Next week I’m going to a conference in Monterey, California (near San Francisco). It is the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History and the whole adventure is extremely exciting.
For one thing because it is so far away (twelve hours on a plane, and nine hours time difference). And because I am going there with my 7-month-old baby, an experiment of which I doubt the wisdom increasingly as the conference approaches. In principle the set-up is super luxurious, because I have a babysitter there throughout the conference, who’ll look after him during the day, and bring him round to the conference center so I can feed him. I have emailed and skyped with her and she seems great. But also, what would be his usual night (7pm-7am in the Netherlands) is 10am-10pm there. Which probably means he’ll sleep through the day and be awake all night. When the babysitter isn’t there. O well. There’s only one way to find out.
But of course the really exciting thing is the conference itself. It’s really big and seems incredibly well-organized. One particularly interesting aspect of it, is that, as a first-time attendee, I am in the conference’s mentoring program, which means I have been assigned a mentor. My mentor, brilliantly, but also somewhat intimidatingly, is Cynthia Koch, who was director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library from 1999-2011. My paper is about that library, which I of course see from a massive distance, and which she knows so intimately. Sure, there are advantages to looking from a distance, and our panel is in fact about providing a European perspective on American public history, but still. The two others on my panel actually draw on European examples, which they presumably know much more about than the (probably) mostly American audience.
Having said that, we have so far had a really nice email conversation and it is a great honor and privilege to be able to pick her mind and hear her stories. And my paper is finished. It will probably give rise to discussion and it may, rightly or wrongly, make people think I don’t understand at all what I’m talking about. But I’ll keep you posted on all that.