Getting Ready for #BigBerks aka #Berks2011

Hi folks,

Like many historians of women I’m getting ready to head off to the Fifteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women  at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on June 9-12.  (See the program here).  Note:  this is a conference on the history of women, not a conference just for female historians — men, both cis and trans, are welcome as well (as are, of course, trans-women).

If you want to meet other women’s historians who blog, come to the  meet-up organized by Historiann.  This will be held Friday afternoon from 5:30-6:30  in the Grad Lounge of the Lincoln Campus. If you consult the campus map on page 27 of the program, you’ll see that the Lincoln Campus Center is also the conference hotel, and is right across the street from Worcester Dining, where you can find your dinner after the meetup.In addition to yours truly, you can meet Tenured RadicalClio Bluestocking, Another Damned Medievalist, Janice Liedl

Now, why am I using this “#” thing in the title of this blog post?  Well, because I’ve set up this blog so that my posts are automatically sent to my Twitter feed (see column at left.  My Twitter name is @hmprescott).  You can follow the Berkshire Conference feed using @Berksconference.  But that’s only part of the Twitter experience.  If you want to find out what other Twitter users are saying, use #BigBerks and/or #Berks2011.

I’m one of the few people who was allowed to appear more than once on the program because a session commentator dropped out.  This is quite an honor — but I can’t help expressing a minor gripe to the conference organizers:  did you have to put both my panels back to back, on opposite sides of campus?!  Otherwise, great job at putting together an impressive program.

Yesterday, I got an important question from Cliotropic, aka Shane Landrum via Twitter (@Cliotropic).   Shane will be attending his first Berkshire Conference and wanted to know what to wear.  He said in a direct message: “Since you’ve attended the Berks before & I haven’t: how dressed-up is it? I’m assuming “tie, no jacket” for presenting but want to be sure.”  To which I replied, ” The Berks are supposed to be casual and I’m fighting those who want to turn it into the AHA. So, shorts, no tie!”  I then tweeted:  “recommended dress code for #BigBerks aka #Berks2011 — casual please! #nottheAHA”

Seriously, the first time I attended the Berkshire Conference, at Douglass College, Rutgers University, in 1990, it was like a summer camp.  Most of the attendees wore shorts and t-shirts — the most dressed up had on sun dresses and casual skirts.  Then I noticed a disturbing trend, starting with the 1993 conference at Vassar — folks were dressing to impress.  There were power suits!  Fancy dresses.  Oh no, we’re becoming the AHA.  Not good!

So, I’m making a plea to all of you who are packing to head off to Western Massachusetts — please think casual casual.  Dress for comfort.  In particular, keep in mind that we are going to have record heat — mid-90s — for the first day or two of the conference, with high humidity.  Unlike other areas of the country, air conditioning is not a standard feature of college and university buildings in the Northeast.  So, don’t assume that the room you’ve been assigned will be cooled to perfection (or beyond — seriously, why do you folks in warm climates set the thermostat at or below 60 degrees — isn’t that considered winter where you are?)  This being New England, the weather will go in the other direction — it cool off by Saturday with showers during the day and perhaps downright chilly evenings.

Okay, enough advice.  Got to finish the comments for my second panel.  Hope to see some of you soon!

Knitting Clio is back from vacation

Barbie_sJust returned from an awesome bike trip from Prague to Budapest with Czech Active tours — this was one of the best organized trips I’ve done. The tour leaders are very friendly and laid back.  I’d recommend this to anyone who likes to ride and enjoy nice scenery and good food.

Before the trip, we spent a few extra days in Prague.  One of my favorite sites was the Toy and Barbie Museum.  I hope my buddy Historiann will enjoy looking at the website on the Barbie exhibition, in honor of the doll’s 50th anniversary.  Highly recommended for toy enthusiasts and/or fans of Barbie.

Little Berks Report

Interlaken Inn and Conference Center

Interlaken Inn and Conference Center

Yesterday, I drove out to the Interlaken Inn and Conference Center in Lakeville, CT to attend the second day of the “Little Berks” meeting (I was too sick on Friday to drive out and back — turns out that since I’m on the program, they would have paid for me to stay there. Oh well, it was less than an hour each way).  I arrived just before lunch.  Here’s a view of Lake Wononscopomuc, where we ate al fresco:

And since “Interlaken” means between the lakes, here is the other lake that I walked to after lunch:

As you can see, it was a gorgeous autumn day.

Now the schedule at these things is very leisurely — there was a good couple of hours between lunch and the business meeting, during which one can stroll, troll for antiques, or loll around as one sees fit.  The business meeting was very informative — we learned that Kathleen Brown, Professor of History at UPenn, will be the next Berkshire President.  A few proposals for the location of the next Big Berks were discussed although I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to divulge here.  I imagine there will be an official report sometime on the Berks homepage.

I heard that the weekend was supposed to be casual — so I fit right in when I arrived in jeans and a knit shirt.  However, no no told me that there was a tradition of dressing for dinner.  So, I remained in my jeans and shirt while others went back to their rooms to get into various levels of elegance (okay, a few others remained pretty casual too).  Apparently this is a hold over from the organizations beginnings in the glamorous 1930s.

The panel went extremely well.  Tenured Radical has posted the highlights of her talk at her blog and Clio Bluestocking plans to do so shortly.  I gushed at length about the possibilities of social scholarship and waxed nostalgic for the heyday of H-Women in the 1990s, when the list was a discussion forum rather than an announcement board. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the discussion continued for nearly an hour.  Hopefully we encouraged at least a few to consider blogging.

I neglected to mention that one way to keep up the momentum of the Sunday seminars at the Big Berks going is to have use the Berks  blog for discussion after (or even before) the meeting starts.  Or perhaps we can have carnivals of posts by women’s history bloggers as they do at Disability Studies, Temple U.  At the very least, I hope we can get a larger group of bloggers and/or digital history folks together for a panel for the next Big Berks (any takers out there?).

Knitting Clio also does carpets

Regular readers of this blog have noticed that I seldom post anything fiber-related on this blog (“knitting” is meant to be metaphorical as well as a feminist, progressive alternative to this blog), so here is a photo of me learning to weave at a carpet showroom near Ephesus in Turkey.  Turkish weavers of pile carpets use a symmetrical, double-knot technique (aka the “Turkish knot” or the “Gordes knot”) so it takes way longer than weaving on a flat weave loom (which is used for making kilms).  No wonder these suckers cost a fortune!  Don’t think I’ll be trying the weaving anytime soon, but we did buy this nice specimen.

Back from Vacation in Turkey

Howdy folks,

Just wanted to let you all know I’m back from vacation in Turkey with husband and friends. We did a great archaeological tour/gulet cruise with Peter Sommer Travels. The last time I took an ancient history course was in 1981, so this was unfamiliar territory for me. It was nice to be a student again. We had two great great tour leaders: Michael Metcalfe, who teaches for Fairfield University’s Study Abroad program in Sicily; and Ayse Livesley, who runs various kayak/mountain bike/walking tours with her husband Dean.

We’re still sorting out photos and getting resettled so will blog more about this later.

Happy New Year, getting ready for AHA

Happy New Year folks! I’m getting ready to go to the American Historical Association meeting tomorrow. I plan to stop in at the Library of Congress to look at some finding aids to plan a future extended visit, then off the the sessions in the afternoon. Found an interesting article related to my presentation at Scholars and Rogues, which comments on the incident at UC Boulder last Fall.

On that note, the folks at UCB decided to go with another speaker — Joseph Silva, who is a psychologist with the Student Disability Center at UC Davis. He looks more appropriate anyway — i.e. someone who works directly with students with mental illness and is more involved with student disability issues and rights than I am at this point. Here’s an article on him.

Gig at AHAP

Just returned yesterday from a trip to Akron, Ohio to give a talk at the Archives of the History of American Psychology. The folks there were very friendly and helpful. The talk was a big hit as well. I was a bit nervous because most of those who attended my Cheiron session last summer didn’t seem to get be that interested in clinical issues, and completely missed the point of the disability perspective (John Burnham, for example, said he agreed with most of it but said the seriously mentally ill should really be locked up for their own good — okay he was a bit more tactful than that but it was the general drift).

Most of the audience members at AHAP were graduate students and faculty in counseling or clinical psychology. Some of the most intriguing questions were from a fellow named Fred Frese, who is a clinical professor of psychology at Case Western who is also a recovering schizophrenic and advocate for other mentally ill individuals. He introduced himself right before my talk, which gave me the courage to “come out” right away as a person with bipolar disorder. He suggested looking at the Association on Higher Education and Disability which has a special interest group on psychiatric disability. He also mentioned attempts to reform the Javits-Wagner-O’Day act to include mental illness (originally this legislation was created in 1930s to assist the blind, then was extended to physically disabled in 1970s). As Frese put it, mentally ill individuals want to be on the bus, even if it’s at the back. He asked if I was willing to work for this, to which I said “absolutely!”

Other things to look into: Andrew Sperling, legal counsel at NAMI,
Tony Young, Senior Public Policy Analyst at NISH, decriminalizing mental illness (apparently the LA county jail is one of the largest psychiatric facilities in the country by default!)