A discussion today on Twitter about the rising costs of conference space, even on campuses, which in many cases charge their own faculty and staff for use of facilities, got me thinking that we humanists should be thinking more creatively about where to hold our gatherings.
The Hilton is nice. But as THATCamp has shown, it’s not an essential (or maybe even desirable) ingredient for hosting a good conference or enabling productive scholarly communication. Just as urban artists find cheap, usable—even cool—studio space in warehouses and garages, we should find ourselves some alternatives to the traditional hotel ballrooms and campus auditoriums.
So, here’s the start of a list. On the one hand, there are some places in most cities that rent space at low cost. In this category, I’d put the YMCA, local churches and synagogues, local public schools, those big suburban wedding halls they advertise on late night cable, and KOA and other campgrounds (hat tip, Brian Croxall). On the other hand, there may be places that are willing donate space that is otherwise unused on weekends. What about asking a local business for use of its offices and providing them with documentation for tax purposes of the in-kind charitable donation? What about asking a local foundation for use of its offices in lieu of a monetary donation?
None of these places will make us feel as important as we do when checking in at the New York Hilton. But they’d all serve just as well for communicating ideas. Please add your ideas for alt-conference venues in comments. Let’s build a list.