Dear Titanic International Society Members:
At a special meeting held via Zoom on January 18, 2022, the trustees of Titanic International Society voted unanimously, and with deep regret, to cancel Convention 2022, scheduled for Boston this coming June. It marks the first time in our Society’s history that we have had to cancel a convention, amid what clearly are extraordinary, unprecedented times, when so much is beyond our control. The trustees’ decision came only after careful analysis of all available information, application of our extensive experiences from past conventions, and listening to every trustee’s views about potential positives and problems of a Boston gathering.
The Society faced a contractual deadline of January 21 from our hotel, which already had agreed to two postponements of the convention in 2020 and 2021. If we gave the hotel a “go” now, with the present pandemic conditions so unpredictable, making accurate “guesstimates” of what life, rules, requirements and members’ views would be six months from now, and planning even the basics of any successful convention – speakers, the sites to visit, delegates’ transportation within Boston, meals together, vendors and members’ displays, etc. – would have been virtually impossible.
Five months from now, in June, if we did not fill the hotel room block set aside for our delegates, or if the hotel did not realize $7,500 in food and drink expenditures, the Society itself would be liable for any shortfall, potentially setting up what one trustee called a “financial fiasco.” At least one proposed convention field trip site, Harvard University (with its library’s Harry Elkins Widener Memorial) has banned all non-Harvard visitors from its campus. We cannot predict members’ reactions to traveling to Mt. Auburn Cemetery in 20-passenger buses, where little or no social distancing would be possible. Airline service presently is badly disrupted; we cannot predict its status in June. Ever-changing rules regulating entries into the U.S. of our Canadian and European members could discourage or prevent their attendance. Non-vaccinated members could be excluded from indoor group activities at the hotel, as required under Boston’s “B Together” regulations, announced just days ago. Yet another “surge,” perhaps involving a new variant, might be a possibility.
Just one-third of our membership offered guidance to the trustees by taking the 2021 Members’ Survey. Those who did so split evenly between 2022 and 2023 as their preferred convention date, while about half expressed no preference at all. And some 40% of those responding said it would be “somewhat or very unlikely” they would attend the convention at all. (You’ll see the full survey results in Voyage 118, mailed to members on January 19.)
With 2022 being the 110th anniversary of Titanic’s loss, the trustees believe the Society certainly should try to offer commemorative activities, primarily online. Already, the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut has announced an online symposium, Titanic: A Deeper Dive, for April 14, featuring presentations by members Tad Fitch, Brandon Whited, yours truly and others. We have begun working on additional presentations, including online “visits” to Titanic sites, with expert commentary by Mike Poirier and Shelley Dziedzic, and a new series of podcasts by trustee Christina Landis, featuring Titanic authors and experts.
But we want to do more! We want you to be our eyes and ears, on the lookout for additional Titanic-themed activities in your neighborhood. Re-creations of Titanic dinners, PowerPoint presentations, Titanic teas – whatever and whenever you learn of a Titanic commemoration near you, please get all the specific details (who, what, when, where), and send them to TIS’s convention coordinator Sandy Gallo at email@example.com, and to Shelley Dziedzic at firstname.lastname@example.org. TIS will then post them on our website, Facebook page and other social media outlets, rather like a virtual bulletin board. Be sure to check with us frequently, starting in March, so you can participate in these offerings!
Nothing can replace the many pleasures of a TIS convention. They have been a vital part of our Society’s activities since its 1989 founding. However, our members’ safety during these unique, unpredictable times must be our priority. We all hope that ere long, we again can get together, “live and in-person,” enjoying one another’s company while learning more about Titanic and other great liners.
In closing, and on behalf of your trustees, I sincerely thank our convention coordinator, Sandy Gallo, for all her hard work, countless hours, innumerable telephone calls and emails she has spent on Convention 2022 over the past three years. Truly it was her labor of love that had crafted what we all had so looked forward to. Thank you so much, Sandy!
May this letter find you and yours well and safe.
With every good wish,
Charles Haas, President, TIS