Florence is going to host a “Museums and the Web” conference this February. Yes, THAT conference, the most important American conference on the topic of culture and its encounters with digital media. From February 19-21, 2014, international scholars, museum directors and consultants will gather in Palazzo Vecchio to discuss the theme “Open Museums and Smartcities: Storytelling and Connected Culture.”

Photo by flickr user @bruce stokes

This is the first time this conference is being held in Italy, and it represents an opening up to these themes on the part of Italian museums, who have, objectively, been behind their international counterparts in the use of web and social media, let alone virtual reality, open hardware and software, mobile and other even newer technologies that will be discussed. Another first for Museums and the Web is that the event will be held, not in an international business hotel, but in the actual loci of culture in Florence, with Palazzo Vecchio hosting most of the conference in its various rooms, including the Salone dei Cinquecento, and breakout sessions in other museums in the City museums network. This is because amongst the organizers is curator and “responsabile scientifico” of the Florentine Civic Museums, Laura Longo, who has worked hard on projects like Cloud Museum. Her Museums and the Web profile notes the main goal of the event:

The challenge is to adapt the “spirit of Florence” with technology and communication with a strong cultural approach to favour a broader connectivity between communities, cities and territories. This will create new participative models with feed-back to enhance the cultural potentials of the city.

I expect that the conversations that will derive from the formal papers presented, the workshops and especially the social events will be most interesting, as the place will be populated by kindred spirits hoping to share best practises and open up opportunities for generating said practises in Florence and Italy. As usual, everything said at the conference will be published and made freely accessible online afterwards – a database of up to date information that has stood me in good stead over the years.

Lots of people will be lending a hand to make this event a success. In my role at Flod and The Florentine, I’ll be involved in helping pick bloggers to attend so that we have a good live tweet stream (follow #mwf2014). I also will be co-teaching a workshop called “People, Places and Things” about using storytelling and communications for problem solving – with Stefania Chipa (one of the organizers) and Martha Ladly, Associate Dean and professor at OCAD in Toronto who has a vast experience in interactive design and is currently studying communication for culture to top off her degrees.

If that were not enough, with MakeTank, I’ll be organizing a “Makers Corner” – display about the Maker movement, to provide a visual complement to the keynote speech by Cory Doctorow, one of the most important thinkers about Makers (who, however, will be talking about something else).

I have been wanting to attend this conference in the States for years, and maybe next year I will finally do so (in 2015 it’s in Chicago, home of my alma mater). Other than holiday time, one factor blocking me has been the cost – flight, hotel and an 800$ conference are a lot if you’re paying for it yourself. So having this amazing material on my own doorstep is too good an opportunity to pass up. So, if you live in Tuscany, it’ll be worth commuting in daily for the quality of content this conference will offer. If you’re coming in from elsewhere in Europe, you can get a good apartment deal on airbnb or through TF’s partner network apartments.theflorentine.net. Tickets cost half of what it costs in the States, and readers of The Florentine have a 50 euro coupon off the regular adult entry fee, so take a look there or write me for info. For ticket info and forthcoming programme, please see http://mwf2014.museumsandtheweb.com. See you there?

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