MAGIC History

Home :: About Us :: History

The MidAmerica GIS Consortium, also known as MAGIC, came together 20 years ago through a partnership among GIS professionals to present educational opportunities that would encourage best practices in geospatial data development, applications and promote the motto: "build once and share often". In the beginning, the organization grew from an effort spearheaded by Dr. Jim Merchant of the University of Kansas (Dr. Merchant is now at UNL/CALMIT) to host the first MAGIC Symposium in Overland Park, Kansas in 1988. With a zero budget, the group partnered with the Continuing Education division of the University, who fronted the conference costs. Later, when the conference expenses were counted and offset by registration, a $12,000 loss was covered from grant monies Dr. Merchant was able to make available. Today, MAGIC is a viable and healthy organization with enough cash reserves and liquid assets to obligate tens of thousands of dollars up front in order to secure conference facilities, provide varied workshop and educational sessions, and support member states with speakers and modest grants.

MAGIC 1988 - 2006

Let's backtrack again to the late 1980's. There were no standards among the 350+ different software products one could choose. As a result, the #1 issue proved to be "data conversion". This held true for many years as software products matured and standards were developed. There were no state coordinators; there was no National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI); there was no Internet (as we use it today)! Our business process and model for communication and coordination was entirely different from the way we function today.

Founding FathersBetween 1988 and 1996, MAGIC experienced some rocky times, trying to avoid financial distress, keep the momentum alive, and continue to provide the lowest cost, most content-rich regional GIS conference bargain in the country. In 1998, MAGIC achieved relative fiscal stability and has been expanding ever since. The 1998 Symposium, held in Lincoln, Nebraska at the Cornhusker Hotel, featured Dr. Mark Monmonier as keynote speaker. In 2000, the group moved its biennial Symposium to TanTarA Lodge at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Although alternating locations within the region kept things interesting, MAGIC committee members determined that moving away from the central location of Kansas City really didn't accomplish their mission. The decision was made to revert to the original model, a one-day drive for people in the region who might not be able to afford to travel beyond and a conference that was aligned at the local level. Since that time, this model has proven very effective, with the Symposium now offering three days of workshops, more than 100 sessions, and attendance growing to 600-700 people. The MAGIC Symposium has benefited greatly from the participation of many talented nationally known keynote speakers, workshop instructors, and presenters over the years.

As MAGIC struggled to mature during the mid-90's, the organization had strong ties to URISA, who still assist in the promotion the MAGIC Symposium. Once the current MAGIC by-laws were approved in 1996, defining the status of the non-profit entity and its organizational and management structure (through officers on an Executive committee to membership states with representatives on a Steering committee), the organization grew wings and took flight on its own.

Through it relationship with URISA and with NSGIC incorporating in 1991, these organizations evolved together throughout the 90s, complementing each others' initiatives through coordination and collaboration. MAGIC members have served on the Boards and as President of both URISA and NSGIC during this time. MAGIC has aggressively involved itself in numerous regional and national initiatives, drawing the federal government's attention to the dynamic and growing GIS environment in the MidAmerica region.


MAGIC always seeks outreach to create partnerships and implement new initiatives. Through strong leadership and creative partnerships, the MAGIC Consortium has branched beyond Symposium planning and execution to provide educational services and member support in a number of areas. MAGIC has spearheaded and sponsored significant projects, such as:

MAGIC volunteers are remarkably committed to furthering the growth and development of geospatial technologies in the MidAmerica region. Collectively, we continue to assist our colleagues and member states in the promotion of best practices and the provision of valuable GIS related educational opportunities.

Now, with state governance and organizational structures such as NSGIC in place, the group plans to regroup and do some strategic thinking about the future of MAGIC, to grow and take advantage of opportunities that can have the greatest impact. In this day of intellectual property battles, inconsistent FOI laws on the books within the member states, the value of keeping data local and constantly updated, the "build once and share often" motto is still a great challenge.