APOYOnline (Association for Heritage Preservation of the Americas) is a non-profit organization that facilitates communication and exchange among heritage preservation professionals throughout Latin America and the Caribbean region. Beginning August 30 and extending until September 2, 2016, APOYOnline hosted its first regional conference and workshop in Medellin, Colombia. Attended by 73 participants from 15 countries, the theme of the conference was “exchanges and practical tips”. While presentations focused on a range of cultural materials, the primary emphasis of the conference was on preservation of photographic heritage due the importance of photograph collections in Latin America and the immediacy of addressing these collections. Based on the presentation given at the Annual AIC Meeting, the APOYOnline conference appeared informative, fun, well-planned, well-received, and resulted in successfully engendering international collaborations.
Colombia was chosen as the conference host country because of its central location within Latin America, and Medellin as the host city to promote the revitalized city. Logistical planning for the conference required coordinating team meetings across four different time zones, taking full advantage of communication technology such as WhatsApp and Skype. In addition, there was an incredible amount of fundraising to support the conference and its participants. Major initial backing came from Tru Vue, Banco de la República, and the University of Delaware, which then attracted more supporters, resulting in a total of 21 financial donors. Through this campaign, APOYOnline was able to provide scholarship to all 73 participants – 60% partial grants and 40% full grants for conference attendance.
The program was divided into two major sections: paper presentations in the mornings and workshops in the afternoons. In total, the conference had 14 papers and 24 poster presentations. Paper topics focused on a wide range of preservation and risk management projects, including education, storage, collections care, impact of microbiological research, emergency response, treatment of ceramic murals, and more. In addition, posters discussed glass plate negative collection preservation, conservation of audio visual materials, and paper conservation in tropical climates among other topics. All sessions were recorded and made available on the APOYOnline webpage for free. The workshop on conservation of photographs involved lectures, discussions, and hands-on demonstrations about identification and preservation of photographic materials and were translated into three languages for all participants. Originally intended for 25 people, the conference organizers were eventually able to open the workshop to all attendees. Some of the most important issues for photograph collections in Latin America include immediate inventory, cleaning, storage, and preventive preservation. The workshop therefore provided participants with a better awareness of the needs for their collections and information that they could then bring back to their institutions.
During the conference, there was a meeting with the participants entitled “Vision 2020” in which the future of APOYOnline was discussed. Suggestions from the session included hosting more events, dissemination of activities, and research. APOYOnline is therefore working to strengthen networks with universities, provide more professional training, and act as an international bridge by bringing people to Latin America and vice versa. The organizing team for the conference received a large amount of thank you notes from attendees on how the meeting impacted their work and collections. The next APOYOnline conference will take place in Antigua, Guatemala to advocate more for countries in Central America and the Caribbean region.
Further information about APOYOnline can be found at www.apoyonline.org as well as through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.