Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Clara's Busy Fortnight- Part II: AHA Conference

On January 2nd it was on to the next adventure. I flew to New Orleans to present my paper about the Hemline Index at the American Historical Association conference.

I was staying in a hotel by myself, and a pretty nice one at that. This was exciting for a lot of reasons, but chief among them was the ridiculous number of pillows that I had all to myself.

There was also an extra in the closet
After the long week at MOHAI, it was very tempting to just make a pillow nest and watch reality shows on TLC. But I was good, and convinced myself to leave the room and actually attend the conference. 

Even though it promotes itself as an organization for all historians, the AHA is really geared toward people who have PhDs and tenured professorships and those who are trying to get those things.  (When I emailed a question to the IT people the response came back “Dear Dr. Berg…”). It was a big honor to be asked to present and I wanted to do a good job, but if I bungled the whole thing it wouldn't be that big of a deal. Unlike most people there, I wasn’t trying to find employment, beef up my credentials for tenure, or catch the eye of a publisher.

Luckily, my talk did go well, and was delivered to a rapturously attentive crowd of eight. After it was over, I could relax and just go hear other people talk. The sessions I picked included papers on the portrayal of women in 1950s Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, a detailed rundown of every Civil War monument built in Kentucky, and what it is like to be a white guy who teaches Latin American history to Latino students. Fascinating stuff. 

One thing I was particularly interested to find out was how stereotypically historian-looking the AHA crowd would be. There were certainly people there who didn't look like fusty old academics (young people! women! people of color!) but there was a solid contingent of people who skewed the general profile toward the gray haired and tweedy. Three proofs of this fact: 1) At any larger session there always seemed to be an inordinate amount of old-man coughing. Not the "I have a cold" kind, but the "I've reached a point in my life where I just open my mouth and cough every 2 minutes" kind. 2) After I gave my talk I opened my conference booklet and saw a picture of AHA president William Cronon--and realized he looked exactly like the guy sitting in the front row of my talk! So exciting! I later found out that it was, in fact, a different older white male with white hair and glasses. 3) On the first night, early AHA arrivals mixed in the lobby with football fans there for something called the "Sugar Bowl." There was no mistaking who was there for which event.

When I got back, I opened my email and saw that I had been sent this NY Times article:

So it doesn't talk about me or my specific talk, but THE ARTICLE MENTIONED MY PANEL. Which means one of those eight people in the room was a reporter from the New York Times. So yeah, I think the whole thing counts as a win. 

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on so many fronts! But mention of your talk in the NYTimes--NICE.