FGS Announces Genealogical Tourism Award

At the opening session of the FGS Conference in Springfield we announced the creation of a new award to recognize those entities serving the interest of the genealogical community by their efforts in promoting genealogical tourism.  The press release issued by FGS during the ceremonies is found at the FGS Voice blog entry for the 8th of September located on this site at http://voice.fgs.org

Conference Chair Josh Taylor (substituting for RPAC Chair, David Rencher) read the following message in announcing the award:

On behalf of FGS, and at the direction of President Pat Oxley, I am pleased to announce the creation of a new award to recognize and encourage a phenomenon that is assuming greater importance to our community, Genealogical Tourism.


I need not tell this audience how inextricably linked are the roles of the genealogist and the records custodian.  Without documentation, our family histories are more legend than history.


The preservation of and our access to the records upon which we depend is a source of constant and significant concern to our community.  I currently serve as the chairman of a joint committee formed by FGS, NGS and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies with the participation of APG, ProQuest, Ancestry and others.  The Records Preservation and Access Committee meets monthly [by phone as well as a face-to-face meeting at the major genealogical conferences] in an attempt to identify threats to our access and develop an appropriate response from the genealogical community.


Threats to our access have taken many forms over the years but particularly vexing in recent years have  been those threats arising out of the current fiscal crisis.  From every corner of the country we have seen library and archive budgets slashed, hours curtailed, and severe staff reductions.


The very survival of some of our best resources has been threatened.  There was a proposal that surfaced in the summer of 2009 that would have dismantled the Library of Michigan, scattered the materials gathered over 180  years occupying 27 miles of shelving and turned the building into an interactive museum and a magnet school.


RPAC, working with our colleagues on the Michigan Genealogical Council, have tried to provide relevant information to Michigan decision-makers and assist in developing more appropriate options.  We were struck by the largely unrealized (and certainly unadvertised) potential for the LOM to serve as a magnet for tourism dollars.  On our behalf, Curt Witcher traveled to Lansing  to share with our friends in Michigan the extent to which the Allen County Public Library was a major generator of tourist dollars in Fort Wayne and to suggest ways in which the holdings housed in the LOM might serve a similar function.  Of the 100,000+ visitors to the Genealogical Center each year, 85% of them are from outside of Allen County.  Their indirect economic impact is estimated to expand the economy of Allen County by almost $7 million each year.


We had a vision of potential ways in which Tourism and Recreation Departments across the country might promote and encourage the use of genealogical resources within their states.  Within the past month, that vision was realized. 


When we saw what the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation had done with their website at www.travelOK.com we knew that this was what genealogical tourism promotion looked like.  That it was truly a labor of love was manifest on every page. 


Within twenty-four hours of first confronting the site, we realized that we should encourage our library community and the tourism community to emulate these examples.  Thus this award.


I am pleased to present the first ever FGS Genealogical Tourism Award to Curt Witcher, the Genealogy Center Manager, Allen County Public Library.


And to Deby Snodgrass, the Director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department,  and her team for creating the service we had only dreamed of,  offering an exemplar we can point to,  and for providing the inspiration for the creation of this award. 


May their counterparts across the country build on the foundation they have laid.”

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