Friday, June 08, 2007

Declining Membership in Genealogical Societies Revisited

I finally got around to reading the July issue of Family Tree Magazine, the one with the article where I'm quoted on the subject of declining membership in genealogical societies. Randy, Denise and Maven have already written very nice posts referencing it. Diane Haddad did a nice job with the article. She got my quotes right (that's always nice ;-) and didn't twist my meaning (that's always appreciated). After reading the article a time or two I tried to think of something new and insightful to add on the subject but nothing comes to mind.

At the end of the article Diane mentions that the topic is open for discussion on the Family Tree Magazine forum so I went to the site to check it out. Virtually every person who commented attributed the decline in memberships in gen. societies to the internet (and the plethora of information available on the web). I couldn't disagree with that. It's my thinking too.

George Morgan wrote an article this week (and Randy wrote a response) on how he spearheaded a major change in the Florida Genealogical Society, Inc. by analyzing the costs of traditionally publishing the society's publications, looking at alternatives, and finally choosing to move in the direction of electronic publishing. Yeah, George. Yeah, FGS. I'm glad to hear that some genealogical societies are changing with the times. Electronic publishing is one of the things I advocated last August when I wrote my series on the declining membership in genealogical societies so it's not a new idea to me. My thoughts run along lines of "It's about time, what's everybody else (other genealogical societies) waiting for?"

Dick Eastman wrote article this week explaining wikis, blogs, etc. It's not his first and probably won't be his last article on internet technology. God bless Dick. He just keeps delivering the message that this Web 2.0 stuff isn't new anymore and it isn't complicated either. Good for him. I'm glad he's doing it. He's got a large audience so maybe it will make an impact.

When I was the webmaster and on the board of directors of my local genealogical society 6 years ago I tried to find support for making the society more internet based but there wasn't much support to be had. Not enough to keep me on as webmaster and as a member of the board of directors. I believed strongly enough that the direction of the society needed to be internet focused (and including electronic publishing) that I was willing to resign from the board, resign as webmaster, and eventually dropout as a member of the society when it became evident that they were unwilling to make changes in the direction of progress. This didn't happen on impulse but rather over a period of years. I came to realize that we were not of like minds and never would be in regards to technology and change.

I was recently contacted and asked to quote on a web site re-do for a national genealogical society. I was happy to oblige and quoted them for a re-do using current Web 2.0 technologies. Their response was along the lines of, "We need to find out more to understand what this would do for us." It was a good response because there's a lot of money on the line (I may be a cheap drunk but I'm not a cheap web designer ;-) . But I'm finding it hard to get myself to make a pitch for the idea. It's like... I've been there, I've fought that battle, and I don't have the energy (or the passion) to fight that battle again. Maybe I'm just burned out. Maybe it wouldn't be much of a battle at all. Maybe I could make a nice presentation and they'd all jump on board. One can always hope.

So now it's been almost a year since I wrote my series of articles on the declining membership in genealogical societies, and what have I got to add? Not much. I applaud those who are still fighting the fight for change and those who are bravely moving ahead even when they're not sure what they're doing. Change is usually uncomfortable. It's also necessary.

For myself, I'm more interested in blogging these days than I am in being a catalyst for change in genealogical societies. I'm pleased to have been interviewed and quoted on the topic for a national magazine. Nuff said.

My previous posts on the topic of declining membership in genealogical societies: