Academic conferences in Arts and Humanities come, as it were, in all colors, shapes, and sizes, from small meetings by invitation to grand international affairs. This post takes a look at some of those types, and I give some examples of conferences that I rate highly.
The large conference, also known as a congress.
Conferences in my field may be organized by universities, institutions, associations, and societies, or even specialized libraries. Universities organize annual conferences with thousands of international participants and papers given in hundreds of sessions, for example the International Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo USA, that is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. The largest event of this kind in Europe is the International Medieval Congress at University of Leeds, UK.
Associations and societies hold similar annual or bi-annual meetings which are organized similarly, with papers given in sessions. These meetings tend to be held at varying, changing locations.
Annual examples: American Medieval Academy, USA ; Association of Art Historians, UK
Bi-annual examples: Verband der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands, Association of German Historians; Verband Deutscher Kunsthistoriker, Association of German Art Historians
There are also countless smaller symposia or meetings that may be organized and sponsored by an institute or even a library (for ex. Claremont Consortium in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Claremont Graduate University CA; Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel ).
What makes a conference bigger or smaller?
The larger congresses last between three to four days, the annual meetings and conferences typically last two days, whilst smaller specialized symposia might take place across anywhere from two to even five days.
Opportunity to participate
The larger, annual events issue a call for papers a year in advance, with a preliminary list of proposed sessions and information on their sponsors or organizers. Meanwhile, the smaller events are usually by invitation only. This is just one reason why networking is so important: who you know could influence your chances of being invited to the right event.
What is the right event to attend?
It goes without saying, that these academic meetings, large and small, are excellent opportunities to meet many new people, not only in one’s own field, but also for making contact with researchers working in other fields and disciplines. Smaller events naturally provide a more intimate atmosphere, where discussions are more intense. You can make new contacts more easily within an established specialized circle.
Congresses provide valuable opportunities to test one’s material, to get feedback on ‘work in progress.’ And we must also not forget that conferences may open various pathways towards publication. And: they’re great fun!
How do you choose conferences to go to? What makes a conference the “right” one, for you? Please leave a comment below, or get in touch. We’re on Twitter @piirus_com, or you can get in touch directly through our feedback button (top right).
Note from the editor: Piirus is going to host an event in March this year, of yet another type. This will be a practical workshop on tools & tips for the Digital Academic. Register online, join experts at the event including @thesiswhisperer & meet Piirus staff!
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