How do museums handle this crossover, and what can they do better in the current environmental climate? Lana talked a bit about her work on these issues in her lightning talk. Through her involvement with groups such as the U of T chapter of Regenesis on campus, and in communicating with City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Lana highlighted a direction moving forward (she also established a new column, Museums on Earth, to address the issues right here on Musings!). 

Affective Metadata in Art Museum Information Systems
Erin Canning

Erin's workshop, based on her thesis work, was an excellent participatory way to learn about affect in art museums! Photo courtesy of Serena Ypelaar.
As someone who participated in Erin's thesis research at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) back in November, I was excited to learn more about the process of how she classified her information to measure and analyze affect. The emotions and reactions we had to certain works of art (as provided by Erin) demonstrated the affective experience. We got to work through our emotional reactions using words and grouping them to create a coding system, just as Erin did for her thesis.

A Window to the Past: The Material Culture of Bookplates
Selin Kahramanoglu

Selin shows us bookplates from the Fisher's collection and how to interpret them to learn about their owners. Photo courtesy of Amy Intrator.
Selin's poster talk dealt with the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library's collection of bookplates, which individuals put in the inside of their personal books. Using examples from prominent Toronto society members such as Vincent Massey, Lady Eaton, and J.E.H. MacDonald, Selin walked us through the defining characteristics of bookplates and how we can interpret their features to make meaning. 

Musings on Media: Relevance through Digital Dialogue
Serena Ypelaar, Amy Intrator, Sadie MacDonald, Emily Welsh, Kathleen Lew

Our stacked panel discussing Musings' relevance on a digital platform and our work connecting to museums and individuals in the field! Photo courtesy of Kathleen Vahey.
The penultimate panel was delivered by yours truly, alongside a handful of our excellent Musings columnists! This year's team has been extraordinary in engaging audiences, and I'm so proud of how Amy, Sadie, Emily, and Kathleen exemplified their hard work. We talked about how we are broadening our readership as well as addressing key issues through four lenses: current events, difficult legacies, commemoration, and social media. In encouraging dialogue we've hoped to keep ourselves relevant as a blog, even in the face of a rapidly evolving digital landscape. 

Cataloguing Miss Chief: Bringing the Museum into the Studio

Sadie MacDonald

Sadie talks about being open-minded toward unexpected career pathways and how with a bit of resourcefulness, you can make your own opportunities. Photo courtesy of Serena Ypelaar.
Finally, in the last panel of the day, Sadie's lightning talk outlined her work for artist Kent Monkman at his studio. In cataloguing his works, Sadie has applied her museum skills outside the conventional framework one would expect of a museum career. She highlighted the importance of being open-minded and taking opportunities regardless of whether they are your "dream job"- sometimes the best experiences come from taking a bit of a detour off your set career path!

We're so proud of our fellow students for being brave enough to stand up in front of a crowd and talk about their work! I highly recommend trying to get involved with the iSchool Conference in some way next year; the community is very supportive and it's a memorable way to learn from our fellow master's students. The information was definitely in the air all weekend. 


  1. Well done, Serena and cohorts.
    A pleasure to read all your gatherings of information in your monthly musings. Congratulations and best wishes as you all continue your journey. SAY (nee Meads)

  2. Thanks for picking out the time to discuss this, I feel great about it and love studying more on this topic. It is extremely helpful for me. Thanks for such a valuable help again. Best Air Hockey Tables in 2018