This is a report from your "man on the scene" in Birmingham.
I have been traveling in a motor home for weeks and am now in Birmingham, Alabama, arriving several weeks in advance of the 2012 FGS conference. I have found some good news and some bad news about the conference location. OK, perhaps it is not terribly bad news; but, there are a few things you should know before traveling to Birmingham.
The Federation of Genealogical Societies' 2012 Conference will be held in Birmingham on 29 August through 1 September, 2012 with local co-host, the Alabama Genealogical Society. That's only three weeks from now! If you would like to attend, now is the time to make reservations.
Librarians' Day, sponsored by ProQuest, will be held at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel on Wednesday, 29 August 2012, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. This one day focuses on presentations for librarians, archivists, and other information professionals serving family history researchers. The keynote speaker for this event will be Dr. Edwin C. Bridges, Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, Alabama.
Other (non-Librarians' Day) activities and presentations will also take place on Wednesday and will then continue on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The speakers include many of the leading genealogy lecturers of our time. You can find a complete list of all the presentations, luncheons, and social events at http://www.fgs.org/2012conference/program/.
A list of exhibitors may be found at http://www.fgs.org/2012conference/exhibits/.
Ancestry is once again offering free scanning at the FGS Conference. I have been surprised at previous conferences how underutilized this service is. The company is offering opportunities to have pictures and old documents scanned at no charge. The scanned files will be saved to a thumb drive (provided by Ancestry.com) and given to attendees for their own use. The service is performed by professionals who use high-quality (and expensive) scanners. Best of all, this is a great service for documents you cannot easily scan at home. The maximum size supported is 22" by 15". Any type of photograph, including tintypes, is accepted. However, these scanners cannot scan slides. The items being scanned never leave your sight, so the entire process is very secure. Approximately 50 documents/photos can be scanned in each session.
Ancestry.com will perform the scanning on Thursday through Saturday, August 30-September 1, during exhibit hall hours. Sign-ups for these will be onsite at the conference. Signs-ups will open for each day: sign up Thursday for a Thursday time slot, Friday for a Friday slot, and so on. Look for signs directing you to the Ancestry.com Scanning Station.
I would suggest not waiting until the last minute to find the photos and documents you would like scanned. Find them NOW! Then be sure to bring the items with you.
Details about Ancestry.com's scanning service may be found at http://www.fgs.org/2012conference/specialevents/index.php#docscan.
Full conference registration (Wednesday through Saturday) costs $245 while a single-day registration costs $99.
Further information about this year's conference may be found at http://www.fgs.org/2012conference/.
I have walked through the conference center at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and the adjacent Sheraton Hotel, the official conference hotel. I can report that both of them are first-rate, modern facilities that appear to be excellent places to hold a conference of 1,500 to 2,000 attendees. The hotel is connected via skybridge to the BJCC convention complex so that you can walk from one to the other in air-conditioned comfort. That's important in Birmingham in August! I suspect everyone will be pleased with these facilities.
On the downside, there aren't many other hotels within walking distance. As I write these words, the Sheraton Hotel's web site still lists rooms available. I'd suggest that you grab one NOW!
If you search Google at http://goo.gl/maps/ygBXP, you will see the Westin Birmingham hotel listed a short distance away. There is a caveat here, however: the Westin is still under construction and won't be completed until January of 2013! Other hotels are significantly further away, especially if you are walking in Birmingham on a hot, sticky day in August. Look at http://goo.gl/maps/ygBXP to see what else is available.
I am staying in my Winnebago at an RV resort about twenty miles away and will commute daily.
The Sheraton's web site states that high speed Internet access in the Sheraton's lobby and guest rooms costs an extra $14.95 per day. However, the FGS web site (at http://www.fgs.org/2012conference/travel/) states, "Guest rooms and other areas throughout the Sheraton Hotel will all have FREE INTERNET access during the conference."
Parking for your automobile is available in the parking garage adjacent to the hotel, accessible by an air-conditioned skybridge. However, upon entering the garage, all air conditioning ceases. The two times I have used that parking garage, I found the heat and humidity in the garage to be oppressive.
Parking at the Sheraton costs an extra $12 a day for self-parking, $20 a day for valet parking. You will find a number of other parking garages within a few blocks, but all of them apparently charge parking fees. A few on-the-street parking spots with parking meters are available nearby, but I would not recommend them for overnight parking. Your automobile might get towed.
Likewise, restaurants are in short supply near the convention center. The Sheraton Hotel has several excellent restaurants and snack bars. I ate lunch in the Sheraton coffee shop yesterday and found it was typical of hotel coffee shops. The meal I ate was rather good. However, I suspect the Sheraton will be crowded with conference attendees during the FGS conference, and you may have to wait in line.
I also found a Subway sandwich shop and a Starbucks very close to the convention center but little else. The neighborhood is mostly offices and other business buildings with apparently little night life. Within four or five blocks, I found a number of small breakfast and luncheon places. However, I could not find any other places for a casual dinner until I went at least six or eight blocks away.
All in all, the hotel and restaurant situation is typical of any middle-of-the-city convention center. Hopefully my reconnaissance adds a little advance information that will help you to plan your stay to your best advantage.
I can offer one other bit of advice: make sure you pack an umbrella! It rains a lot this time of year in Birmingham. If you restrict yourself to the Sheraton hotel, the skywalk, and the convention center, you won't need an umbrella. However, traveling to anyplace else entails a high risk of getting wet.
Given the modern facilities available and all the advance planning that went into this year's event, I suspect the 2012 FGS conference will be an excellent event that you will not want to miss. I know that I am looking forward to it. I also hope to see you there.
For those who care, there will be an EOGN Dinner on Saturday evening, shortly after the close of the conference. I am hammering out the details now and hope to post an article here in two or three days that provides all the information. I can tell you the dinner will be held at 7 PM on Saturday evening, September 1.
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