The 2013 AASLH Annual Meeting is just around the corner!  We certainly hope you will be able to join the Educators and Interpreters Committee in Birmingham, Alabama for this historically significant year of civil rights anniversaries. Click this link here to get all the info you need on the Annual Meeting.

As this year’s annual program guide states: “Birmingham is a city that has reoriented its history, inspiring international human rights movements. It is the perfect place to think and talk about how stories of ordinary people and extraordinary change inspire and inform us, our publics, our programs, and outreach.”

Each year, the Educators and Interpreters Committee hosts a meeting kick-off.  In the past, it’s been a breakfast on Thursday morning.  Last year, several of you let us know that you would prefer to have a luncheon instead of a breakfast, and we agreed.  So, we want to invite you all to attend this year’s Annual Meeting Kick-Off (sans breakfast), which will be held on Thursday, September 19 from 8:30 am to 9:45 am.

What is an “annual meeting kick-off?” you ask?  Well, it’s our opportunity to say hello and let you know what we’ve been working on over the last year.  We’ll also share information about education and interpretation sessions, in case you want to put together your meeting attendance strategy.

The bulk of the session will involve an in-depth exploration of the conference theme, which this year is “Turning Points: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Change.”  Each year, we look to invite a speaker from the host city to share with us their thoughts and experiences with the annual theme.

Last year in Salt Lake City, we invited Craig Foster from to talk to us about using genealogy resources.  The resulting discussion on the opportunities and challenges of using genealogy in public programs was very fruitful.  You can read a blog post about it here.

This year, we’ve invited Ahmad Ward, the Head of Education at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, to speak to us.  Initially, we asked him about his experiences incorporating “difficult” contemporary history into his school and public programs.  As we talked, we landed on a few specific topics for his presentation that I think will be very interesting for all of us.

Ahmad has some great ideas and experiences with using modern civil rights/human rights issues (LGBT, immigration reform, and so on) as a lens to make connections to the 1960s civil rights movement. There are plenty of opportunities to help students and visitors think critically about their modern world by, say, comparing the differences in “civil disobedience” as a method of agitating on issues then (passive sit-down strikes, marches) and now (social media).  Ahmad will spend some time sharing these and other experiences to provide some fodder for a discussion on incorporating multiple voices and perspectives in our interpretation and educational programs.

Ahmad will also talk about the importance of collaborating with groups and individuals connected to an issue or cause before the attempting any programming or exhibits.  I think this is one of those universally understood “best practices” in museum education and interpretation, but what is not always clear is how to reach out and engage stakeholders in a cause.  So, we’ll have the opportunity to learn from Ahmad’s experiences and brainstorm strategies as a group.

We hope to see you all in Birmingham, but if you can’t make it, stay tuned here and check out our Twitter feed (@AASLHEdInt).  We’ll post a blog about the kick-off here, and will invite your input and perspectives!