WebWise Attracts 400 Museums, Libraries, and Research Orgs

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This week I was fortunate to spend two days in Baltimore with 400 persons representing museums, libraries, archives, and research organizations from 40 states at WebWise, the annual conference hosted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  This is always one of my favorite conferences and despite a rapid sell-out, I was able to snag a seat.

There seems to be a growing number of history museums and historic sites attending WebWise, and perhaps that’s due to increased recognition that digital technologies are no longer a fad but an essential part of a successful organization (indeed, one of the presenters remarked that staff with technology in their titles are rising up to senior levels with more frequency).  Among the history organizations represented this year are the American Association for State and Local History, Winterthur Museum, Kentucky Historical Society, Maine Historical Society, Historic Annapolis, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Litchfield Historical Society, Connecticut History Online, Ford Museum, Missouri History Museum, Minnesota Historical Society, Brooklyn Historical Society, American Jewish Historical Society, Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens, Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, Hagley Museum and Library, Museum of Ventura County, Shelburne Museum, Baltimore Heritage, Hudson River Valley Institute, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Mystic Seaport, Maryland Historical Trust, Weeksville Heritage Center, Heinz History Center, NY Transit Museum, Monticello, and Illinois State Museum.

The conference opened with Susan Hildreth, the director of IMLS, discussing the new strategic plan for the agency.  Wile I would typically ignore discussions about such internal matters, my ears perked up when she noted that funding applications would be more attractive if they were aligned with it.  In other words, you’ll want to download a copy and quote from it in your application!

LeVar Burton, the keynote speaker, talked at length about storytelling as the “origin of culture” and its evolution through various media, including pictures, books, poetry, music, theater, movies, and television.  He predicted that the conversion of books from print to digital will make books more scarce, “but that’s not a bad thing.” Books use trees and in our efforts to be more disciplined in our use of limited resources, the printed book on paper will be come a rare and treasured experience.  Movie moguls thought that television would end their business, but they were wrong because there was room for both media.  He suggested that the same would happen with books.

The rest of WebWise was filled with panel presentations and small group demonstrations on a variety of pathbreaking projects, many still under development.  During the next few weeks I’ll be reporting on those that caught my attention (only one presenter was a dud so far).  If you want to see it for yourself, the presentations will be available for online viewing and through Webinars sometime in the future via IMLS and Heritage Preservation (not sure why it’s not being streamed live on the Web).