I’ve recently returned from the Netherlands (Holland as the locals call it and Rotterdam to be more specific) where I attended the 2009 Digital Strategies for Heritage Conference (DISH2009). The main organizers of the conference are the Netherlands Institute for Heritage and the DEN foundation. The latter organization, Digital Heritage Netherlands is the Dutch national knowledge platform for information technology and cultural heritage run by my long-time friend and colleague, Marco de Niet. I was on the advisory board for this biannual event and chaired a panel during the conference.
It was very well-done. I believe that this gathering has now become the most important heritage conference for Europe (it would be the equivalent of a combined WebWise and Museums on the Web in the United States). There were over 600 delegates from twenty-three countries in attendance. They were a good mix of digital heritage practitioners, project leaders and administrators and they approached the conference from a shared vision of mobilizing heritage materials on the web that doesn’t exist in the US.
There were a small number of American attendees most of whom had keynote or other significant roles on the conference program. I think that some of them didn’t understand the extent of the investments that have already been made in the Netherlands and more generally in Europe nor the extent to which a shared motivation has taken hold. This was not an audience that needed to be hectored about the need to present their collections and their institutions on the web or the imperative of a user-centric perspective in doing this work.
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