By Eric Morse, Marketing and Sales Manager, AASLH
Each year, the AASLH Annual Conference draws a large number of first-time participants. This year, that included three AASLH staff members—including me.
I had been looking forward to traveling to Buffalo, New York since I started my position this past February. My anticipation only grew as I learned what our team and our volunteers planned for this year’s conference, which had the theme of “Right Here, Right Now: The Power of Place.” The experience I had September 14-17 managed to exceed my expectations!
The Power of People
People were at the center of my conference experience, and I doubt I’m alone in that impression.
There was an air of reunion throughout the week. The 2021 conference drew 350 people. This year we were joined by almost 750, making this the largest state and local history gathering since 2019. There was no doubt that people were happy to see each other in person again!
I particularly enjoyed my time at the first-time attendee and new member reception, the Diversity and Inclusion mixer, and in the exhibit hall. In all of these spaces I was able to meet new people and network. These events are staples of every conference and I highly recommend them to anyone who attends a future conference.
Welcoming first-time attendees and new members at a special reception just for them.
One of the things I enjoy about any conference is the opportunity to meet leaders in the history, museum, and cultural fields. This seemed easier to do at our conference, rather than larger gatherings, such as the AAM Annual Meeting.
I also enjoyed the AASLH Leadership in History Awards presentation. From my place on the side of the stage—making sure no one fell and that our Facebook live stream was working—I could sense the pride of the award winners and the appreciation of the audience for the winning projects.
AASLH leadership with members of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, who won an award for the MHA Interpretive Center in North Dakota.
The Power of Place
I doubt I’m alone in thinking that another highlight of any conference is doing some sightseeing.
The evening before the conference began, some AASLH staff went to view Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls State Park is easily one of the nicest and most spectacular state parks I’ve ever visited, getting you right between the falls on the U.S. side of the border and next to the horseshoe falls in Canada. Following that visit, we ate at the Anchor Bar location in Niagara Falls. The original location invented Buffalo chicken wings, which I had to try.
No trip to Buffalo is complete without a visit to Niagara Falls.
I took the night off and didn’t attend the evening event at the Buffalo History Museum, which is located at the only remaining building from the 1901 Pan American Exposition. I regretted that decision, as I heard how beautiful the building was and how everyone who went had a good time seeing the museum. I did walk around downtown after dinner that night and saw some of Buffalo’s wealth of architecture. The preservation of these buildings truly gives Buffalo a unique sense of place.
The Buffalo Savings Bank, a block from the hotel, was most beautiful lit up at night.
I worked the event at Canalside on Thursday, located at the 1825 western terminus of the Erie Canal. If I hadn’t been working, you can bet I would have roller skated at the largest outdoor roller rink in New York and ridden on the Buffalo Heritage Carousel.
As a fan of jazz, blues, and boogie-woogie, I enjoyed visiting the Colored Musicians Club and Museum and learning about Buffalo’s extensive music history during the Michigan Street Party on Friday night. Michigan Street is the center of Buffalo’s African American heritage.
Danny Williams, President of the Board of the Colored Musicians Club, talks about the history of the museum during Friday’s evening event.
The Power of Gathering
There’s power when people come together. The Historical Thinking Under Fire Town Hall included a panel discussion and audience input on how the history field can respond to increasing censorship of historical teaching in many areas of the country. There was an energy in the room of people wanting to connect and do something. It was great to see the passion of our community for the public’s right to a full and inclusive history.
Dr. Noelle Trent speaks during the Historical Thinking Under Fire Town Hall.
While all the panelists made important points, the audience seemed to especially respond to comments made by Dr. Noelle Trent, the Director of Interpretation, Collections, and Education at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Many of her points highlighted the example the Civil Rights Movement can provide in taking action and making positive change today and the role that inclusive history plays in equity and justice for all people.
Dr. Trent is the program chair of the 2023 AASLH Annual Conference, which will be held in Boise, Idaho, September 6-9, 2023. We hope you’ll join us! We are already accepting session proposals for next year’s conference.
Until then, check out our 2022 Virtual Conference, which takes place November 1-3, 2022.
On behalf of everyone at AASLH, we’d like to thank the participants and exhibitors who were able to join us.
We’d also like to thank the sponsors, volunteers, session leaders, and the host and program planning committees—the conference could not have happened without you.