First Conference: Leicester Through New Eyes

On the eve of the Society for Historical Archaeology conference in 2013, having never attended the annual meeting before, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I remember sitting in my advisor’s office at the University of Idaho a few years back, him telling me, “You know, you should really think about going to the SHA conference. It’d be a really good opportunity if you’re thinking about studying historical archaeology.” I must admit, at the time I was a little skeptical.  Sure, I believed my advisor when he said it was a good way to network, see what type of work is being done, and not to mention travel to some interesting places, but was it really necessary to attend an international conference early in my undergraduate degree? I put off going to the conference that year and the next. The topic of the SHA conference kept popping up in conversations, and again at field school this past summer, when a fellow student raved about her experience in Baltimore last January. I finally decided to take their advice and in early January I found myself headed across the pond for Leicester, paper and presentation in hand. My impression after four whirling days of SHA 2013: I should have done this last year as well.

My first SHA conference was an incredible experience, and lived up to the reviews others had given me. It really was beneficial, and probably would have been equally beneficial earlier in my undergraduate as well. First of all, it was a fantastic networking opportunity.  I left the conference with a fist full of business cards for future contacts in possible future job opportunities, internships, and open offers to answer any future questions.  The research presented covered a wide variety of topics within historical archaeology, was a fantastic way to see all the different avenues one can pursue within the field, and, to top it all off, getting the opportunity to explore a new place and meet so many new people is quite a bit of fun.

For those students looking to attend their first SHA conference, I’d like to offer tips that were useful in my experience:

  • First, when considering which sessions to see, make a plan before hand. So much research is presented at the conference, it’s impossible to fit it all in, and choosing beforehand may make it easier to fit in more presentations. Also, I encourage you to attend sessions that lie outside your direct area of interest. As a student whose main interests are in underwater archaeology, I found myself tempted to only attend underwater and maritime sessions, as there were plenty of them to keep me perfectly occupied throughout the conference. Yet, when I did attend sessions on other topics, I found that some of the most interesting presentations were on subjects not related to my closest interests.
  • Mainly though, I encourage you to take advantage of sessions and receptions that are specifically for students. The Past Presidents’ Student Reception and the Student RAP Session, for example, were extremely beneficial. They provide an informal setting to talk to professionals already in the field, making them an excellent place for networking and getting more involved, both in SHA and the field itself.

All in all, I would encourage any undergraduate student considering a career in historical archaeology to attend the conference, even early in your undergraduate degree. Personally, I certainly see advantages in attending the conference regularly, and plan to continue attending in years to come.

I hope to see you all next year!

What strategies and tips do you have for first-time conference goers? Leave a comment below with your advice!

 

Have you submitted your presentation? Four weeks left…

Abstract submission for the 2014 conference closes in four weeks. The clock is now ticking if you haven’t yet done so. What is your paper? Are you in a symposium? Do you prefer participating in a forum panel discussion, a three-minute forum or an electronic symposium? Do you prefer presenting a poster rather than a paper this year? If so, you should get a place of choice in the Convention Centre as we encourage this type of participation. Oh, by the way, did you know that the Québec City Convention Center is the only one in Canada offering free hi-speed wifi to conference attendees?

We have revamped the submission process to make it more transparent and user friendly for you. You can go straight there from the conference home page: http://www.sha2014.com/index.html. Have a look and let us know if this move from traditional practice suits your needs.

This year, presentations are being grouped into several themes. It will thus be easier for you to fit your paper into a slot corresponding to your interests if you aren’t already participating in a organized session. This is what you will see: Archaeological Methods; Diaspora Archaeology; Environmental and Landscape Archaeology; First Nations Archaeology; Identity and Community Archaeology; Information Technology; Legislation and Archaeological Practice; Material Culture Studies; Military Archaeology; Other; Regional Studies; Theory; Underwater and Maritime Archaeologies; Urban Archaeology.

Once into the category that interests you, you can explore sessions that have been entered into the system or that the conference committee proposes for you. Are you interested in organizing a session on one of the following subjects: The Ethics of Archaeological Practice; Historical Archaeology and the Media; Commercial and Governmental Archaeology: New laws, new practices; Archaeology and UNESCO World Heritage Sites; New Research in Material culture studies: Ceramics; Historical Archaeology as Anthropology; globalization and environmental archaeology; The Historical archaeology of Central America and the Caribbean; Who owns the past: sacred sites, battlefield archaeology, sites of pain, difficult heritage. Should none of these sessions tickle your fancy, you can propose a new one.

We hope this new process and a simplified interface will make the submission process easier for you and that it will result in a strong and interesting conference for all. Contact the Conference Committee through our web site at www.sha2014.com should you have any comments on the submission process. There will be regular updates and contextual information on the SHA Facebook page. Don’t forget to follow the progression of the conference on Twitter as well at #sha2014. Both the Facebook page and the Twitter feed give you lots of opportunities to interact with conference organizers and other colleagues. We are looking forward to reading you there. And of course, we are particularly looking forward to seeing you in Québec City next January!

Submitting a session is now as easy as riding a bike! Come and see the Québec Seminary courtyard while your riding with us!

Why YOU should come to Québec in 2014

There are many reasons why YOU should come to Québec City in January 2014: you’ll not want to miss a fantastic conference; don’t let a great occasion to see old, new or soon-to-be-made friends go by; take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to discover or rediscover a world-class city!

You already know about the first reason as the organizing committee has written about the conference on several occasions: have a look at previous blogs, the SHA Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SocietyforHistoricalArchaeology) or type #sha2014 into Twitter to see what’s being said about the event. We think the theme – Questions that Count, a critical evaluation of historical archaeology in the 21st century – is of interest to the archaeological community at large. Several suggestions have been made for sessions and we’re waiting for you to submit your own. Try to surprise us!

Don’t take the second reason for granted. Just like you won’t take old friends for granted! If you are a long-standing SHA or ACUA member, the conference is always a great way to see friends. If you are a new member, or thinking of becoming one, it’s a great place to make friends and to meet colleagues. You can count on years of pleasure to come with long-term friendships and professional relations that grow out of your participation in this gregarious professional community.

Photo: Office de tourisme de Québec

Thirdly, and not the least, we hope – even expect – that you will develop a special relationship with our part of the world as you discover Québec City, the province of Québec or even Canada. Each has much to offer. Especially in the heart of winter! The conference web site (www.sha2014.com) has abundant links to national museums in the city, to numerous and affordable fine cuisine restaurants, to outdoor activities ranging from ice-skating, downhill skiing, snowmobiling or even dogsledding to ice-climbing and more. Experience the city as you have NEVER experienced it before: http://vimeo.com/58983130!

The Chateau Frontenac and Place-Royale in the Old Town. Photo: Office de tourisme de Québec.

We hope you will appreciate Québec’s historical richness, its depth and durée, as seen through the archaeology of the city. Get to know more about it, and of some of the sites you can see when you’re here, by downloading the introduction to the recent Post-Medieval Archaeology thematic issue, “The archaeology of a North American city and the early modern period in Québec” (Volume 43, Number 1, 2009) http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/pma/2009/00000043/00000001/art00001. Discover France’s first attempt to settle in the New World from 1541 to 1543 at the Cartier-Roberval Site; you can visit an exhibition on this site at the Musée de l’Amérique francophone http://www.mcq.org/colonie/. Come to place Royale, where the city was founded in 1608; visit the Musée de la place Royale, (http://www.mcq.org/en/cipr/index.html) and see the extraordinary archaeological collections, a Cultural Property listed by the Cultural Properties Act. Explore the Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site of Canada  http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/qc/saintlouisforts/index.aspx. Learn about the Intendant’s Palace – heart of a trade network extending throughout most of North America during the French Regime – as revealed by Laval University’s Field School on this site over the past years: http://www.cfqlmc.org/bulletin-memoires-vives/derniere-parution/867.

In short, come to Québec for a host of reasons!

Why are you coming to Québec? Let us know in the comments!