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The Biennial Choices and Challenges National Symposium brought together nationally prominent speakers with curators and archivists from history museums, historical societies and collecting repositories from October 8 - 10 2004 at the Benson Ford Research Center in Dearborn, Michigan. The focus was on sharing best practices; encouraging collaboration and helping professionals recognize opportunities and overcome obstacles in controversial areas of practice.


Despite their obvious differences, museums and archives do face many similar choices and challenges. That much was demonstrated by the first Choices and Challenges Symposium—“Collecting in Museums and Archives”-- held in November 2002. Held at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, MI, October 8-10, 2004, the 2nd Biennial Choices and Challenges National Symposium for Curators and Archivists focused on four “hot topics” and was again supported by the Americana Foundation.

HOT TOPICS included:
  • Thriving in the Digital World - How can historical organizations best use new media to serve their missions and their audiences? Speakers for this session were: Max Evans, Executive Director, National Historic Publications and Records Commission and Steve Brier , Associate Provost for Instructional Technology and Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies, the co-director of the New Media Lab, Coordinator of the doctoral Certificate Program in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, and Professor of Urban Education at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
  • Who Owns What?: Legal Contests Over Documents, Objects and Ideas –This session focused on understanding copyright and fair use, rights of privacy and rights of publicity and The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Presenters were: Heather Briston, University Archivist, University of Oregon , Susan Kornfield, J.D., Chair Intellectual Property Practice Group, Bodman, Longley & Dahling, Peter Jaszi, J.D., Professor of Law, American University , Washington, D.C., with Bill Maher, University Archivist, University of Illinois , as the session chairperson.
  • Career Paths: Recruitment, Education and Advancement to Leadership in the Archival and Museum Professions –Panelists for this session included Tim Ericson , Professor, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and Ildiko P. DeAngelis, Director, Museum Studies Program, George Washington University, led by chairperson Beth Yakel, Assistant Professor, School of Information, University of Michigan.
  • Preservation Strategies: Balancing Access, Use, Exhibition and Preservation The participants explored their approaches to strategizing about collections use and preservation. Pete Daniel, Curator, National Museum of American History, Jan Paris, Conservator for Special Collections, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Ann Russell, Executive Director, Northeast Document Conservation Center, Carl Schlichting, Conservator, Vancouver, B.C. will present their views, with chairperson Barbara Appelbaum, Partner, Appelbaum & Himmelstein, New York leading the session.
  • Concluding Session - Returning as summarizers from the inaugural Choices & Challenges symposium were Christopher Bensch, Director of Collections, The Strong Museum and John Fleckner, Chief Archivist, National Museum of American History.

The broad dissemination of these individual presentations through this electronic publication represents just one of the symposium’s goals. These symposia encourage the exchange of views from sibling professions that often share concerns but differ on perspectives. The 3-day symposium itself was an exhilarating experience with ample time for questions and answers, dialogue and informal conversations about these topics and professional concerns at large.

We intend to continue this series of symposia, addressing issues of importance to cultural workers in museums and archives. We wish to thank the presenters for sharing their insights into hot topics facing museums and archives and the Americana Foundation for its continued support.

William S. Pretzer
Curator of Political History, The Henry Ford
Chair of the Planning Committee