Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

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How does the conference work: Food

The conference, like any army, marches on its belly. This year we each ate or drank $177.57 of our registration fees. That included 625 bottles of water at $4.66 each and over 2400 cups of coffee, decaf and tea from hotel urns at $4.32 each (yes, the hotel over-charges for everything). One reason we give out 'free' tickets for Starbucks espresso drinks, is that this is cheaper for us than the hotel coffee.

The hotel staff were astonished at what a healthy group we are. We drank 831 bottles of fruit juice against only 223 cans of soft drinks - something never before seen in Indianapolis. We ate 525 sandwiches of which over 1/3 were vegetarian (which the hotel didn't even have on its menu before we arrived). The 280 yoghurts we consumed with morning coffeee exceeded their expectations and supplies, as did 96 energy bars that fueled the workshop attendees in the afternoon.

But of course we weren't exclusively healthy eaters. We also managed to do in over 1560 brownies and cookies, 67 dozen bagels and muffins, and 245 ice creams. At the exhibitors reception we worked our way through 1500 hors d'oeuvres and 350 dishes of pasta, washed down with 378 glasses of wine and beer.

But we reserved our impressive drinking and eating for the two outside receptions where the alcohol was free flowing and the food more diverse. In 90 minutes at the Indiana State Museum fewer than 250 of us consumed over $10,000 of snacks and alcohol. In the longer conference reception at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 330 attendees worked their way through numerous tenderloins of beef, thousands of hors d'oeuvres and dozens of cases of wine to rack up a bill of $17,996.

All this consumption was planned in advance with hour by hour menu planning and orders from the hotel and the outside caterers, contracted for several months in advance of the conference. Wine lists, beer choices, food alternatives, are all worked out in great detail and revised numerous times up until 72 hours before each event to ensure the right quantities and accommodate emerging special needs and tastes.

rlooseley's picture

I second what Kajsa says about fruit at breakfast! Don't get me wrong, the muffins and pastries were very tasty but after a week I was in desperate need of vitamins! I don't know if it's just a UK thing but people seem to be developing (or sometimes inventing?!) food allergies all over the place and there would have been virtually nothing to eat if you were wheat intolerant! 

The food and drink were generally very good though and I appreciate how much time, effort and money (!) went into them. It's just there was probably a little scope for a bit more healthy fare!

Rhiannon Looseley

Rhiannon Looseley

jtrant's picture

we're always looking for ways to get the best we can from what the hotel offers, but we're limited by their menus.  $6 per piece of hard fruit didn't seem the best choice it this year.

but we'll keep trying, especially now we know what matters!


j. trant archives & museum informatics

j. trant co-founder Museums and the Web | partner archives & museum informatics

frankieroberto's picture

The beef tenderloin was definitely appreciated this year, but where was the CHEESE?

In fact, something I noticed about Indianapolis in general was CRAP CHEESE. Even the biggish grocery store we went to had a pitiful selection of cheese, mostly all just variations of industrial block cheddar, in varying colours and with varying levels of fat content.

Even the cheese sandwich I had on the plane back home was un-eatable. I took once bite, and the 'cheese' immediately clung to my teeth in a way that took 10 minutes to laboriously scrape off. Not pleasant.

Kajsa Hartig's picture

Thank you for making refreshments and meals so perfectly planned. My comments: Good food and drinks are essential at such intensive conferences as the MW. The lunch sandwiches were so so. I remember a great workshop salad lunch in San Francisco. Also I could definately do with less muffins/cookies and instead have more fresh fruit and cheese for example. But that's it, other than that everything was really great! The reception at IMA was fantastic (though I am a bit horrified at the total cost! :-)

Best regards

Kajsa Hartig
Digital Navigator, New media
Nordiska museet
Stockholm, Sweden

jtrant's picture

it's still earth day somewhere, and i'm thinking that all that bottled water has got to go. all 625 bottles of it.

it represents $2,912.50 that we could do something else with... to say nothing of the waste.

it's safe to drink tap water in Denver, and we probably should!


j. trant archives & museum informatics

j. trant co-founder Museums and the Web | partner archives & museum informatics

Mandress's picture

Please get rid of the bottled water. We should encourage conference goers to bring their own bottle or utilize pitchers of water.

justin_heideman's picture

Thanks for sharing, it is interesting. Somehow, I think they'll be a little more prepared in Denver, and hopefully have better veggie sandwiches. They have whole restaurants dedicated just to salad there.