Arriving at Olympia for Who Do You Think You Are LIVE
Americans tend to think we do things in a "big" way at times, but U.S. family conferences have some keen competition in this weekend's Who Do You Think You Are LIVE event in London, billed as "The Biggest Family History Event in the World."
Sponsored by ancestry.co.uk, WDYTYA LIVE is held in the Olympia exhibition center in West Kensington. I arrived at the conference center from Kensington High Street and caught a view of the hall from the train overpass.
The historic venue opened 26 December 1886 with seating for 9000 people under a huge barrel vaulted roof, 115 feet high. The great hall covers more than one acre, and was the largest roofed arena in England when it was built. Olympia has played host to an wide assortment of events including: P.T. Barnum's Circus; dog, horse, home, and auto shows; a temporary civil prison camp during World War I; a transport center during World War II; and now WDYTYAL Genealogy and Family History Show (Wikipedia).
The entrance opens directly into the center of the great hall where the hum of conversation and lectures compete for attention. The central booths (or stands) are large, beautifully designed productions.
Looking down on the findmypast.com stall featuring the new release of UK criminal records.
A wide gallery runs around the second level offering a wonderful view of the show below, and access to private meeting rooms. I found a staircase at the corner of the hall and made my way to the gallery for an overview of the action.
The huge barrel vaulted hall at Olympia covers more than an acre of exhibit area.
Like any savvy conference attendee, one of the first things I noted was the location of the restrooms and food stands. In one corner of the gallery, a cafe/bar offered wine and beer with standard drinks and food, and on the main floor food booths from three popular restaurant chains offered a variety of selections. There was even an independent sausage-maker selling delicious sausage sandwiches on the main floor!
A look around the main floor showed that many of the stands were set up as mini-lecture spaces with chairs, projector screen, and microphone. Posted schedules at each space displayed the frequent lectures on using specific software, search strategies, and other topics
Alastair MacDonald presented on using DNA with genealogy.
Exhibitors offered a huge variety of genealogy services and products. I saw everything from local histories and parish cemetery transcriptions to memorial stones. One of the biggest draws appeared to be the local society booths where regional publications and look-ups were available. In fact, everywhere I looked, visitors were engaged in look-ups, consultations, and searches with the help of knowledgeable staff or society members.
Visitors queued up to talk with The Photo Detective, Maureen Taylor in the upstairs Gallery.
The WDYTYA website advises attendees to bring old photos for the photo experts, family heirlooms to show the heirloom experts, and documents and family tree for consultations. Although I didn't bring my research to show the experts, I found plenty of new ideas and products to investigate. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my report from Who Do You Think You Are LIVE, London 2013.