The 2023 Digital Preservation Conference, which wrapped up in St Louis on November 16, was a welcome opportunity to connect with colleagues, hear about their work, and find opportunities for future collaborations. It was also a chance to celebrate groups and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of digital stewardship. NDSA Leadership is grateful to the conference planning committee, presenters, attendees, and our hosts for making the event such a great success.
While the DigiPres planning committee was hard at work planning for this year’s conference, there was another working group that was reimagining what the future of the conference might look like. Like many organizations, NDSA held a virtual conference in 2020 and 2021, which allowed us to have greater attendance and a farther reach than ever before. Even as we held in-person conferences in 2022 and 2023, we were aware that returning to a pre-pandemic status quo was not feasible or desirable for many members of our community. We received feedback on the format, length, cost, and content of the conference, and we wanted to address the concerns and barriers expressed in that feedback. In late 2022, the Long-Term Conference Planning Working Group was charged with examining NDSA’s annual conference practices and making strategic recommendations on the future of NDSA conferencing and events. Over the past year, the group gathered information about a variety of conference models from other organizations and participated in facilitated discussion to brainstorm how we might make in-person NDSA events more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable.
The Long-Term Conference Planning Working Group delivered their recommendations last month. They have recommended that NDSA lengthen the interval between its national in-person conferences and create a clear mission statement for those in-person gatherings. They have also recommended that NDSA explore the implementation of smaller “Designated Community” events to be held in partnership with other national and/or regional organizations (spot the OAIS joke!). These recommendations suggest developing a more holistic strategy for programming and events held by NDSA, and they deserve time and careful consideration for implementation.
Therefore, NDSA has decided not to hold a conference in 2024. Instead, we will focus our energy on building on the recommendations made by the Long-Term Conference Planning Working Group. We have charged a new working group for NDSA Events Strategy, which will receive support from NDSA Leadership and guidance from the individuals who have stewarded the conference up until this point.
We understand that the lack of DigiPres next year will be disappointing to many members of our community. It is our hope that the community will also understand the need for a more deliberate approach to planning conferences and other events, and that planning such a strategy requires its own time and focus, especially in an organization that relies on volunteer contributions. We strongly encourage anyone who may have otherwise been involved in planning or preparing for DigiPres next year to volunteer for the NDSA Events Strategy Working Group, which will start recruiting in January 2024. We are especially interested in having participation from previous conference planning committee participants and co-chairs, as well as other individuals who have experience with programming and events.
Thank you again to everyone who helped make DigiPres 2023 the success that it was! We hope to see you at the virtual event starting January 31, 2024.
~ Hannah Wang, NDSA Coordinating Committee Chair ~ Bethany Scott, NDSA Coordinating Committee Vice Chair ~ Stacey Erdman, DigiPres Conference Planning Committee Chair ~ Déirdre Joyce, DigiPres Conference Planning Committee Vice Chair
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