The Museums and the Web conference returned, and we did too. (See last year’s report.) Museums and the Web is a good place to meet people who understand museums and technology – a good thing for a virtual museum. Small museums require networking, collaboration, and exposure – all things we got by attending.
The ultimate direct benefit from such an event would be to find enough funding to more than pay for the trip; but that is uncommon. Except for the vendors, it is doubtful that anyone achieved that goal. There were significant benefits but they are the valuable intangibles of ideas, contacts, and publicity.
A small museum has a better chance of succeeding when supported by the rest of the professional community.
This year was a refreshing escalation in our participation because we were included in the schedule. We gave a talk about our collaborative strategy, and how it benefits both party’s goals while keeping costs down. (So Glad Our Virtual Museum Is Not Real)
We, via Liza Loop and LO*OP Center, took a leadership role by creating and hosting a professional online forum for museum professionals. (Museum Learning Central) The surprise was that there was no such place available for career development and mutual support for museum operations and brainstorming. (Email us at our Gmail account: HCLEmuseum for an invitation.)
The barriers between the physical and virtual spaces are falling. A virtual museum is not seen as radical, though it is uncommon. We are maintaining a list of virtual museums so we can coordinate and collaborate without attending conferences so we encourage you to send us URLs for any that you know of.
One of the most heartening, and hardest to quantify, experiences was that we were recognized.
In addition to the talk, we participated by engaging in the discussions, Q&A, and breakout sessions that allowed for a much more active role than simply sitting in the seats. HCLE didn’t have to be explained as often. Conversations were about progress and advice instead of simple explanation. We even had an informal program plan review that affirmed our strategy and tactics. And we received a very detailed and impassioned description of the value of graph databases (via Post-its).
We haven’t decided if we will if it will be necessary to return in 2015. Unless HCLE has more significant funds we’ll be best served by attending a different conference, possibly an education conference. An education conference won’t provide as much useful technical advice, but it may connect us with people equally passionate about the history of computing in learning and education. Of course, the best course would be to have sufficient funds and time to attend conferences that cover each of our topics: museums, history, computers, computing, learning, and education. But we have a lot of work to do with cataloging, archiving, site development, exhibit creation, and a myriad of other tasks. We are certainly busy.
HCLE will be present at another conference in 2013, partly through convenience. The American Alliance of Museums holds a large annual meeting, and this year it is in Seattle, which means that our Project Manager, Tom Trimbath, can attend by commuting thereby dramatically decreasing the cost of lodging.
The true value of the conference will become evident as we follow up on contacts and ideas. We’re already received interest from universities in the UK, and of course established better relations with various museums in the US.
And if nothing else, our social media presence increased by about 20% simply through persistent tweeting (which also gave us an opportunity to comment on what we heard.) Speaking is important, but so is listening. Thanks for letting us listen.