Magazine article The Tracker

Electronic Information Sources and the OHS

Magazine article The Tracker

Electronic Information Sources and the OHS

Article excerpt

THE ORGAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY ENTERED THE TWENTY-FIRST century well before it reached the age of 50, and within the small community of similarly oriented associations, we are not completely alone in enjoying our youth. The American Theatre Organ Society, to name but one, is our contemporary, having been formed in 1955. Our sister society has many similarities with us, although its focus is narrower, and both the ATOS and the OHS support performances, publications, historical enquiry, and documentation and use of existing instruments. We might consider the two societies to have reached maturity, though perhaps not middle age.

As we have grown into our second half-century, we find ourselves joining the ATOS and other organizations in embracing new means of communication, electronic publications, and unexpected ways of learning from one another. For some of us this is foreign territory; we find comfort in receiving our information in print, whether it comes in new issues of The Tracker, in books, or in letters from friends and colleagues. Others have embraced the present and are gradually replacing print communications in their personal and professional lives. When we move beyond print, however, we are less accepting of our information sources. We find that electronic sources of information are not always clear in their presentation of factual material, and they often omit the scholarly apparatus we expect to find in print sources. We look upon them with suspicion, even while being attracted to the ease with which they can be acquired and the unlimited possibilities they offer.

What, then, are these new sources, and how are we to evaluate them? How can we participate in this electronic world? Do these new developments offer improvements in the way we communicate, or do they hinder us by providing a layer of artificiality separating us as individuals? Can we use these techniques to contribute to the twenty-first century exchange of ideas and information without compromising our values and beliefs? To be sure, we are not alone in our concerns, and it is perhaps time for us as a society to review the electronic systems that are in common use within our membership.

An investigation of our own on-line resources, those supported by the OHS, should begin with e-mail, developed more than forty years ago.1 Text-based messages were the earliest form of communication between remote computer users and the system now allows millions of people, among them OHS members, to communicate freely with one another. Many of us learn of new developments, including changes to existing pipe organs, through e-mail communications with our friends and colleagues. The system holds the promise of rapid exchange of knowledge and it offers the advantage of being able to include personal thoughts, photographs, drawings, and virtually any document that can be committed to paper. Too often, though, these content-rich communications are limited to correspondence between individuals or small groups so that the larger membership of the Society does not benefit.

On the national level, one of our newer developments has been the creation of an OHS Members e-mail list that provides an opportunity for the entire community to benefit from individual e-mail messages. As is the case with other organ-related e-mail lists, every OHS member who joins the list receives all e-mail messages sent to it.2 When more OHS members join the list and become active participants, and when some means of searching for and accessing previous posts has been implemented, the OHS Members List will become a very important source of information and a good way for all of us to learn of updates to existing organs.

Web sites, both those of individual chapters and our national site, might also serve as sources of information about organs. The four chapter web sites are varied in their content, and each includes information important to their constituent members. In two cases, chapters include on-line publications in which they present good information to the wider organ community. …

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