2012 Annual Meeting

October 3-6
Salt Lake City, UT

Crossroads: Exploring Vibrant Connections Between People and Place

A crystal clear mountain lake, an American Indian cliff dwelling, a railway crossroad, a farmstead, your home. Each evokes an emotional response; each stirs the human spirit; and each reminds us that history is, at its core, about the powerful connections between people and place. The 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Association for State and Local History will consider the sometimes empowering, sometimes challenging, but always special connection between people and place. Guided by the theme; Crossroads: Exploring the Vibrant Connections Between People and Place, AASLH will focus on the personal, communal, and organizational journeys that lead to vibrancy, authenticity, health, and happiness, and how these journeys allow us to achieve meaningful and impactful social change.

Located at a physical and intellectual crossroads of access and ideas, Salt Lake City provides the perfect setting for this dialogue. In Utah, one can’t escape the beauty, majesty, and overwhelming presence of place. Digging deeper, one recognizes that life in Salt Lake City is entwined with mountains, meadows, rivers, deserts, and yes, snow. But when one digs even deeper, the journey becomes even more revealing. First, Utah derives its name from the Ute Tribe and presently Utah is home to five distinct American Indian cultures. Additionally, when the first Mormons arrived in 1847 they announced, “This is the place,” and settled in the Salt Lake region. The settlers adapted Joseph Smith’s “Plat of Zion” in their towns, creating communities that included some of today’s most desired features, including edible garden areas, green space, broad streets, walkability, and a mix of residential and commercial spaces.

The many interpretations of our theme are richly demonstrated by the variety of venues visited in the area. Utah’s natural and American Indian history is on view at the new Utah Museum of Natural History and at Red Butte Gardens. Utah’s Mormon history is glimpsed at historic Temple Square, the LDS Church History Museum, and Brigham Young’s Beehive and Lion houses. One can sense the early conflict between Mormon settlers and federal authority at the Fort Douglas Military Museum. The magnificent historic mansions and the Masonic Temple introduce us to early mining barons, and a visit to the Park City Museum continues the story of mining in Utah. Perhaps the most powerful and evocative presence in Utah, beyond the mountains and regardless of one’s personal story, is family. Who doesn’t want to know more about their family history? A compelling focus on family, volunteerism, civic pride, cross-generational relationships, and genealogy is omnipresent in Utah. The Family History Library is the world’s largest genealogy library, and the Division of State History and State Archives is just blocks away.

With the inspiration of Salt Lake City as our setting, consider the meaning of place in your personal life. What are your special places? Why are these connections meaningful? How do they support and sustain you as an individual and your work in the field of history? Furthermore, think about your organization. Is it representative of the values and distinctiveness of your place; how are these connections represented and are they fundamental to your institution? Consider your community: how is its story connected to your organization? Is this relationship mutually sustainable and beneficial? What is changing or should change? How can you and your organization support and inform your community?

As you embrace these concepts, think again about Utah. Think about meaningful social change and think about making a difference through the medium of people, place, and history. Most importantly, think about the future of these connections; those between people and place and those between our organizations and our communities, and think about opportunities for us all to guide our own futures through people and place. We look forward to seeing you in at the Salt Lake City October 3-6, 2012, at the Crossroads: Exploring Vibrant Connections Between People and Place.