At the end of Day One of the 2015 American Society for Environmental History national conference titled “Turning Protest into Policy: Environmental Values and Governance in Changing Societies,” I can see that it will be a real “branching out” for this Americanist. While my home base at Penn State Harrisburg provides a varied and deeply rooted study of American culture, this conference allows me to extend my reach beyond American studies into other realms of environmental history: transnationalism, legal history, and the sciences. The conference also (clearly) provides an opportunity to interact with academics and non-academics alike. A few environmental “celebrities” (well, at least in my mind!) are in town [including Donald Worster, who wrote Nature’s Economy (1977) which is on my comprehensive exam reading list].
The first session today was a workshop hosted by the National Archives and facilitated by a historian at the NA, a retired historian for the Army Corps of Engineers, and a scholar from Wellesley. Immensely informative, this session presented the details, challenges, and benefits of working with federal records. I do not know how this will come into play in my own research, but surely the knowledge of how the largest archival system in our nation functions will be a massive benefit one day. Additionally, it was a great time to meet other conference participants as we walked the streets of the United States capital during the “field trip.”
The opening reception was held this evening and it was an excellent turn out! Since I am attending this conference on my own, it is simultaneously nerve-racking and exciting. There are, of course, large groups who attend together, but I had the opportunity to meet plenty of friendly faces on the first day. Surprisingly – or maybe not so surprisingly – there are many scholars from California. Not everyone is an academic. I met independent researchers, a woman who is a historian for the federal government, a gentleman who works for an arboretum, and numerous graduate and undergraduate students. [All we want to talk about is our theses/dissertations! I am getting great practice with the challenge of speaking about that complicated topic.]
Tomorrow is a day full of fascinating panels and the graduate student writing workshop. Stay tuned for a detailed update!