The theme for this year’s Wikimania is “Explore. Engage. Empower.” For us, this is more than just a theme, slogan, or motto. It both encapsulates what we want the attendees of Wikimania 2012 to get out of the conference and it also embodies the spirit of the host city, Washington DC. While Wikimania has typically not had a “theme,” we felt that having a theme that fits well within the spirit of Washington, DC would help us better create an engaging and remarkable experience for the Wikimania attendees.
Being at Wikimania, and particularly being here in Washington, DC, gives open culture and free knowledge enthusiasts a great opportunity. We feel that Wikimania, above all, is about exploring new possibilities, engaging in active discussions and dialogue, and taking what was learned back so that all can continue the work to empower people around the world through global knowledge. What better place to promote the power that free knowledge brings than the city where President James Madison wrote, “A people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”?
“Engage. Explore. Empower.” is the theme that best encompasses everything that we hope to offer the attendees this year. Through a series of three blog posts, we will explore and expand on this theme to help you get excited about our city and our conference, and so that you can see just what we have in store for you this year at Wikimania 2012.
The first thing we hope Wikimania attendees do is to explore everything that the city has to offer. Washington, DC is more than just the Capital of the United States, and exploring the city is definitely an important part of the Wikimania experience. DC is home to a truly international population. More than 170 embassies and international cultural centers call DC their home, and an average of about 20,000 international students come to the city to study in some of the world’s best universities.
DC is also home to some of the world’s most prominent cultural institutions. The Library of Congress, the largest library in the United States, is one of the gems of DC. With 535 miles of bookshelves and around 45,000 reference books in the Reading Room alone, there’s plenty to explore within the library’s walls. If one library isn’t enough, there are also 25 different branches of the District of Columbia Public Library, including the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. DC is also home to more than 30 museums and cultural centers, including the 19 museums and 9 research centers of the Smithsonian Institution, all of which offer free admission.
In the evening, after the workshops and sessions are done, we want you to meet the wonderful people of DC and explore the vibrant city nightlife. If pure entertainment is your thing, then you’ll be happy to know that DC has a truly enormous number of entertainment offerings. One good place to start is at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Steps away from the George Washington University campus, where Wikimania 2012 will take place, the Kennedy Center offers opera, symphony, theater, and a variety of special events, including free Millennium Stage events at 6:00 pm every day of the year!
If you like your evening events mixed with a little bit of international culture, then DC is definitely the place you want to be. If cultural events at Asia Society, the Austrian Cultural Forum Washington, The Africa Society, or the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington can’t keep you busy, maybe you can check out the literary events at Politics & Prose, Busboys & Poets, or Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. And after you’ve had your fill of entertainment and culture, you can check out one of DC’s many award winning restaurants and bars.
We hope that when you come to DC, you will explore the city and its full offerings. We know you will be exhilarated by what you find here, and that will definitely elevate your Wikimania experience. When you truly enjoy exploring DC, then you will definitely get the most out of exploring the conference itself. Our goal is to have Wikimania attendees return to their homes on July 16 having explored everything the conference and the city have to offer, engaged with the other attendees and with the people in the city to spread the message of free global knowledge, and we want to them to be excited about using this experience to empower people in their cities, states, and countries. We’re excited to have everyone here in DC and we will do our best to help you explore everything that the city has to offer. We can’t wait to share Washington, DC with you. See you in July!
Nicholas Michael Bashour