Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Conference: Telling the History of Slavery

The full title is "Telling the History of Slavery: Scholarship, Museum Interpretation, and the Public."  The folks at Monticello are billing the February 22-23 event as a "mega-conference."  Speakers include Annette Gordon-Reed, Lucia Stanton, and a host of experts in the field of public history, digital history, and museum studies.  Here are the session titles:

Studying Slavery in the Information Age 
Technological advances in computer technology, digital imaging, and the internet have revolutionized the ability of scholars to assemble and describe large datasets pertaining to the transatlantic and inter-colonial slave trades, the spread of slave ownership among disparate classes of planters, and the demography of enslaved people. This session will examine the new information that has been made available over the last 15 years, what aspects of slavery is it most suited to address, and to what new questions and insights has it and might it continue to lead?


Reinterpreting Slavery: New Scholarly Approaches
The last 20 years have also seen profound changes in the interpretive methodologies that scholars utilize to study slavery and the lives of the enslaved. New approaches such as gender analysis and group biography have had a significant impact on the field, and generated new insights into the ideological foundations of racial slavery, cultural formation processes in African-American communities, and a host of other important topics. This session seeks to examine in what ways the scholarly literature on slavery has changed since the 1980s, what new types of questions historians are asking and answering, and where slavery studies might be headed in the future.


From Scholarship to Public Interpretation
How does scholarship on slavery make its way to the public? How has public interpretation of slavery at historic sites and museums evolved over the last 20–25 years? How do standards and formats for presentation get set, and how do museum professionals involved with interpretation of slavery approach the work of academics and scholars? Who is the assumed audience for public interpretation?

The Consumption of Slavery Research-- Who Decides?
This session will use as a case study the debate over whether or not to reconstruct absent slave dwellings at historic sites. What does the public want to see? How does this relate to historical research and historians’ debates about landscape and authenticity? What experiences are visitors to historic sites looking for, and what responsibility do scholars and museum professionals have in response to those demands? Does public demand influence future slavery research and interpretation?

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