CIMAM Annual Conference. The 53rd edition of the conference took place in 2021, and it was the largest and most important international meeting of people managing museums and galleries of contemporary art, comprising three days of meetings for curators and directors from these institutions. Due to the international nature of the event, both the pre-conference communication and the conference itself were conducted in English.
This year's event, which took place between 5 and 7 November 2021, had a hybrid formula – that is, it was held in a combined online and offline format. The Museum of Art in Łódź was the host for the first two days and then the conference moved to the headquarters of the NOMUS New Art Museum (a branch of the National Museum in Gdańsk). We streamed online from both locations, enabling people from all over the world participating in the online event to be with us all the time.
This year's conference focused on the role played by museums and artists in the social changes that are taking place in our dynamically changing world. During the three days of discussions, the participants focused on two contemporary crises: rampant xenophobia and progressive climate change. Representatives of the art world also reflected on a problem that is present in the lives of practically everyone: how should museums change to keep up with a reality marked by a pandemic?
How could we connect the online and offline parts to make sure that every participant had access to the same information? For this, we focused on networking sessions. The in-person part of the conference in Łódź and Gdańsk therefore featured cultural speed-dating sessions, with tables set up to enable conversation. To encourage as many people as possible to interact, we played a short musical jingle every 5 minutes as the signal that it was time to change seats. If people didn’t manage to fully exchange views, they could always continue their conversation behind the scenes. It was a real pleasure to moderate such a dynamic part of the conference!
And how is it possible to transfer these emotions to the online world? All you need is a platform tailored to the specifics of the event. Prior to the online networking sessions, all the participants first expressed their willingness to join such meetings, and then they were able to enter a virtual room on the PINE platform where other attendees were waiting. It turned out to be a huge hit! The international nature of the conference and the range of interesting topics meant that participants were more than happy to extend the time of the meetings and share even more of their thoughts. That's what the online world is all about – time and place are no barrier!
Online workshops and training
A conference on culture and the arts would not be complete without workshops. This time, it was something of a mystery as only the participants themselves knew what they were going to discuss. On the technical side, it was our role to ensure they had comfortable and optimal working conditions. The online workshops organised as part of the CIMAM 2021 Annual Conference were run in groups of 20-25 people, with each group having its own moderator. All the meetings were held over the Zoom platform but, for easier navigation, made available from the main conference platform, PINE. The users of the platform could see a dedicated tab in the menu, which they would then click in order to choose a specific topic of a workshop that they had signed up for prior to the event. Fast, easy and intuitive.
For hybrid events, it is important to keep balanced access in mind to make sure that everyone attending the event has access to the same information. This means that those guests who are present in-person at the venue should also have access to the online platform. And that was the case here, too. The conference sponsors, partners and supporting institutions were all able to present their brands in a dedicated tab, with their logos, website links and contact details all visible. CIMAM itself had also prepared a 140-page directory about the event so that no-one would get lost!
We like conferences that are a challenge for us. The CIMAM 2021 Annual Conference entailed cooperation with several entities at once – two museums in Poland and the CIMAM headquarters in Barcelona. This meant operating on an international level, with many languages and different time zones. We managed everything, and were responsible, among other things, for creating a detailed schedule of the work, as well as the script and set design in Łódź and Gdańsk.