The MCA’s National Centre for Creative Learning (NCCL) represents a dynamic and innovative space for learning in the Museum. Networked video-conferencing facilities and digital infrastructure utilising the latest technology enable the MCA to seamlessly engage with classrooms across the country, providing much-needed virtual resource support to schools in regional and remote Australia. We talk to MCA Digital Learning Coordinator Melinda Garcia who plays a key role in implementing these digital excursions.
Melinda, how long do digital excursions last and what topics do they cover?
Digital Excursions run for 45 minutes and are a super interactive and fun introduction to contemporary art, using the MCA Collection as a source of inspiration and play. They take place in the National Centre for Creative Learning and are run by our talented Artist Educators.
How far in advance are bookings required?
Essentially: it is first in, best dressed. We plan up to a year in advance, so some teachers get in nice and early, whereas others take advantage of last minute availabilities.
How many video conferences did you set up in 2012 and how many schools did you connect with?
In our pilot year we delivered 30 Digital Excursions to over 600 students from across the state. To ensure maximum interactivity whilst taking advantage of the technology generously provided to us by Polycom and Telstra, we limit each session to one school with up to 30 students. In this sense we’re much more interested in quality of engagement over quantity of participants.
What are some of the remoter places you linked up with?
We’ve connected as far as Norfolk Island – students from the local high school joined a session with the Biennale of Sydney exhibition staff who shared their unique experiences staging an exhibition on Cockatoo Island. I think they definitely identified with the topic!
Do metropolitan Sydney schools connect or do they make the physical journey to the Museum?
Metropolitan schools are certainly welcome to connect at a cost of $100 per session (schools outside of Metropolitan Sydney connect for free). Of course there is nothing better than a visit to see the art in reality but the digital excursion is another good way for students to learn about contemporary art.
How much behind-the-scenes work is required to generate digital content and what does it involve? For example, how do you convey the Museum’s spaces to people who have never visited the building and seen the artworks for real?
I am lucky enough to work with a small team of passionate Artist Educators to develop the program structure as well as the session content. Our focus is on the behind-the-scenes content so a lot of what we do is sourcing images, video and audio of artists at work, installation and bringing the voice of the artist to the fore. Rather than try and replicate a gallery experience, we concentrate on the amazing people who make up the Museum, from our Artist Educators to our curators, artists and conservators. For us, it’s about forming rewarding and hopefully long lasting relationships with the schools that visit us via video conferencing.
Finally, what is the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely meeting such a variety of people every day, either in person or virtually, and being able to share our passion for contemporary art with them.
For more information on Digital Excursions at the MCA and other Learning programs at the MCA, click here
Melinda Garcia is Digital Learning Coordinator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. She has a Master of Arts in e-Learning from the University of Technology, Sydney and a keen interest in the possibilities offered by new technologies to make the visitor/learner experience richer. Melinda works across the Learning Team to design experiences for a range of audiences in the Digital and Multimedia Studios in the National Centre for Creative Learning. Within the Digital Media team she produces content for MCA digital platforms including the website, Online Collection, mobile app and social media, and oversees the MCA’s Digital Excursions program which connects the Museum via video conferencing to remote audiences. Melinda has also worked with the Biennale of Sydney, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Modern Art New York.