Two history conferences in two weeks

So two Saturdays ago and today (and Friday too) I attended two different history conferences. Both were very interesting, had world class scholars and I even managed to learn something. All good things. But I still find history conferences a bit odd.

Now I have attended conferences/symposiums/meetings/workshops for a variety of fields: archaeology, anthropology, art history, GIS, geography, and library science, but I still find the history ones a bit odd.

Not odd in a bad or strange way, just…well…odd. The first one I attended (2 Saturdays ago) no one read their papers. They just discussed and answered questions and no one had slides or PowerPoint presentations. Today’s (and yesterdays) conference only had a few people with slides (apparently this is the norm at history conferences). Also both conferences sent out their papers ahead of time. Now this is really nice, but if you read the paper ahead of time it’s like knowing the surprise ending. Plus I don’t think people listen or pay attention as much if they have read the paper before hand. Perhaps I have just been to too many conferences associated with the humanities, but still…people like to look at pretty pictures.

Despite the lack of images, the speakers were very interesting. Some were really good speakers and very funny, and you could tell that besides being really fantastic scholars, they must really be good teachers- as they just knew how to work an audience (being an instructor myself I know how important that is). But a few others, I would say, could work on their people skills. If you say hi or hello to some, common courtesy requires you to say hi back. Or if someone smiles at you, smile back dammit. Its just a conference and everyone is trapped in the same room for hours, it does not hurt to be polite.