What to Do, Where to Go When You’re in DC for AHA18

DC is a lot more than swamp and politics. It’s also home to the AHA and much of the staff responsible for its day-to-day operations. So this year, in honor of the annual meeting being held in our backyard, AHA staff is excited to bring to you our selection of favorite local DC haunts, as well as sessions during the annual meeting that we would like to attend, but probably can’t. (Hey, someone has to chase that pigeon out of the Job Center!) 

Check out our recommendations, and tweet us your own at #AHA18

The main reading room in the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress.

The main reading room in the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress.

Debbie Doyle, Meetings Coordinator

Where to go: The main reading room in the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress. The Italian Renaissance style and sheer allegorical overload of the building culminate in the main reading room, where researchers sit at elegant wooden desks while tourists look down from the viewing gallery. I always feel like a real scholar when I sit there, with the figure of History looking down on me.

Session recommendations: The National Park Service’s LGBTQ America Theme Study: A Roundtable
AHA Session 103
Friday, January 5, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
I’m interested in both the process for including LGBTQ history in the interpretation of NPS sites and in the broader context of how large theme studies impact the history told in the parks. 

Amphibious Spaces: Colonial Legal Engagements with Watery Environments
AHA Session 180
Saturday, January 6, 8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m.
This session would be my pick for taking 90 minutes to learn about a whole new area of research. I’m interested in environmental and landscape history and it would be fascinating to hear how the intersection of land and water shaped the legal and commercial history of colonialism and imperialism.

Jane Green, Marketing and Public Relations Manager

Where to go: Although not one of the free museums in the Smithsonian system, the National Building Museum is worth a trip for those interested in architecture, construction, and design. It’s also a great choice if you have small children who need to burn off some energy.

Session recommendation: Teacher, Historian, Scholar: The Professional Identity of Two-Year Faculty
AHA Session 1
Thursday, January 4, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
I’ll admit I’m biased because my husband is on this panel. We’ve been lucky to build careers in the same city. His position at Northern Virginia Community College gives him many opportunities to “be a historian,” and I get to live vicariously through his teaching and research. I hope his experience can be a model for others who opt to work in a community college.

The Great Hall of the National Building Museum. Phil Roeder via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Great Hall of the National Building Museum. Phil Roeder via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Emily Swafford, Manager of Academic Affairs

Where to go: I’ve been in love with Lao cuisine since I first tasted it on a bitterly cold day during an ill-timed research trip to Madison, WI. Guaranteed to be tasty even when it’s freezing outside, Thip Khao in Columbia Heights has a great happy hour to boot.

Session Recommendations: Oral History Jukebox
Saturday, January 6, 3:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
My vote for best title and it sounds super interesting and useful.

Research and Scholarship in Federal History Jobs
AHA Session 24
Thursday, January 4, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
DC is a federal city, so this meeting attracts a particularly strong showing from historians in the federal government. Get all your questions answered in a session!

Jill Wharton, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Session Recommendations: Teaching Capitalism
AHA Session 159
Saturday, January 6, 8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m.
The return of younger voting populations onto the scene of US presidential politics—as well as to protest movements across Europe—during the last decade constitutes, I think, the most important democratic development of the early 21st century. Learning to model histories of capitalism and its discontents for millennial and postmillennial students is a starting point for thinking beyond symptomatic analysis and defending intellectual, as well social activism, within institutional environments. Looking forward to the Q+A!

High vs. Low: A Roundtable Discussion of High Modernism and Low Modernism in the History of Agrarian Development
AHA Session 199
Saturday, January 6, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed by the noncommunication of popular media outlets, I remember that Absalom, Absalom! and Gone with the Wind were published in the same year (and competed for a consumer market). And reinjecting the rural into modernist studies was the major preoccupation of my dissertation. I’m glad to see more globally oriented debates continue!

Zoe Jackson, Editorial Assistant

Where to go: Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café is a fantastic independent bookstore (with a sizable history section), a bar featuring drinks with literary names, and a full restaurant—all in one!

Session Recommendations: Is This Thing On? How History Podcasts Can, and Should, Change the Discipline
AHA Session 35
Thursday, January 4, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
I am an avid listener of Ben Franklin’s World and I expect this roundtable to offer a fascinating and important discussion of the role of podcasts in the future of the discipline.

Smithsonian American Art Museum. Wikimedia Commons

Smithsonian American Art Museum. Wikimedia Commons

Dancing Reformers or Reformed Dancers? Dance, Religion, and Gender in the Reformation
AHA Session 45
Thursday, January 4, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
This session combines my love of dance and belief in its social significance with my historical interests in early modern Europe, religious history, and gender history.

Seth Denbo, Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives

Where to go: The Smithsonian American Art Museum. It has some wonderful art, some unexpected “outsider art” treasures, and a great covered courtyard with free wifi and good coffee without the crowds. It’s also a great place to get away from the meeting chaos and have some quiet time.

Session Recommendations: Arguing with Digital History: A Roundtable on Using Digital History to Make Arguments for Academic Audiences
AHA Session 230
Saturday, January 6, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.

History from Below in 3D: Digital Approaches to the History of Carceral Institutions
AHA Session 236
Saturday, January 6, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

While digital methods are becoming mainstream among historians, few digital history projects are taken seriously as interventions into the scholarly conversations in their field. These two panels aim to rectify that problem. The first, “Arguing with Digital History,” is part of a larger Mellon-funded effort led by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media to try to break down some of the barriers to doing and publishing digital scholarship.

This roundtable will be followed by a session called “History from Below in 3D.” Speakers will present research on criminal history using 3D visualization of the built environment of courtrooms, prisons, and work houses of 18th- and 19th-century England. All papers on the panel ask questions about how the architecture of incarceration helps us understand the operations of class and power in the first industrial society.

Allison Miller, editor, Perspectives on History

Meridian Hill or Malcolm X park in Washington, DC. Rudi Riet via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Meridian Hill or Malcolm X park in Washington, DC. Rudi Riet via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Where to go: Although it’s managed by the National Park Service (which calls it Meridian Hill Park), Malcolm X Park is very much a DC neighborhood institution. Its flat northern half contains an expansive lawn, great for meeting up for picnics in fine weather, ringed by wooden benches. Running down the hill to the south of the lawn is an Italianate garden featuring winding paths flanking a stunning terraced waterfall. For decades the park has hosted a Sunday-afternoon drum circle, gathering musicians, dancers, and spectators of all ages. Gentrification has changed the park (and the drum circle), but it remains a magnet for Washingtonians.

Session Recommendations: Teaching Queer Themes and Experiences in World History
AHA Session 30
Thursday, January 4, 3:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
As LGBTQ history grows by leaps and bounds, and as student demand for related content increases, historians may wonder how to incorporate this scholarship into their teaching. Chaired by Averill Earls (Mercyhurst Univ.), this session promises to engender rich discussion, perhaps reminiscent of a recent Perspectives article on teaching the global history of sex.

Experimenting with New Dramatic Histories
AHA Session 269
Sunday, January 7, 9:00 a.m.–10:30 a.m.
Recognizing that stories attract people to history, the panelists at this session propose that we write “dramatic history,” to “marry narrative and fiction with the tools of the historian.” This strategy would allow us to write the histories of people underrepresented in archives, including women and people of color, in a new way. I’ve gone off on obscure historical writing, so this is a can’t-miss for me.

Historians for Mental Health: An Open Discussion
AHA Session 106
Friday, January 5, 1:30 p.m.–3 p.m.
A great deal of discussion of mental health in academe has surfaced in recent years. For the second year in a row, the AHA is sponsoring a discussion of mental health issues in our discipline. This isn’t a panel or roundtable, it’s a space for historians to speak frankly about the challenges we face, facilitated by Kevin Boyle, vice president of the AHA’s Professional Division. Attendees do not have to self-identify. Last year’s discussion attracted a mix of historians from graduate students to full professors. The session also spawned a pair of articles that will appear in an upcoming issue of Perspectives.

Dana Schaffer, Deputy Director

Session Recommendations: Slavery and the University—Research in Action
AHA Session 27
Thursday, January 4, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
Before coming to the AHA, I worked for eight years at a university-based center for the study of slavery and abolition. During my time there, we worked to reflect on the university’s own ties to slavery. I’m interested to see how, in more recent years, other institutions of higher education have come to terms with their own connections to this dark past.

John O’Connor Film Award Winner, Documentary: I Am Not Your Negro
Friday, January 5, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
I adore James Baldwin. A number of history teachers can attest to this fact after a rather embarrassing incident during a summer institute when after watching the PBS American Masters documentary James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, I sobbed through my announcements of the next day’s events because I had been so moved by Baldwin’s words in the film. I wasn’t able to see I Am Not Your Negro in the theaters, so I hope to catch this during the annual meeting. (I’ll try not to cry!)

Tackling the Issue of Enrollments in History Courses, Part 1, 2, and 3: Strategies and Ideas from the Frontlines
Friday, January 5, 8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m.
Friday, January 5, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Friday, January 5, 1:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
This three-part series gets to the heart of one of the big issues we’ve been confronting here at the AHA for a while now—how do we recruit and retain students in our history programs across the country? These sessions are sure to offer adaptable models for other departments looking to attract and keep students.

Tweet us your selections/recommendations at #AHA18! Don’t forget to register for the annual meeting at https://www.historians.org/annual-meeting/registration.

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