Executive Director, Living Computers: Museum+Labs
Lāth Carlson is the founding director of a new museum of computer technology in Seattle WA. Living Computers is unique in that our mission is to provide direct experiences with authentic computer technology from the 1960’s to today. We have the world’s largest collection of operable vintage computers, and we make as many of them as possible available to the public.
Lāth previous held the position of Vice President—Exhibits and Content Development at The Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley. Over three years, Lāth led The Tech in a completely new direction, to be a community resource for innovation. In 2015, The Tech was awarded a National Medal for Museum and Library Service.
Prior to his position at The Tech, Lāth taught in the Museum Exhibition, Planning and Design master’s program at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and managed Art Guild, Inc. Lāth’s museum career includes positions at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, Please Touch Museum- the Children’s Museum of Philadelphia, and the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Lāth has served on the board of the National Association for Museum Exhibition, and is a Noyce Leadership Institute Fellow.
The Structures of Museum Revolutions
Portland Art Museum
Museums can make truly structural changes in order to effect real progress in terms of inclusiveness. At Living Computers: Museum + Labs the principles of inclusion are infused throughout the organization. Shortly after opening in 2012 the entire museum experience and structures were reimagined through building strong community partnerships, more than doubling staff, remodelling the building, doubling public space, adding events and programs, expanding outreach, creating a whole floor of current technology exhibits, building three computer science learning labs, and adding significantly to the collections.
In this process they positioned inclusivity as core to their policies and procedures with: no degree requirements for any position, every internship is paid at a living wage, all staff positions include full benefits, flexible employment options, flexible hours, a viable career ladder, internal promotions, hiring only local contractors and, hiring diverse contractors, a non-hierarchical and open workspace, a high degree of autonomy for all staff, and collaborative work processes.
In the design of their physical space every detail was thought through from material choices, colors, acoustics, music, text, graphics, photos, sight lines, restrooms, drinking fountains, café, store, seating, lighting, parking, vertical transportation, exhibit interaction, staff postures, security, doors and openings, emergency egress, and much more was obsessed over.
The results of this focus on inclusion are coming in, with a staff that is very representational of the community, the building remodel winning accolades and a much greater diversity of users than ever before. Attendance has more than doubled, and memberships have grown six fold.