Urban landscape of Buffalo City Hall.

By Jennifer Ortiz, 2022 AASLH Annual Meeting Program Chair

What have you done that you can share with others to help improve the history field? Do you have a problem you would like help solving? Maybe there is an issue in the field that you think your peers should discuss. The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) wants to hear from you. AASLH will present its 2022 Annual Meeting in Buffalo, New York, on September 14-17. We will also hold the 2022 AASLH Online Conference November 1-4. Deadline for submissions is December 10. 

AASLH is now accepting proposals for sessions and workshops for both conferences. 

The Theme: Right Here, Right Now: The Power of Place 

As AASLH gathers in Buffalo, New York, and online in 2022, we have an opportunity to reflect on the spaces we occupy and the stories they tell. As holders of history, we have a responsibility to ensure that full stories are being shared with our audiences and that those histories represent the diversity and complicated narratives of the space we occupy now, highlight and investigate the spaces of the past, and set standards for interpreting the concept of place for future generations to come. The conference theme is drawn from “Power of Place,” one of the five themes that AASLH has identified for the 250th anniversary of the United States and laid out in its Making History at 250: The Field Guide for the Semiquincentennial. 

Our conference theme, Right Here, Right Now: The Power of Place, suggests many questions. What place is important to you? To your community? Do you see these stories reflected in your museums, historic sites, and the local cultural sector? Who decides what places are saved or interpreted and what ends up being worth saving? Answers to these questions trace back to who is at the table when discussing memorializing an event in history or a place in time, who holds authority in decision making processes, and structures of power that often go unseen or unaddressed.  

Our host city, Buffalo, is a perfect location for exploring the importance of place. Buffalo was at one point the “Gateway to the West.” But we also need to consider the impact on the Indigenous communities facing a continuing societal upheaval that began centuries before and intensified during the Revolution. As the bicentennial of the Erie Canal approaches in 2025, we must consider the environmental, economic, and sociological impact it had on the development of a nation still in its adolescence. Consider the mighty Niagara Falls. What do we see? An environmental marvel? A resource to be exploited? A diverse community living amidst one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the world? How much of our perspective is determined by who tells the history of these places? 

Viewing our conversations for the 2022 Annual Meeting and Online Conference through the lens of power of place allows us to consider the spaces and places we’ve collectively built, while acknowledging those we’ve had a hand in reimaging over time. We ask you to embrace this year’s theme, Right Here, Right Now, as an invitation to pause and meditate on what placemaking really means to you and to the communities you serve and ultimately to interrogate how you may be a tool in this development process. Let’s gather in Buffalo and/or online and reexamine ideas about our natural and built environments and to reorient when and where we find our country’s history.    

Jennifer Ortiz
Director, Utah Division of State History
2022 Program Chair 

Deadline for session proposals is December 10. 

Learn more about submitting a session and how to submit online.