Howdy Partner! Transforming Relationships Between Museums, Universities, and Communities through Cultural Technology in New Mexico [working title]

Mimi Roberts, USA

The Center for Cultural Technology (CCT) began in 2005 in New Mexico as a pilot project with a $2,500 grant. In 2006, a formal cultural technology partnership was established between the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Media Arts & Technology at New Mexico Highlands University, and the state provided $100,000 in seed funding. Seven years later, the partnership encompasses • The AmeriCorps Cultural Technology internship program • PICT: The Program in Interactive Cultural Technology, a biannual immersive course where students work on an exhibition project for a museum • A new classroom/media lab for Highlands co-located at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque • A cooperative agreement for science interpretation with the Santa Fe Institute, a world-renown complexity science research center • A makerspace collaboration with the Santa Fe Children’s Museum • A Computational Preservation research collaboration with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Conservation Department • A proposed MFA in Media Arts/Cultural Technology pending approval by the New Mexico Higher Education Department • The possibility of a new facility for Media Arts pending the outcome of a bond measure on the November ballot • The Parachute Factory, an artist-driven, community-based makerspace in planning stages for a vacant storefront in the historic district of the university’s hometown of Las Vegas • A growing network of supporters and cultural institutions offering opportunities to and benefiting from interactions with students and faculty.

The proposed paper will describe the elements of this thriving museum-university partnership and reveal the secrets of its success—starting small, staying scrappy, seizing opportunities and spreading the vision. The paper will also explore how the CCT partnership is promoting the use of technology by New Mexico’s cultural institutions, paving the way for a new career path into museum work for economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minorities, and expanding access to technology for cultural institutions of all kinds by creating practical and affordable solutions. The paper will also address the benefits that have accrued to the university and its reputation through this unique form of community service and engagement.

Beyond the horizon of technological advances behind-the-scenes in museums, in exhibits, and online lies the potential for technology to move cultural institutions from the margins of community life into the center of initiatives to improve local economies, reform education, and enhance the quality of life. New platforms are blurring boundaries between cultural technology, tourism technology, and educational technology, opening up opportunities for new kinds of community partnerships and collaborations. The paper is proposed in conjunction with a demonstration session that will showcase recent examples of student-produced CCT collaborative projects.