2021 OHA Conference Welcome

By Amy Starecheski, OHA Vice-President
Sara Sinclair and Nikki Yeboah, Program Co-Chairs
August 2021 Newsletter

In October 2021, the Oral History Association will gather for our first-ever PLANNED virtual meeting. Doesn’t it feel nice, at least compared to 2020, to be able to make plans in advance? Kind of?

While we will miss many things about gathering in person, our team is having a great time making the most of the opportunities that come with gathering online–especially in terms of access. The conference will be affordable–free if you volunteer, as low as $40 for student OHA members and $50 for non-members. We will have live automatic transcription of all events and ASL interpretation for all plenaries and on-demand for parallel sessions.

We also know that access requires more than this. We want this conference to be accessible to non-academics, to our narrators, to people with all kinds of learning styles, to those who have historically been marginalized within the field. So we are creating a mandatory pre-conference training for all presenters and chairs on how to give an accessible, inclusive and engaging presentation and how to facilitate an inclusive conversation. Stay tuned for more details on this in September.

We will kick the conference off with weekend workshops on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 9 and 10, and then offer four days of programming, Oct. 11-14. Each day will have three main time slots for parallel sessions or plenaries, timed so that they work for time zones throughout the Americas, with generous breaks in between. We will not be having the usual receptions but will be providing lots of other opportunities to gather and socialize. The platform we are using, Pheedloop, makes it easy to chat with other participants, individually or in small groups. There will be “birds of a feather” sessions for those who share an identity or experience to gather.

And we are working hard to make sure that the regular conference sessions are places where you can connect, not just tune in. Mini-workshops, campfire sessions and others will be interactive spaces for dialogue. Some sessions will close with an invitation to join the participants for a more informal chat or a meal afterwards, and participants will host small, informal online gatherings for a meal, coffee or cocktail (depending on your time zone!). We also know that one of the benefits of attending a conference online is being able to listen in while cooking dinner, taking a walk or caring for children, so we’ll be sure to label “cameras off” sessions that lend themselves to more passive participation.

There will even be opportunities to gather in person in some locations. For example, oral historians in Hawai’i have organized a satellite conference where they will gather in person and also stream their sessions for others. In September we will offer one more opportunity to sign up to host local in-person gatherings like watch parties, meals or outings in connection with the conference.

We look forward to seeing you in October!

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