U.S. History Happens Here: The 2018 OAH Annual Meeting

This article first appeared:
SELBY, Hajni G. "U.S. History Happens Here: The 2018 OAH Annual Meeting." The American Historian, November 2017, 25-27.

In the fall of 2017, the 2018 program committee, chaired by Claudrena Harold of the University of Virginia and William G. Thomas from the University of Nebraska, met with OAH President Edward L. Ayers in a small cream-colored conference room to discuss what would end up being the 2018 OAH Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California. The ideas that electrified the room has grown into a cornucopia of program offerings to satisfy any American historian or those with a keen interest in U.S. history.

The concept of making American history more public-facing gave rise to the theme “Forms of History” and allowed the committee—and those who submitted proposals—to explore the ways historians present their work to the public and to each other.

One feature that the program committee developed, and felt was not only integral to the program but also essential to the profession itself, is the “Doing History” workshop series. These workshops are designed to help attendees engage broader audiences, in a variety of formats, with high-quality scholarship. Attendees can take part in these workshops to learn about graphic novels, animation, augmented reality, digital storytelling, and family history. They can also learn to improve their social media identities, refine their public writing skills, and better their teaching methods.

Over the last decade, film as a form of history has raised important questions about the strengths, limitations, and possibilities of historical documentation. The OAH Film Festival will open with the keynote address “50 Years of Radical Image Making and Documenting the Past: A Conversation with Cornelius Moore of California Newsreel” and be followed by screenings of various films that explore a variety of topics, ranging from the environment to racialized violence to student activism. The films showcase multiple aesthetic forms such as feature-length documentaries and animated short films such as Daniel Janke’s How People Got Fire, Abby Ginzberg and Frank Dawson’s Agents of Change, and Lance Warren and Hannah Ayers’s Lynching: An Outrage.

The 2018 Annual Meeting in Sacramento offers a diverse selection of sessions and workshops to keep attendees engaged and energized. Though the conference is shortened by a half day, the number of combined sessions, workshops, lunch keynotes, and chats have increased to 221. Given today’s social and political climate, the many workshops and sessions designed to engage and update attendees on the current techniques, issues, and attitudes in the modern classroom will be timely and informative. With over 20 events on teaching and two days of State of the Field sessions, attendees can brush up on their knowledge of queer history or race and learn about the current trends in teaching the U.S history survey course or challenging patriarchy in the classroom. Chats such as “Teaching Conspiracies in the Classroom,” “Teaching and Supporting International and Immigrant Students,” and “Dismantling the Myth of Meritocracy: Teaching the History of White Supremacy” invite attendees to discuss the emotionally charged topics and issues affecting their classrooms. The plenary session “California and the Nation–Past, Present, and Future” will feature three eminent historians, Vicki Ruiz, Waldo E. Martin, and T.J stiles grappling with the historical forces that have shaped the relationship between California and the nation. They will examine not only how the state and the nation have responded to one another over time but also how their contested history has in turn shaped the choices we face today. While the evening plenary “Confederate Monuments: What to Do?” invites OAH President, Edward L. Ayers, and other historians to a town-hall style conversation about how historians participating in the debates over Confederate monuments and other divisive representations of the past can contribute to a firm foundation for trust in our shared future.

Additionally, the program is rich in diverse topics pulled together from the excellent submitted sessions and solicited sessions. The OAH works with its committees, and it partners with a wide array of affiliate groups, such as LAWCHA, SHGAPE, and IEHS, to create a program abundant in the latest scholarship from a diverse group of subdisciplines. Attendees are invited to connect with others in their interest area by attending networking events and following the threads of endorsed and solicited sessions. Attendees can map a different, and perhaps unexpected, path through the conference by using the Theme Visualizer, an online tool that displays related presentations across all formats. By selecting a theme, attendees can make explicit latent connections within the program and navigate the conference and its content in a new way.

Attendees can continue to circulate within or outside their subdisciplines at the many social gatherings designed to foster new relationships and nurture old ones. The many meal functions, including luncheons and receptions, allow attendees to mingle with individuals with similar interests, while the broader receptions invite attendees to socialize with the community at large. The OAH Awards Ceremony, newly featured on Friday, focuses on celebrating the achievements of that community. The new schedule allows the OAH to highlight the event and the accomplishments of the award winners, and to honor its longtime members.

With 135 daily nonstop flights, getting to Sacramento is easy. Spring in California brings blooms of flowers and trees, clear blue skies, and warm sunny days—ideal weather for taking in the sights of this Central Valley city. The Local Resource Committee, chaired by Paula Austin and Khal Schneider of California State University, Sacramento, have assembled an assortment of tours that showcase the rich history of Sacramento and its surrounding areas. Attendees have the opportunity to visit Sutter’s Fort, three of the State’s largest archives, the California Railroad Museum, or the Sacramento History Museum; they can go on a walking ghost tour developed by CSUS public history students, or guided tours of the Stanford Mansion and state Capitol building. Attendees can visit Locke, the only town in the United States built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese or take a tour of Oak Park, Sacramento’s first streetcar suburb and an important place in the African American history of the city.

Sacramento is at the forefront of fresh, seasonal cuisine sourced right from the city’s backyard. Today, Sacramento sits among 1.5 million acres of farms and ranches that grow more than 160 crops for markets here and abroad. Local restaurants utilize the abundance of regionally grown products to create unparalleled fresh cuisine, and with over 45 restaurants within a 5 block radius of the Sacramento Convention Center attendees can sample Sacramento’s farm-to-fork cuisine. The new dine-around option allows colleagues to continue the conference well into the evening. For a fixed price they receive a 3 to 4 course meal and a nonalcoholic drink in great company, and for those who want to explore the dining options on their own, the Sacramento badge program offers discounts at select restaurants using their OAH badge.

The OAH Annual Meeting energizes the profession by celebrating the best in American history, acknowledging achievements that advance our profession, and creating opportunities for scholars to make deep professional and personal connections. You will come away empowered by the OAH experience and full of fresh ideas and perspectives to implement in your professional life.

Hajni G. Selby, Director of Meetings


Posted: November 2, 2017
Tagged: Conference, OAH Works