I am co-organising a conference, Cityscapes in History: Creating the Urban Experience, in Munich at the end of July.
The program is here, and we have a variety of panels on urban history – registration will be free, if you would like to attend!
The Center for Advanced Studies http://www.cas.uni-muenchen.de/veranstaltungen/tagungen/cityscapes1/index.html
- The price (ie NOT hell expensive. Yes, AHA, I am looking at you... )
- The included food was impressive! No cold ham & cheese sandwiches, but a Lebanese buffet the first day, and Indian the second. And that was LUNCH.
- The fact that everyone went to everything. There were no simultaneous panels, so everyone spent all of the two days in the one room, watching the presentations together. This might sound claustrophobic, but I found the audience to be highly engaged. I got some very useful comments on my paper, despite being later in the program (around the time people are often either napping or heading to the airport).
- Despite covering an impressive swathe of world history (European expansion across the globe from the 14th to 19th centuries!) there seemed to be commonality and focus across the program. For the first time in a long time at a conference, I actually got something out of every panel I saw.
(and what made this truly astounding? It started at 8AM each morning. And everyone showed up!!)
So, how do they do it, and what lessons can be learnt? I’m organising a conference this summer and am keen to see what works (I’ve sat through some truly dire examples of what DOESN’T). Included lunch obviously helps, as that way people stick around and talk during the break, rather than running down the street to a sandwich shop (and not bothering to come back for the afternoon panels). And having somewhere to SIT for the lunch. Too many events I’ve been to involve trying to juggle a plate, a wine glass and a bread roll while standing up. OK, so I’m food obsessed: but it does seem to make a real difference. Just try telling the academics at a conference that there is no coffee... ;)
The coordinators obviously also went to some trouble to select the papers that complemented one another, to make strong panels. But isn’t that what all conference planners try to do? There’s obviously a mysterious something else, that gets a crowd to stick around, and stay involved. I don’t know what the FEEGI trick is (was it in the coffee?), but I would like to see it at more conferences.
2005 - Seattle
2006 - Philadelphia
2007 - Atlanta
2008 - Washington, D.C.
2009 - New York
2010 - San Diego
2011 - Boston
2012 - Chicago
2013 - New Orleans
2014 - Washington, D.C.
2015 - New York
2016 - Atlanta
I don’t know how the AHA chooses the destinations: does it depend on local members campaigning for it, like the Olympics? Obviously it has to be a city where a local organising committee can make arrangments, so a city with a density of members does make sense (also because all the people living and working in New York or Boston can make a good base, whereas at another city a higher proportion of attendees have to come in from outside). I get all of that, but it would be good to see some other cities getting into the mix. Baltimore? Savannah? Providence? Memphis?
Center for Advanced Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany, 29th and 30th July, 2010. The conference aims at bringing scholars from various disciplines together
to study the history of the urban experience. One of our main themes will be the performative and ritual aspects of urban life, and the built environment. We invite proposals for individual (20 minute) papers or 3 paper panels. Please submit a 300 word abstract per paper, for panel submissions an abstract for each paper plus a brief (<200 word) summary of the panel. Submissions to Katrina Gulliver
firstname.lastname@example.org Helena Toth
email@example.com Deadline for submissions is Friday 22nd January; notifications will be sent of the acceptance of papers by Friday 12th February.
This year the theme is cities! So there are urban historians everywhere. Swarming.
One interesting thing is that the conference has a twitter hashtag, #aac_2009, which is something I would like to see other history conferences adopt. The AHA, for instance... You can follow the feed, at http://www.history.ac.uk/aac/twitter.html
All sessions will also be recorded, and I believe the plan is to release them as podcasts. Last weekend I was at the World History Association conference, which was fun! I enjoyed visiting the town, and the National Parks Service really stepped up providing guided tours and plenty of information about the local area. There were some great papers (mine, of course ;) and opium and Jesuits came out as particular themes (not in the same paper though, at least not that I heard!). Marion Diamond gave a fascinating paper about the 18th century reception of Opium, on a panel with a paper from Frances Karttunen about the opium addicted women of Nantucket, and I loved the keynote address by Dane Morrison about Salem and the China trade, from the perspective of expatriate Salemite communities through East and Southeast Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some elements could have been better organised, one comment I heard from a number of people (and with which I agreed) was the apparent lack of awareness of people coming from outside the US to attend (it’s called the WORLD history association, people!). The information on transport was limited, and distances were all given in times, e.g. “X is only five minutes away” - meaning the time it takes to travel there BY CAR. Nobody seemed to know the timetable for the shuttle bus, or how long it would take (I was given estimates anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes), and not enough time was allowed to get between the conference sites at the Peabody Essex Museum and Salem State College by bus between panels. Nonetheless, it was a fun experience, and I’m interested in the theme for next year’s WHA, ‘The Pacific in World History’.