APH Annual Conference: Program Chairs Speak Up!

Around the globe, personal historians are poring over the schedule and making plans to attend the 2013 APH annual international conference, Capital Reflections, November 8–12, in Washington DC. With twenty-five workshops covering all aspects of the personal history business, three keynote speakers, and priceless opportunities to network with fellow professionals in the field, the conference is well worth attending—for those who are new to the business as well as seasoned professionals.

A year’s worth of work goes into planning the annual conference, starting with securing a local program chair. So that begs the question: what do these hard-working folks get out of the conference? To find out, I talked with a few past chairs: Marianne Weller, Revolutionary Perspectives, 2009, Philadelphia/Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Pattie Whitehouse, Voice of the Elders, 2010, Victoria, British Columbia; and Mary Harrison, Turning Points, 2012, St. Louis, Missouri.

Why did you take on the task of program chair?

Marianne: APH’s then-operations manager Marty Walton called to ask what I thought of Philadelphia as a conference site, and by the time we hung up an hour later, I had already made up my mind to help. I hoped it would help solidify the local group of personal historians, and it did!

Pattie: I thought it was high time the APH conference was held in Canada again (the previous Canadian conference was 2002 in Vancouver, BC). I approached some of my local colleagues and found good support and ideas we wanted to try, so I took the plunge!

Mary: APH has helped me enormously, and I wanted to give back. Also, I love my city and loved the idea of having the APH conference in St. Louis!

What are some favorite moments from your conference?

Pattie: The support I got from APH members during the organizing. Being conference chair was a great and many-faceted challenge, and their encouragement, appreciation, humour, and goodwill really helped me get through it.

Mary: When I saw how the keynote speakers inspired our members—the great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott, the creative director of the Lumina hospice program, and the teacher and students who preserved the stories of local civil rights activists in video—I felt wonderful about helping to organize a conference that brought those speakers to our members.

Marianne: Lily Koppel’s keynote speech about writing her book, The Red Leather Diary, and  the excitement that she generated in the APH store afterwards, with the large crowd who wanted her to sign their book.

Pattie: The opening welcome from Elmer George, elder of the Songhees First Nation, making the connection between the work we do, the place we were meeting, and the stories relayed through endless generations of people who lived here. Another favorite moment was with each keynote speaker when the magic took hold, the audience became engaged, and I knew my committee had struck gold again.

Mary: A really fun moment was putting on my Cardinals’ baseball cap at the Welcome Reception and announcing the winners of two Cardinals’ caps and two tickets to a post-season game. Go, Cards!

Marianne: I loved how enthusiastic people were about exploring Valley Forge and Philadelphia, which in some cases was not always easy!

What did you learn by helping plan the conference?

Marianne: I learned an awful lot about Philadelphia and, especially, Valley Forge. I also learned to appreciate just how much talent and commitment there is in the people of APH. Plus I made a great friend in APH Events Manager Paula Yost, who I’d not had the opportunity to know well before.

Pattie: I learned a lot about letting go and moving on; and I confirmed how determined (read stubborn) I am! I also confirmed my perception that the personal history business still has a long way to go in terms of public awareness and being accepted as a legitimate profession—but I think the Victoria conference took us baby steps along the path.

Mary: I got a better sense of how the board operates and how much volunteers contribute to the success of the conference. I felt grateful every time someone offered or agreed to help with something, from ranking speakers and workshops, to organizing an event like speed coaching, to contacting local organizations and businesses.

Why do you encourage newbies or veteran members of APH to attend the annual conference?

Mary: The annual conferences help you understand that you’re part of something that matters, a new profession that provides happiness and satisfaction to people today and will do so for their descendants in the future. At the first conference, you find out how friendly APH members are and how generously they share ideas. In succeeding years, you re-connect with friends, exchange ideas and skills with newcomers as well as veterans, and re-charge yourself professionally.

Pattie: The conferences are invaluable to newcomers as an introduction to the profession and a way to acquire a lot of really helpful information and skills in a very short time. A conference is tremendously helpful in building a foundation for a successful personal history business. For veteran members, there is worth in getting together with colleagues to share experiences and information and just to have fun together, but also I would like to see us regularly discussing best practices, the implications of technical developments, and that sort of higher-level issue.

Marianne: For newcomers, there is no place even close to the conference for the information, ideas, and enthusiasm you need to jumpstart your business. Even for veteran conference attendees, who may come to the conference first to reconnect with the friends they have made through the years, there are insights and new ways of looking at things that they can take home.

So, let’s hear from those of you who have attended an APH conference in the past. What did you learn about the business or about your own goals? Why do you encourage others to attend this year’s conference, Capital Reflections?

Take a look at this video clip to see what others are saying about past conferences.

And speaking of this year’s conference, registration is open until the conference starts, but you can save by registering early. Early registration closes July 31—so act now!

~APH: Life, Stories, People~

About today’s contributor: Fran Morley is a long time member of APH who has attended six conferences and eagerly looks forward to this year’s event in Washington, DC in November 2013. Fran is Content Editor for the Association of Personal Historians.


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3 Responses to APH Annual Conference: Program Chairs Speak Up!

  1. Jane Shafron says:

    Thank you Marianne, Pattie and Mary for your contributioins to APH as Program Chair! I’m very much looking forward to the conference this year in DC and seeing you all again!

  2. Annie Payne says:

    Wonderful words of both wisdom and insight from three of our very hardworking conference chairs from the past few years.
    As an Australian who has attended three APH conferences to date, and a previous event manager for a large medical organisation, I can appreciate the ‘behind the scenes’ work that produces an excellent conference. Paula Yost has the natural ability to enthuse each conference Program Chair with the enthusiasm and energy required for these positions and each of you has imprinted ‘your’ conference with a unique flavour from your region, which is much appreciated by this Aussie.

  3. Fran Morley says:

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