Howdy, friends! I spent last weekend at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Here’s what I saw & did, at least the not-unbloglich parts.
- Tenured Radical and I had coffee on Friday and then dinner on Saturday and spent the whole time figuring out how to silence and oppress more junior scholars, in-between her multiple appearances on the program and her incessant blogging and tweeting about the conference. Honestly, those of you who want to take her on had better stock up on your Power Bars and Emergen-C, because her energy and enthusiasm for her work online and as a public intellectual are utterly overwhelming. I’m ten years younger than she is, and I’m already at least a week behind her! For those of you who are interested, see her three blog reports: AHA Day 1: Digital History Workshopalooza, AHA Day 2: Fun With the Humanities, AHA Day 3: Remember the Women, and her always lively Twitter feed. (Excuse me–I have to go have a lie down after just linking to all of that activity.)
- Clever readers will hear echoes of Abigail Adams’s counsel to John Adams in Tenured Radical’s “Remember the Women” blog post. I also keep thinking of that scene from Lena Dunham’s Girls in which the character she plays, Hannah, asks the other women, “Who are the ladies?” (Shosh has been quoting a heterosexual dating advice book aimed at “the ladies,” and Hannah’s question implies that “ladies” is a stupid, made-up, narrow way to talk to real women, who come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities, etc., and both Hannah and Jessa resent being lumped into the notional category of “ladies”–just click the embedded video below.) That was the essence of Tenured Radical’s question for the women on the “Generations of History” panel she writes about in her AHA Day 3 post when she asked what the panel would have looked like if it had included a lesbian, for example, or even some women for whom marriage and children were never a part of their life plan.
- My panel on Friday afternoon on “How Should Historians Respond to MOOCs?” went very well. My Colorado-based partner in disrupting the disruptors, Jonathan Rees, blogged his notes on the panel so that you can get a little flava. HNN was recording our session, and it should allegedly appear over there for your viewing pleasure. You can see HNN’s David Austin Walsh’s comments on the AHA in general and our panel in particular here (and don’t miss clicking on regular blog commenter Tony Grafton’s thoughts on the future of books.) Furthermore, our remarks will be published in the February edition of Perspectives. (Overexposed much? Or is too much never enough?) Many thanks to Jonathan for pulling it all together, to HNN for recording us, and to our panel Chair Elaine K. Carey and Perspectives editor Allen Mikaelian for pushing us to publish our comments.
- Women historians have figured out how to dress well, especially the younger women. Men historians? Not so much. As one of my pals said, they “look like they’re wearing their bar mitzvah suits!”
- On Saturday afternoon, I took a bunch of friends down to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where the Curator of the Division of Medicine and Science, Katherine Ott, gave us a backstage tour of some of the objects in their collections and some fascinating insights into her choices as a collector and curator of medical equipment and prosthetic devices and the different insights we can get from material objects than from traditional (textual) sources. She has such a deeply humane way of thinking about the collections, and the people whose bodies they touched. Visiting her with her collections is a very different experience than visiting most libraries or archives. Both Ott’s scholarship and her work at the NMAH straddles the line of scholarship and activism, as she has leveraged her position of intellectual authority within the Smithsonian to open it up to the disability rights community. Some of the highlights in her collection for me were the smallpox inoculation kits she showed us, as well as the cast mold of President Theodore Roosevelt’s teeth. (In case you’re curious, he had complete set of choppers and great gums.)
- How did I score such a cool invitation from a Smithsonian curator? You’re looking at it. This is just one example of the connections I’ve made and the new colleagues and friends I’ve found through my blog.
- As we were ascending the vertiginous Metro escalator at the Woodley Park-Zoo station, I bumped into a young colleague who invited me to come celebrate a book launch party for a friend of hers. This party featured the most enormous bakery cake I’ve ever seen, so I had a slice in the corner of the Mariott’s bar and met the author, Amanda E. Herbert. Her book, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain will be published in a few weeks by Yale University Press.
- Thanks to all of you junior scholars who introduced yourselves to me and told me how much you like the blog. I was pleased to meet you all, and serious about my requests that you email me to stay in touch about your job searches and potential future guest blog posts.
- Finally, I had delicious dinner with TR and The Madwoman with a Laptop, her partner The Woman Formerly Known as Goose, and another friend and blog reader. We shut the restaurant down and didn’t walk out until midnight! That’s where we talked about all of the unbloglich stuff at the conference and in our real lives. If I learned anything, it’s how important those offline connections and friendships are, too.
UPDATE 1/8/2014, 7:46 MDT: Here’s the link to the HNN video of the panel. I’ve also embedded it below.