Unconference in DC Poised to Transform Museums

Openlab is convening an unconference, talks, and a planning workshop in Washington, DC on December 1-2 to “to accelerate the speed and impact of transformational change in the GLAM (gallery, library, archive, and museum) sector” in order to “to increase and disseminate knowledge; to encourage civic dialogue and engagement; and to support individuals in their right to access and participate in culture.”  The brain child of Michael Peter Edson of the Smithsonian, much of OpenLab’s work seems to be focused on using digital technologies to solve age-old questions, such as “what needs to change in galleries, libraries, archives, and museums?” and “what is missing in the current funding and support landscape for GLAMs and the humanities?”  It’s all a bit nebulous and unclear, but that’s the core nature of an unconference. Nevertheless, it’s one of many concurrent efforts to increase the impact of museums in society (and yes, we’re still in the fragmented stage).

The first day on December 1 (today) is the unconference and a series of Ignite talks from 2-7 pm in Arlington, Virginia that’s free and open to the public.  The second day, however, is by invitation only and devoted to small group planning.  OpenLab has attracted the support of the American Alliance of Museums, American Library Association, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Society of American Archivists.  A quick scan of the participating institutions shows a diversity of institutions, mostly large and mostly from the Mid-Atlantic.  Looks like no museums or historic sites west of Minnesota, south of Virginia, or north of Connecticut will be attending in person.

The Ignite talks (I’m assuming these are short provocative TED-like talks) will be streamed live via YouTube starting at 5:30 pm Eastern today, plus you can follow what’s happening on Twitter using #openlabworkshop.  For those working at historic sites, you might be most interested in Eli Pousson at Baltimore Heritage discussing a new online school focused on local historic preservation.

Thanks to Lee Wright at The History List for alerting me to this event!

3 thoughts on “Unconference in DC Poised to Transform Museums

  1. Richard Layman

    It’s too bad you didn’t write about this earlier. I might have tried to wangle an invitation. In any case, as far as museums go _in DC_ the problems and issues are more fundamental than incorporating “digital technologies.” DC proper has not been able to develop a local museum scene as all the energy is sucked out of the room by the federal museums.



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  2. Janice Klein

    My thanks too for bringing this to the wider museum community’s attention, even at this late date. I am left wondering whether I missed the invitation or whether all of the museum organizations I am most involved with — especially Field Services and state museums associations — were left out. Hopefully we’ll be able to participate more as this project goes forward.


  3. Karen L Daly

    Thanks for posting, Max! Too bad there isn’t a historic site or house museum in the mix. There are plenty to choose from in the greater DC region and quite a few experimenting with innovative ideas.


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