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: Staff

We take advantage of the clauses that we negotiate to permit us to bring in outside contractors. After all, as you have no doubt noticed, we have no staff. Jennifer and I do the conference year-round, though primarily during the six months leading up to the meeting when we estimate we spend about 50% time on it (eg. 2 people 50% x 6mo = 1 FTE very unevenly distributed and with lots of long days).

The Visitors and Convention Bureau's offer a list of vendors and our research on the Internet identifies some others. Starting nine months in advance, we issue numerous RFP's for assistance at the meeting. Some of these contracts are pretty straight forward. We need temporarty staff for the registration desk for four days ($1400) and security guards for the exhibition space for three days ($840). We need to secure insurance coverage specifically for those events ($350). And we need buses to take people to and from the evening events and on the tours ($3900).

An Exhibition Management firm designs the exhibit hall and obtains approval from the Fire Marshall and the hotel ($1600). They receive shipments from the exhibitors, construct and furnish the exhibit booths with tables, chairs, carpets, and the like. They will provide exhibitors who want them with flowers, booth enclosures, signs, extra furnishings and nearly any other services imaginale. They also provide our registration booths and make the large signs we usually have at registration to thank the Program Committee and sponsors.

The most complex contract every year is av/computer/networking support. Over the yeasrs we've found that one contract for these integrated technical services is preferrable to having several contractors pointing fingers at each other! We begin the RFP process for this in the late summer and spend six months planning before the first site visit to the hotel is made by the netwok technicians. In order to support MW, we rent about 12-15 computers, 24-30 extra monitors, 8-10 computer projectors, lots of sound equipment, a router, 15 - 20 switches, 15-20 WAP's, and thousands of feet of ethernet cable. But the hardware costs ($14,000) are only part of the expense and complexity of managing av and networking. In addition, to the cost of a T3 line and router, we paid the hotel for extra electricity for the exhibit hall ($2500).

Because hotel space is not conducive to establishing a stable network with unpredictable demands, our technical contractors made two pre-conference site visits to oversee the installation of the T3 and to test router configurations. Six technicians were on-site throughout five days to oversee the installation and maintenance of an enterprise network and ensure that speakers had the technology they needed and support to use it ($18,000). Each year the challenges of managing the network are different; last year we suddenly found ourselves confronted with more than two devices per attendee logging in to the network  after years of having less than 0.6! This year we had several workshops on Wednesday that began with attendees downloading software, and a helpful attendee who unplugged a WAP (hidden under the table) so that he/she could plug in a laptop! We are always relieved when the traffic pattern gets fully established alowing us to make the network stable. This year we got there before the end of the day Wednesday.