This Wednesday, my co-chair, Rachel Meloche, and I initiated our official conference planning with two meetings.
We had brainstormed, had a few ideas, but needed some guidance. So we spoke to one of her museum studies professors, Jennifer Carter, who was extremely helpful in prompting us to think about what we wanted, and why we wanted it. We initially asked her to help us think about potential keynote speakers, since she is currently working on a project that fits the conference theme. She asked us big questions, such as:
1. How were we thinking about our theme? Did we want it to focus on professional aspects, or academic aspects?
2. Did we want our presentations, sessions and events to be exploratory, covering the landscape of ideas, practices and examples?
3. What perspective did we want our keynote to have? Institutional, managerial, or other?
In struggling to answer these questions, we gained a fuller idea of what we want from this conference, and what we want participants to get out of it. She also gave us several interesting names to research for keynote speakers. In fact, she helped me mentally clarify the difference between two of the terms in our title.
In the hour before we had our second meeting, this time with our book history professor, Alan Galey, who has agreed to be our Faculty Adviser, we chatted over coffees about what we had heard, what we thought, and the questions we had for our second meeting.
We started by filling in Alan on our ideas, themes, and our previous meeting with Jennifer, and then asked our questions, which dealt with funding, making our conference idea official, how to fit book history into the conference theme, and any other suggestions he might have. It turns out he’s really interested in finding funding, and has planned a conference himself, both of which will be extremely helpful in our planning process. He planted the idea that we can take our theme into the format of the conference as well, and include other kinds of activities and events, instead of just holding sessions for paper presentations.
He ended by asking us what we wanted out of this conference, and how we envisioned his role as adviser. His metaphor of stage manager to our director and writer worked very well. Although I plan to ask as many questions as I can, Rachel and I will definitely own the content, format and production of the conference.
We had a very productive, very thought-provoking afternoon and are both more excited than ever about planning the student conference. It will be a lot of work, but very rewarding in the end, since we intend for it to be the best student conference yet.