I was too tired yesterday to write about my first day at NERGC. In a word (or three) it was awesome!
I left my house later than expected, and stopped for breakfast somewhere along the three-hour trek, but I still managed to arrive in Manchester in time to find parking and to grab my registration packet before things got started. I spotted Heather Rojo in the lobby, but didn’t get a chance to introduce myself.
My first stop was the First-timer’s session. The purpose of the session was to orient newbies to the convention. I didn’t really learn anything that I couldn’t have learned from reading the paperwork in my registration packet, but it was nice to have some time to adjust to being in conference-mode.
The next stop was the opening session in which SandraMacLean Clunies, CG, spoke about mill workers in the Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts areas. Using three specific individuals that had been researched, she was able to bring the time-period to life easily, providing a bit of humor to go with it. Looking around the room at my fellow attendees (850+ was the count that I heard), I could see that I was clearly among people like myself. We weren’t learning about history like it was taught to us in school. We were getting to know individuals as clearly as if they were standing in front of us, being introduced by a mutual friend. The side-affect was learning a bit about the history of millwork during the early to middle 19th century. My take-away, actually, was to check if millwork may be why my Charles Jenkins may have ended up in Massachusetts before the Civil War.
In between the opening session and the next session I remembered something about conventions and conferences. People don’t walk as fast as I do. It’s not that I hurry, but I have long legs. I had to keep reminding myself to take smaller steps while negotiating the lobbies.
In the afternoon I was able to follow the “Photographs” track of the agenda. While I’m not sure that I learned anything that hadn’t been covered in the reading that I’ve been doing. It was fun to listen to the speakers, and how passionate they are about what they do. Especially entertaining was Michael Strauss,AG (“…and my son Levi. -pause- Yes, Levi Strauss…”). I loved his stories about finding old photographs of his hometown and family.
The last session of the day almost literally left me with my mouth open in amazement. ColleenFitzpatrick, PhD, walked through the processes she had used to identify a few photos. First, she talks quickly (at least for this New England boy). Next, the amount of information that she gave was staggering, and the logic that she used to solve the mystery of a bar photo was more than a little impressive. I left with a mental note to check out her books when I get a chance.
So, my first day plans of immersing myself in conference culture and learning about photographs were both successful. I did notice, though, that none of the speakers talked about photos much past the turn of the 20th century. I’ve also noticed this in my reading. That leaves about a hundred year span of photography that doesn’t seem to be covered much. I wonder if there’s an opportunity there, or if I just haven’t come across anything authoritative yet.