Monday, February 20, 2012

Look out Milwaukee - Here We Come!

What could be a better way to end the school year than with a road trip with two of your best grad school buddies?  I'll tell you what: make that trip extra nerdy with your destination - Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the National Council on Public History/Organization of American Historians 2012 Annual Conference!

I have wanted to attend a NCPH conference for a few years now, but either the timing didn't work out or the travel costs were prohibitive.  I mentioned my interest to the director of the Public History program at UWO, and she suggested I consider presenting at the conference.  Then I would be eligible for funding to help off-set travel costs.

So I brought the idea to the other members of my small group for our 1812 project, Adriana and Laura.  They were in!  We put together a proposal for a poster presentation about our research for the War of 1812 commemorative smartphone app, and it was accepted!  (You can see how famous we are now on page 80 of the conference program.)

Once we were accepted, and started making plans for the trip, we realized how many amazing opportunities there are for graduate students at a conference like this.  First, everyone knows that as students our budgets are tight, so there are a lot of ways to save money on the trip.  We can join NCPH and OAH at the discounted student rate, we signed up for a volunteer shift at the conference so our registration fee will be waved, and there is a women in the historical profession luncheon which offered limited complimentary tickets for grad students on a first come, first serve basis.  We were able to sign up for those as well.  It also helps that the three of us traveling together will split gas and hotel for the trip.

There are also several sessions, tours, and activities geared toward students to help us get the most out of the conference (there's actually a whole section of the program for grad students.)  All three of us have signed up for the mentor program, which will put us in touch with a conference veteran to help us learn the ropes and get us started meeting new people.  We're also attending a breakfast for first-time conference attendees.  There is a speed-networking session, where we will have the opportunity to experts in fields such as museums, historic sites, historic preservation, and independent consulting. And of course we signed up for the Riverwest: An Exploration of Milwaukee's Tavern Culture for Grad Students Bus Tour!

Our hotel is booked, and we're all registered, so now Laura, Adriana, and I are just counting the days!  You can bet there will be future posts about my first professional conference experience!

Oh, and if you are interested, here is the abstract for our poster session:

Putting History in the Palm of Your Hand: War of 1812 Historical & Commemorative Smart Phone Application
A waterfront park, an empty field, and an unassuming cemetery - what do these have in common?  All are important historical sites in South Western Ontario, though few recognized their significance.  Often, locations such as these have little more than a plaque to commemorate the the events that took place, but that does not diminish their historical value.  Anniversaries offer perfect opportunities to connect the public to local history.  The upcoming bicentennial of the War of 1812 has been a catalyst for national commemorations in Canada.  To engage visitors at these Ontario sites, Public History graduate students at the University of Western Ontario are researching and developing a GPS-guided smart phone application.  This project will document, commemorate, and promote the important regional sites connected with the War of 1812.  The tour will follow the retreat of British Major-General Henry Proctor his First Nations allies led by Tecumseh, beginning at Fort Malden in Amherstburg and ending with the battle of the Themes just outside of Moravaintown.  By making use of contemporary digital technology, the smart phone application will provide visitors with a multisensory, educational, and entertaining experience.  For this project, the students partnered with the War of 1812 South Western Ontario Region established by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture, as well as the Tecumseh Parkway Committee.  Collaborations such as this make it possible to provide a compelling and cohesive visitor experience.

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