Las Vegas, NM – Three New Mexico Highlands University media arts faculty and four graduate students presented on cutting-edge multimedia technology at the 40th Annual Museum Computer Network Conference in Seattle in November.

The conference focused on how rapid technological advances are broadening the reach and the very definition of museums.

Media arts professors Miriam Langer and Megan Jacobs presented, along with media arts instructor Jonathon Lee. Graduate students Eli Gonzales, Joey Montoya, Mariano Ulibarri, and Greg Williamson also presented, thanks to technology program funding from Los Alamos National Security, LLC.

“I admire the tenacity, vision and positive can-do attitudes of the Highlands University media arts faculty. The program has very high regard in the museum technology industry,” said Elizabeth Neely, director of digital information and access for the Art Institute of Chicago and program co-chair for the conference. “There are some media arts powerhouses at Highlands who are defining cultural technology and university partnerships.

“I was also extremely impressed with this group of media arts students from Highlands. They were knowledgeable, poised and articulate, and able to hold their own with veteran professionals working in the field,” Neely said.

Langer said the four graduate students are superb ambassadors for the university’s Media Arts Department, which is committed to giving students opportunities to showcase their work.

All four students worked as interns through the university’s one-of-a-kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology Program – a partnership with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs that gives students real-world experience in museums and other cultural institutions throughout the state.

Langer chaired a panel discussion about an emerging trend for hands-on discovery based labs – called a makerspace – in museums. Ulibarri was part of the panel, along with directors from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.

“There’s a huge national and international movement of do-it-yourself makerspace environments that bring people together to experience the joy of creating and tinkering, using open-source hardware and software,” Langer said. “Whether it’s discovering a new toy or small-scale manufacturing and 3-D printing, makerspaces are booming.”

The panel discussion and another conference session Langer led focused on the same technology and content she teaches in her physical computing classes at Highlands.

Ulibarri, 31, is a fourth-generation Las Vegas native who presented about his thesis research called Parachute Factory – a makerspace he established in Las Vegas in September at a collaborative art and media studio at 166 Bridge Street.

“In Northern New Mexico, it’s especially important for people to reclaim their self reliance and take pride in things they make or repair, whether it’s a website or a broken motorcycle,” Ulibarri said. “At the conference, I also presented my recent physical computing project: a new experimental computer keyboard that uses screen print ink as an interface for the user to type, eliminating wires and buttons in the circuitry. I used Arduino, an open-source hardware platform.”

Ulibarri said he left the conference with more confidence, and a web of professional contacts interested in collaborating with him on future projects.

In Jacobs’ computational imaging classes, her students learn photogrammetry­ – the technique of using two-dimensional still images to create three dimensional models using software such as PhotoScan or 123D Catch.

This summer, two of Jacobs’ students, Joey Montoya and Greg Williamson, worked on a digital imaging conservation project for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe that employed photogrammetry. Dale Kronkright, head of conservation at the museum, supervised their work.

Jacobs, Kronkright, Montoya and Williamson presented about the O’Keeffe conservation project, and how photogrammetry can be used to monitor and detect changes in objects like a painting or historical structures like O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiú, N.M.

“Joey and Greg gave brilliant presentations on complex information and engaged their audience so well,” Jacobs said. “It’s very rewarding to test these new technologies in the classroom and then have students present at a conference where they can have a larger dialogue with professionals in the field.”

Jacobs and Montoya also presented a session demonstrating how museums can use photogrammetry to create robust 3-D models for exhibits.

“It was very exciting to be part of a panel presenting to organizations like the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Montoya, a 23-year-old Española native. “I’m extremely grateful for the doors that have opened to me through this Georgia O’Keeffe historic preservation project and this conference.

“The media arts faculty at Highlands is way ahead of other university’s in getting their students involved in cutting-edge technology and placing students in professional settings. I researched media arts programs throughout the U.S. and found an outstanding one in my backyard,” Montoya said.