Letter from the President
By Paul A. Levengood, President and Chief Executive Officer
One of the comments I have heard most often since becoming the president of the VHS goes something like this: "You must be an expert with all that high tech stuff. You know, the internet and the digital world." This observation, I suppose, recognizes that I am relatively young. But folks, I have a confession to make to you: I am actually from a portion of my generation that had neither an e-mail address nor internet access in college. In fact, I arrived as a Davidson College freshman in 1989 with a Smith Corona word processor in tow. For those who don’t remember these contraptions, they were, essentially, typewriters on steroids.
I like to remind people that, though perhaps the pace of change has accelerated, what we call "high-tech" is really only the latest tool to help us work, play, or communicate. Think about it. Isn't an e-mail or a text message just a variation on the instantaneous communication that began with the telegraph?
This is all a roundabout way of saying that although I consider myself a full-fledged member of the digital age—you can look me up on Facebook—I realize that things change so fast I can’t always keep up. Because that's as true for the VHS as it is for me, earlier this year I established a new department dedicated to the web and digital resources, partly underwritten by a grant from Altria. Until that point, there had been no centralized group at the VHS charged with pursuing a strategy and ensuring our place in the digital world. To lead this department I named Ann de Witt, who had been in charge of our web site for three years. Under Ann's direction, we are going to be adding video features and podcasts to our web site to help the past come alive. We will also be making greater parts of our rich collections available to our more than two million annual web visitors. And to serve the students and teachers who rely on VHS programming more efficiently, we are examining how to deliver classroom programs via the internet. I hope you'll check www.vahistorical.org often to keep up with these exciting developments.
Even in these times of budgetary uncertainty, I am excited that we are moving in vital new directions. It is imperative that we do so. After all, how did those institutions that ignored the telephone or telegraph fare in the long run?
Posted April 2009
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