Going Virtual

NCPH 2021 is Going Virtual

The NCPH staff, board of directors, and 2021 Program and Local Arrangements Committees were all looking forward to bringing the 2021 NCPH Annual Meeting to Salt Lake City next March. Our Local Arrangements Committee was hard at work putting together a slate of tours; our Program Committee designed a theme and a Call for Proposals that would encourage proposals with a Western focus, particularly around Indigenous stories.

When we had to cancel our in-person conference in Atlanta in March and pivot quickly to a virtual conference, we were hopeful that the timing might allow the pandemic to be under control enough by the following March to allow our in-person Salt Lake City conference to proceed. However, as the summer wore on and we did not see substantial mitigation efforts and contact tracing here in the United States, and as the pandemic took its toll on public history jobs and conference travel budgets, it became increasingly apparent that no in-person conference could be anything approaching normal by next March.

We’d rather do Salt Lake City the right way, in person and in our usual numbers, when it’s safe to gather again. We don’t want our presenters and attendees to risk their health or safety to travel; to face uncertainty up until the last minute about the status of the conference; or to feel pressured to spend money on travel costs that would be better spent caring for themselves or their families in these precarious times. For these reasons we have negotiated with our hotel, the Salt Lake City Hilton, to postpone our in-person Salt Lake City conference until 2024. Our 2021 annual meeting will therefore be entirely virtual.

What will Virtual NCPH 2021 look like?

We’re still working out the details, but it’s likely that Virtual NCPH 2021 will look very different than the in-person NCPH meetings of years past, and very different than the Virtual NCPH 2020 experience. We’ve learned over the last several months that people do virtual conferences differently than they do in-person conferences, which creates opportunities to play with format and scheduling to better suit a born-virtual conference experience. We’re planning for shorter conference days spread over a longer time frame so attendees don’t burn out, with flexibility for presenters in terms of live sessions or pre-recording. We’re brainstorming for ways to preserve the networking experiences that make conferences productive and joyful, with plenty of opportunities for attendees to “run into” each other in the virtual space.

With no associated travel costs and reduced registration fees, this will be our most accessible conference ever. Between the costs of a virtual platform, increased accessibility costs for live CART captioning, and continued expenses like staff salaries, a good virtual conference is not inexpensive to produce—but it is less expensive than an in-person conference, and we hope to pass as much of that cost savings along to attendees as possible. In addition to lower registration fees across the board (how much lower we don’t yet know), we plan to offer a reduced rate for people whose circumstances make the regular rates prohibitive.

What’s next?

There will be more opportunities to participate in Virtual NCPH 2021 coming, including a call for late-breaking session proposals (submit here) and an informal opportunity to meet over dinner (read more about Dine and Discuss!).

Thanks to all for your patience as we gathered information and worked with our hotel to make this shift to a virtual format. It was important to us to negotiate a transition that respected the efforts of everyone who had already begun work on an in-person 2021 conference and did not leave us in a vulnerable position financially or legally. We’re excited to now turn our efforts to planning a Virtual NCPH 2021, and to explore the new possibilities and opportunities a wholly online conference experience has to offer.