Philadelphia Reflections from #AASLH2019

By Harvee White, Augusta Museum of History, Augusta, GA

Conferences, in the best way possible, are exhausting! Let’s see how long it takes me to sort through bundles of business cards and decipher days worth of session notes.

As an educator for a small museum, I found the 2019 AASLH conference helpful. As an emerging museum professional, and even more specifically a black woman emerging museum professional, I found it validating. Having a network of mentors, teachers, and peers who understand not only the museum world, but also understands navigating the museum world with the intersections of my identity is priceless (shout-out to the D&I Mixer).

I flew back home with tangible, useful resources— Native Knowledge 360* is a great one (if you missed that session, look it up)! But more than that, I came home with a great network of people, and a slew of ideas. Now that I’ve been home for some time, though, I find that it’s hard to keep track of all the ideas that were once so vibrant in my mind. The first day back at work was spent answering missed phone calls and emails, and bragging to my coworkers about what a great time I had. It’s much too easy to revert back to the same routine. But if there’s one thing I learned from AASLH 2019 and its theme, What Are We Waiting For?, it’s this: We can’t wait for someone to do the work for us. And there is a lot of hard work to be done. So although it’s easy to slip into the same pre-conference routine, I’ve made the decision to do the harder thing— to remember the lessons I’ve learned and apply them to the work I do. Practical things (that pesky lack of money, time, and resources) will get in the way, but I do think that those truly committed to change will make a way. The only way to successfully grapple with hard and inconvenient and misunderstood histories is to commit— genuinely, and from the inside out.

And Philadelphia! What a beautiful city and the perfect place to delve into the theme of the conference. From the Museum of the American Revolution to Eastern State Penitentiary, I saw inclusive histories being told.

I wish I could have cloned myself. There were so many sessions and so many parts of the city that I missed. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to attend my very first AASLH conference in a city that I’d never before visited. 10/10 would conference again!