Academic journal article World History Bulletin

Eighteenth Annual Conference in Salem, Massachusetts: A Model for Future Conferences

Academic journal article World History Bulletin

Eighteenth Annual Conference in Salem, Massachusetts: A Model for Future Conferences

Article excerpt

The 18th Annual Conference, hosted on campus by Salem State College (SSC), Salem, MA, 25-28 June 2009, was a success by any metric one chooses. A record number of conferees--475-representing over 30 nations attended the conference, along with 23 exhibitors, whose tables filled to overflowing the exhibition space and adjoining hallway. In addition to a record-setting attendance, conferees offered well over 250 papers and presentations in more than 90 panels--itself a double record.

In honor of Salem's rich history, conference organizers chose as the meeting's dual theme "Merchants and \ Missionaries: Trade and Religion in World History," and most of the panels and roundtables dealt with one or both of these issues. As might be expected, the Jesuits figured prominently in several sessions, causing one wag to observe that rather than working "ad majorem Dei gloriam," (for the greater glory of God), as the Jesuits claim in their motto, they might be seen to be working "ad majorem historiae mundi gloriam" (for the greater glory of world history).

The conference established a fair number of precedents. Cosponsored by the Silkroad Foundation of Saratoga, California, the WHA, and Salem State College, conference organizers offered an all-day Silk Road Workshop for Teachers on Wednesday, 24 June, led by Professor Morris Rossabi of Columbia University and assisted by A. J. Andrea. This was followed by Professor Rossabi's evening public lecture, "The Silk Road: An Ancient Avenue of Merchants and Missionaries," held at the Salem Athenaeum. A standing-room-only, highly appreciative audience of well over 150 persons, most of them from the Greater Salem area, filled the Athenaeum. Both the workshop, which attracted 10 area teachers and two graduate students from China, and the lecture were offered free of charge. It was a small way for the WHA to say "thank you" to its warm and generous hosts.

Thanks to the generosity of the SSC Alumni Association, Thursday began with a free tour, by bus, to the Charlestown Navy Yard in the shadow of Bunker Hill and a private tour of the USS Constitution led by Margherita Desy, the ship's historian, who also presented the lecture "Old Ironside's Role in World History." For those who did not want to get up early to catch the bus to historic Charlestown, Dr. Emily Murphy of the National Park Service offered mid-morning and mid-afternoon tours of Salem's sites of world historical significance. Later that afternoon, ABCClio sponsored a "meet and greet" reception for conferees who were picking up their registration materials. Other than having to choose among the large amounts of appetizing appetizers and drink, both alcoholic and soft, offered by the SSC catering services, registrants were asked by Jeff Davis, the WHA's administrative assistant, to choose "red, blue, or green" Heavy-duty conference tote bags, provided by Pearson Publishing, came in three colors. The tote bags have already become a collector's item.

Thanks to Christopher Mauriello, chair of SSC's Department of History, the conference also offered a two-day local documentary film festival, with each film followed by a panel discussion. Thursday's evening's film, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, concerned a contemporary Rhode Island family's encounter with the role played by its ancestors in the transAtlantic slave trade.

Conferees, who resided in four "official" conference hotels and residences, as well as elsewhere throughout Salem and Essex County, were encouraged to visit the many local sites of historical and cultural interest and to try out the numerous eating establishments in this small city. One of their favorite restaurants was the nearby Salem Diner, a 1950s aluminum dining car, where Johnny Pesky, a Red Sox immortal from the 40s, holds forth almost daily in Pesky's Corner. Friday morning saw legions of conferees, in an almost unending stream, mingling with locals in the cramped and friendly confines of this diner, where if everyone did not know your name, they soon learned it. …

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