Monday, January 6, 2014

My AHA Highlights

Unlike many historians who were stranded in Washington D.C. because of snow and ice, I managed to make it home from the AHA meeting yesterday with few problems.  It took me an extra hour due to the icy roads, but I arrived home to see the second half of the Chargers-Bengals game and the entire Niners-Packers game (although I did take a brief nap during the second quarter).  It seems that many of the stranded historians made good use of their time. Some used the opportunity to finish writing projects, others wrote blog posts, and some settled in for the season premiere of Downton Abbey (as I type this my entire family is in the next room glued to the television set).

I spent last year's AHA in New Orleans attending sessions, catching up with friends, blogging, and tweeting.  Some of you may recall that I was the conference's top tweeter.  This year felt more like work, but there were still some highlights.  Here are a few:

  • I sat on a high-powered post-doc search committee.  It was a lot of fun listening to some of the best and brightest in the field talk about their projects.  
  • Through conversations with editors I began to get a picture of what I may be writing over the course of the next couple of years.  (More on that in a future post).
  • I spent some time with a few younger historians and learned about their exciting work.
  • I had a great chat with The Way of Improvement Leads Home correspondent Christopher Graham about public history, teaching history, and how historians can do a better job of understanding their audiences.
  • I had coffee with a former student who has become the most enthusiastic doctoral student I have ever encountered.
  • I had dinner with a former student who is completing his Ph.D in Latin American history and has a job lined up at a research university.
  • I confused Robert Walpole and Horace Walpole in the paper that I presented.  Two people in the room caught the mistake, one of which was the session commentator.  (Although he was gracious enough to tell me privately).
  • I learned that historians are usually in bed, or at least in their hotel rooms, relatively early. When I came down to the Marriott lobby at 2:40am on Saturday morning (I needed to print something) I did not see a soul.
  • An English professor in attendance at the conference told me that historians at the AHA do not "self-fashion" as much as literacy critics at the MLA.
  • I realized that the AHA is not the best place to learn how to use my first smartphone.  I do not recommend trying to learn the "maps" feature while trying to decipher the best way to walk to a session in which you are presenting.  The same goes for learning how to use the snooze feature on the alarm.
  • I learned that I am not the only historian who comes to the AHA with a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in my suitcase.
Another great AHA.  As usual, I left very energized.