#MW17 Cleveland: Big Takeaways


Before #MW17 becomes a faraway memory, I am setting down my greatest takeaways.

  1. Data isn’t numbers; it’s code for ideas. Unlock those ideas thoughtfully.

Data is a perennial topic at MW. But, this year, it seemed to be even more popular with more questions and conversations that highlighted great knowledge about its use (and misuse) in the field.

  • Even clean data is only good data if used appropriately.
  • Data is just clutter if you don’t use it. Museums collected a great deal of data.  But we often don’t set clear goals and then make a clear plan of how to assess that goal.
  • Qualitative issues, like joy, might be tackled through quantitative questions. But, be careful to think through this, as you don’t want to step into the quagmires of false causality.
  • There are sectors of our field that don’t track information, and so this information is unusable. Data isn’t useful if it isn’t collected.
  • Other fields have tackled understanding data, say conversation rates, so their models can be helpful for us.


  1. Trust is returned with commitment

Trust came up throughout many different types of sessions.

  • In a crowdsourcing session, numerous organizations shared the value of trusting patrons to share creative products.
  • Trusting colleagues with data allows you to come up with a better understanding of insights.
  • Trusting visitors with impacting exhibitions creates better exhibitions and greater buy-in in the institution.
  • Trusting the world with open access to collections gives unimaginable results to institutions. Even if statistically few access this data, the investment was low compared to return.


  1. Inclusion hurts no one and so is good everyone.

Inclusion, as the theme of the conversation, did underlie many conversations. While inclusion was discussed in terms of disabilities, in many ways, it was a term about making sure everyone could partake.  In other word, planning for those who might be left out, only adds people to the party—it doesn’t uninvite the average visitors.

In many ways, these three ideas are interconnected. Inclusion is about trust; if you plan for everyone, more people will trust you.  And, allowing others to be included in data planning and research is an act of trust.

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