By Bethany Hawkins, AASLH Chief of Operations
Are you thinking about proposing a session for the 2023 AASLH Annual Conference in Boise, Idaho, on September 6-9? Do you need some suggestions for a topic? There are topics requested by attendees each year after the conference that might provide some inspiration. One of the best ways to get your organization to help fund your travel to the conference is to get accepted onto the program.
The 2023 conference theme I, Too, Am America is inspired by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes’s 1926 poem “I, Too” where he stakes his claim on the evolving promise of an inclusive nation by stating “I, too, am America.” His demand tests the promise of the preamble. His poem demonstrates that, despite the country’s segregated society and exclusion of Blacks from the American identity, as a Black man, Hughes was also an American. The 2023 AASLH Annual Conference theme draws on the broadening concept of American identity that is found in Making History At 250: The Field Guide for the Semiquincentennial.
I, Too, Am America evokes an inclusive definition of America which expands beyond citizenship documentation to everyone who lives, works, and contributes to American society regardless of legal status. I, Too, Am America applies to all people: Black, white, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, men, women, nonbinary individuals, adults, teens, children, the elderly, immigrants, undocumented individuals, poor and low income, non-native English speakers, multilingual people, high school graduates, college students, K-12 students, the formerly incarcerated, the incarcerated, East coast, West coast, South, Southwest, Midwest, and all variations in between. I, Too, Am America is a bold statement looking at the past, present, and future states of being an American, how we interpret American history, and our evolving audience.
But sessions directly related to the theme are just a portion of the make-up of the conference program. We made a point in 2021 and 2022 to select several “nuts and bolts” sessions for the program. This session type focuses on a particular skill that is needed in the history profession. It should be specific enough that attendees leave with a practical skill, but flexible enough that any size museum can adapt it for their needs. It is not designed to be a “show and tell,” but a “show and how to.”
Here are a few of the topics requested by past conference attendees:
- Board/Staff Relations
- Collections Care
- Collections Planning
- Earned Income
- Historic House Specific Topics
- Leadership, Especially for Mid-Career Professionals
- Making a Career Move
- Managing People
- Military History Topics
Another popular session type introduced for the 2019 conference is experiential. This session type gets attendees involved in activities. It is a great opportunity to get feedback or show something cool you are trying. Attendees will spend time doing something, not just talking. They will be immersed in an experience. Some examples from previous conferences include “Deaccessioning . . . The Quest,” “Pop Up From the Ground Up” (attendees built a pop up exhibit), and an accessibility session that got out of the conference room and into a historic site to show how important accommodations really are.
Session proposals are due December 9. For more about the theme and submitting a proposal, visit aaslh.org/annualconference/2023-annual-conference. If you have questions or want to talk to someone about your idea, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.