By Robert Horton
Associate Deputy Director for Library Services, IMLS
IMLS’s annual WebWise conference returned to Baltimore in 2014, hosting plenary speakers, workshops, and an unconference from February 10-12. The theme was “Anchoring Communities,” and the goal was to provide as many opportunities as possible for the 270 participants to learn about the most exciting and pressing issues affecting libraries, archives, and museums.
The two-and-a-half-day conference explored digital technologies in museums and libraries through workshops, talks, and demonstrations. The idea that technology provides us with an opportunity, rather than just another challenge or problem, was at the heart of two fantastic plenaries.
Nick Poole, from the UK’s Collections Trust, started the conference with a presentation both eloquent and engaging: “Make it Personal: Developing Services that People Love.” He noted, “This age demands museums, archives, and libraries that are personal, local, emotional, authentic, and relevant. In a time of social, economic, and political change, people need us to be honest, accountable, and unafraid. They don’t need to understand what we do, or how we do it, but they do need us to help them find their place in it.” (Nick posted the transcript of his talk just after delivering it.)
Mary Flanagan, Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, closed the conference with an eye-opening presentation on the importance of games: “Play with Your Metadata.” One of the most important points she made was that technologies are built with values embedded, intentionally or unintentionally; and that more intent would be better.
The topics of the workshops and the unconference sessions (called “WiseCamp”) were determined by the participants by voting for topics of interest using the interactive platform IdeaScale and through discussion amongst the WebWise planning committee. Workshops included sessions on digital preservation, makerspaces, badges, oral histories, and more. WiseCamp sessions addressed issues such as gender, technology, and leadership; museums and the Digital Public Library of America; collecting social media; and K-12 and the common core standards. For a review of the complete schedule of WebWise, visit imlswebwise.org.
Throughout the conference, a Twitter feed display encouraged a running exchange of ideas by active tweeters on site and provided context to the events for followers on social media. You can see the Twitter conversations at the conference hashtag #WebWise14.
Every year, the success of WebWise depends on the energy and ideas of IMLS staff, notably, Tim Carrigan and Sandra Narva, and IMLS partners, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and Capitol Meeting Planning. Thanks for joining us for another year of museums, libraries, archives, systems science, education, and many other fields joining together in the interest of high-quality online content for inquiry and learning.