All the Free Fun at #OAH2019

Next weekend’s Organization of American Historians conference program is packed with accessory activities that you can layer atop your panel attendance. We’ve rounded up all the free sparkle for you to enjoy–and none of it requires pre-registration.

Here’s what to do if you want to….

Low-key network over a small plate of snacks

If you are a grad student or early career scholar, I recommend skipping Thursday evening’s Opening Reception for the Dessert before Dinner reception sponsored by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. It’s sure to be sweet, and likely a chill scene where you can meet a group of smart scholars.

On Friday evening, the OAH’s committees are sponsoring receptions–and they’ll all be in one room, so you can circle around to learn about the great work they’re doing on behalf of the profession. I’ll be making a beeline for the Independent Scholars committee, but there are also committees devoted to disability and disability history, women in the historical profession, graduate students, scholars advancing the histories of people of color in the US, academic freedom, contingent employment, and more.

On Saturday night, attend the Work of Freedom Soul Jam, an afterparty at the African American Museum in Philly. There will be a performance by spoken-word artist Trapeta B. Mayson and music by the Alfie Pollit All-Star Trio. It’s sure to be a fun way to celebrate the end of the conference with all the new friends you’ve made.

Exterior front entrance, U.S. Custom House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carol M. Highsmith, 2007, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Optimize your experience as a first-time attendee

If this is your first year at the OAH annual meeting, add a bee sticker to your name badge at registration. The badge functions as a signal to more seasoned attendees to say hi and welcome you to the conference. It’s a low-stakes way to start a conversation! And stickers are cute.

If you can scrape yourself out of bed by 7 AM on Friday morning, head over to the Welcome Breakfast for the OAH’s new members and first-time conference attendees. Members of the Membership Committee will be there to chat over coffee and, presumably, muffins.

Painting “Celebration” at William J. Green Federal Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carol M. Highsmith, 2007, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Immerse yourself in arts and culture

Meet the authors of your favorite recent nonfiction! Scott Stern, Imani Perry, Paul Ortiz, Annelise Orleck, and Mary Frances Berry will be doing book signings during the conference at the Beacon Press booth (#312).

On Friday evening, the artistic director of The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, will lead a discussion about Lynn Nottage’s play SWEAT after a performance of a scene from the Broadway hit.

If you need to ease into panels on Saturday morning, start your day by attending back-to-back film screenings. At 8 AM, Zadi Zokou will be showing their film Black N Black, about the “sometimes fragile connections” between African Americans and African immigrants. From there, continue on to a 10 AM panel with Tom Sugrue, Craig Wilder, Gretchen Sorin, and Ric Burns, who will discuss a new NEH-funded film on the Green Book Travel Guide.

Part of the 9th Street Italian Market, the nation’s oldest working outdoor market, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Talk instead of listen

Spend your lunchtime on Saturday in The Chat Room. Moderators will be leading 45-minute conversations on topics ranging from birthright citizenship (with Hidetaka Hirota) to how to navigate social media (with Kevin Kruse and Nicole Hemmer).

Several of the conference workshops are free and require no pre-registration. I’m particularly interested in the methodology workshops on Big Data and “writing” oral history, but there are also ones about applying for teaching jobs and teaching elementary and high school students about African Americans in early America.

Streetscape view of City Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress


Be a human and a scholar at the same time

At registration, pick up a pronoun sticker for your name badge. Gender neutral bathrooms can be found on the fourth floor.

Nursing moms, there will be a room available at the Marriott for breastfeeding or pumping. If you are bringing your kids but need a break from them, the OAH has provided a list of childcare providers that you can contact.

For those abstaining from alcohol, select receptions will have dry bars.

Tweet about the conference

Use #OAH19! Most sessions also have their own hashtag.

Pretend you are back at #UHA2018

The UHA solicited two panels at OAH. First thing on Friday morning, Martha Jones (chair), Rashauna Johnson, Leslie Harris, Walter Johnson, and Jonathan Wells will be presenting on “how the study of slavery might more directly shape the field of urban history” (Slavery and the City, #AM3149).  On Saturday afternoon at 3 PM, UHA President Heather Ann Thompson will join Minju Bae, Kwame Holmes, Elizabeth Hinton, Kelly Lytle Hernandez, and Donna Murch in a discussion of “The Future of Urban History” (#AM3150).

Wishing you a productive and enriching OAH meeting!

Featured image (at top): Philadelphia in the olden time / SSS & D.C., Fredrick J. Wade, c. 1875, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

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