Report on the SIBMAS London Conference 2012: Best Practice!


London, not just one of world’s greatest cities, is also the cultural powerhouse of Europe with a vibrant performing arts scene. For one working as a collections manager in the performing arts sector, it is like an invitation to a huge candy store and seeing tons of options: musicals, operas, ballets, drama… Not only do you want a taste of everything, but professionally you surely also want to know what innovations are going on behind these scenes, and how you can benefit from innovative ideas in order to manage your performing arts collections in the fast-changing environment of today.

This was also the theme of the SIBMAS London Conference 2012: Best Practice! Innovative Techniques for Performing Arts Collections, Libraries and Museums organised by the V&A Museum, which served us in two days a full programme in a mix of presentations from invited speakers and colleagues.

The dilemma between meeting public expectations and the operational realities of our institutions is more than ever present. We are not only asked to solve problems in reaching new audiences, but also know how to deal with filmed recordings of live performance and managing born-digital collections. Sibmas London 2012 promised us a showcase of innovative ideas for these challenges and they delivered!

The conference programme took us from the use of innovative techniques in staging productions, through the advanced use of social media (with Flickr as maybe the best kept social networking secret), challenges faced by digital curation and curation for digital devices, ontologies for the semantic web, the state of the art in 3D-scanning of objects, and the use of live-broadcasting, video and projection media in theatre and what to preserve of it. Apart from this well prepared and attended lectures with a very high quality of papers, key notes and poster sessions, Sibmas London 2012 offered us a most professional organisation of logistics with extras such as a choice of optional visits to major London performing arts collections and theatres, the Hollywood costume exhibition and a drinks reception at the French Institute. All precious moments, and ideal for discussing good practice, past and potential partnerships, successes and failures …

Personally, I got a serious kick of adrenaline from this conference and I see it as a task for myself to sustain these good vibes, maintain the contacts, and look out for further opportunities and possibilities for exchange.

Sibmas London 2012 certainly deserves a medal for Best Practice! in organising a conference, especially since the organisers stepped in at shorter notice than normal, to fill a gap in the schedule. Maybe the length of just two days was too short for most of us, which makes us look forward even more keenly to the next Sibmas conference, organised together with our colleagues from the Theatre Library Association, in New York City in June 2014!

I hope to see you there!


Jan Van Goethem

President of Sibmas