African-American Museum Takes Public Lead on Y2K


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Chicago -- Chicago's museum of African-American history has taken a leadership role in educating city residents about the Y2K problem.

Hank Dungee, director of information technology at the DuSable Museum of African-American History, organized a seminar series titled 'Y2K and the African-American Community' after being bombarded with calls from people worried about a citywide shutdown of utilities and essential services.

The museum's Y2K seminar series is broadcast to members of the Chicago Consortium for Higher Education, a group of 43 area colleges, universities and museums. Teleconferencing, made possible by a new information technology pavilion, allows participants at auxiliary sites to pose questions and participate in discussion.

The initiative is part of an emerging concept Dungee calls the 'museum without walls' in which museums help citizens understand the present as well as the past.

The first Y2K seminar in April had a combined museum and auxiliary site audience of approximately 1,200 people, said Dungee. Speakers included representatives from local, state and federal government, banking and technology industries, and utility companies.

The questions asked at the first seminar made it clear to Dungee that many people were in need of more background information about Y2K. So the second seminar, held on June 16, focused on explaining the reasons for Year 2000 dilemma. A 10-minute animated video preceded the discussion for this purpose. The second seminar attracted 1,600 people.

In mid-September, a third seminar will address issues involving companies that have not met compliance as of that point, Dungee said. He plans to have that meeting broadcast via satellite -- in addition to interactive television -- to reach a broader audience.