What’s the Plan?
Dear NCPH community—
After careful deliberation, and given the uncertainty over the latest COVID-19 variant and the ongoing challenges of hosting a meeting in Canada from the US, the NCPH Board of Directors and staff have concluded with regret that we cannot proceed with holding the in-person 2022 NCPH Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada, next March as planned. This decision, as we’re sure you understand, was not made lightly. We made it with the health and physical safety of our presenters and attendees, staff, volunteers, and vendors foremost in our minds. We know you count on us to take the lead on these difficult decisions, and we would rather make the hard choice now than ask you to cross your fingers, expend potentially non-recoverable travel funds, and negotiate unknown risks in the coming months.
The NCPH staff, Board, and 2022 Program and Local Arrangements Committees were so looking forward to joining you in Montreal next March. Like all of you, we are desperate for the in-person connections that make our public history work so fulfilling and joyful. After two years of virtual conferences, we were hopeful that vaccination and mitigation efforts would allow us to meet safely, and until very recently we were confident that was the case. However, given the uncertainty about the Omicron variant, its potential implications for international travel, and our presenters’ difficulty securing the necessary international travel approval and funding, it has become increasingly apparent that an in-person conference in Montreal isn’t possible for us this year.
Here is what you need to know right now:
- NCPH’s 2022 annual meeting will be held virtually, and we hope to open registration to general attendees in January 2022. More information will be provided in the new year, after we work with in-person presenters to pivot their sessions. We had already planned for a supplemental virtual conference May 4-6, 2022 and will likely extend that to a full week.
- Presenters should look for a separate email from NCPH Program Manager Meghan Hillman with more details. Presenters already planning to present virtually will get a quick update email, and presenters whose sessions were planned for Montreal will be asked to answer a few questions by January 10 so we can make scheduling decisions and adjust registration fees as necessary. Any in-person session that chooses to share their content at the virtual conference will be given the opportunity to do so, although the specifics have yet to be decided.
- While we will not be physically traveling to Montreal this year, we intend to award our recently-announced Grassroots Public History Award to a Quebec-based person, group, or project as planned. In this inaugural year of the award, the award committee and our Local Arrangements team will work together to identify excellent grassroots public history work in the Montreal area. We’re hoping to return to Montreal in 2025, and we want to meet the 2022 award winner then. (As last year, our other awards, including travel grants, will be awarded at the same level despite the lack of necessary travel.)
- Our annual meeting is the major source of income for NCPH, and this decision carries with it significant financial consequences for us. While we are fortunate to not be facing severe penalties from our Montreal hotel, we do expect a substantial loss in revenue that comes from pricing our virtual conference to prioritize access for all. If you’re in the position to help NCPH weather the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, a donation to our Annual Fund gifts us the ability to continue putting the health and well-being of our community first while ensuring low virtual registration rates for students and under-funded public historians.
In addition to the financial ramifications and the inconvenience to our presenters and planning partners, we recognize that there are other, less tangible consequences associated with changing our meeting format. We all deeply miss the opportunity to reconnect with longtime friends and colleagues at the in-person meeting. But we also know that virtual conferences are more accessible, more affordable, and to some degree or another here to stay, and we welcome the opportunity to keep honing in on what it means to do them the NCPH way—with fun and fellowship and collaboration.
We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves, so stay tuned. Thanks as always for being such great friends and colleagues, and we hope you have a happy, healthy, and restful holiday season.