Mini-Con: #CampingCon2019: Public History Outdoors

In September of 2016, NCPH members Anne Whisnant and Tammy Gordon organized CampingCon 2016. The NCPH mini-con took place October 7-9 at the Cades Cove Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sessions used the outdoors and relevant cultural features as the classrooms, and the formats varied from campfire conversations to poster sessions to walk-and-talks. The event was a huge success, and attendees left asking when there would be another—including Larry Cebula, who blogged about the event.

In 2019 CampingCon will return! Eastern Washington University and the National Park Service are collaborating on CampingCon 2019, to be held September 20-21 at San Juan Island National Historical Park, located on beautiful San Juan Island in the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington state.

Registration for #CampingCon2019 closed on September 8, 2019. Questions? Email [email protected].


Download a PDF of the schedule here

Friday, September 20
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Welcome and Introductions Campground
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm Field Trip and Orientation Begins in English Camp
Sheila T. Cavanagh and Deborah Middleton
A Personal (and Highly Subjective) History of San Juan Island with Geology, Invertebrates, Books, and Birds
Across the Island
Joan Zenzen
San Juan National Historic Park: The Lay of the Land and Public History
American Camp
5:00 pm – 6:50 pm Renee Cebula
Campfires and Cocktails: Drinking and the Making of the American West
Campground (Hands on session)
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Dinner (provided) Campground
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Group Book Discussion
Nina Simon, The Art of Relevance
Let’s gather around the fire and discuss


Saturday, September 21
Session 1 Session 2 Notes
8:00 am – 9:00 am Breakfast (provided)
9:10 am – 10:00 am Evan Mackall
Pond Farm National Historic Landmark
Brian Forist
Historic Places May Speak More Clearly Than We Can—Interpreting From Behind
10:15 am – 11:30 am Larry Cebula and Chad Pritchard
Creating Interdisciplinary Walking Tours: A Stroll Up Youngs Hill
Nicky Rehnberg
In the Business of Saving Trees: Redwood Tourism as Public History and Political Action, 1918-1968
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Lunch (on your own) Commercial kitchen available
1:30 pm – 2:20 pm Judy Bentley
Finding Women on Historic Trails
J. William T. Youngs
The Yellowstone Campfire Legend: Myth and Reality
2:30 pm – 3:20 pm Andrew Denson
Cherokee History, Tribal Partnerships, and Land Conservation in Western North Carolina
Abby Rhinehart
Building a “History Lab” Outside: Creating an Interactive Outdoor Learning Experience to Foster Historical Thinking
3:30 pm – 4:20 pm Dylan MacDonald
Commemorating the Failure of the Teton Dam
Gwen Whiting
“Dirtbags” and Abandoned Prisons: Interpreting Place through Material Culture
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm Dinner (provided)
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm Cheryl Bryce
Decolonizing the Landscape: Lessons from Victoria
Sunday, September 22
11:00 am – 8:00 pm Optional Tour of Orcas Island ($50 additional fee)

#campingcon2019 Frequently asked questions

What is Camping Con?
#CampingCon is a conference that explores the practice and ethics of Public History in the Outdoors. The format? Camping. Presentations will take place at picnic shelters, in historic buildings, or walking along trails.

When and Where?
#CampingCon19 will take place on September 20 & 21, 2019 on San Juan Island, WA. The host site is San Juan Island National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park Service.

How do I register and what it is the cost?
Registration is now open. The fee is $75 for NCPH members and $85 for not-yet-members. This includes camping, continental breakfast, and two dinners. Register online at: Registration will close on September 6, 2019.

What are the Camping Arrangements?
San Juan Island National Historical Park has an administrative campground that contains canvas wall tents and cots on platforms (1 is wheelchair accessible) that fit 3-4 campers per tent. We can arrange for tent sharing– and will ask you to let us know when you register. Those seeking additional privacy can bring equipment, there is a meadow that is used by the park for other camping activities that will be made available. There is a cookhouse with electricity and vault toilets available. Coin operated showers are available at Roche Harbor, 2 miles from the campsite.

What kind of weather should I expect? What kind of gear and clothing should I bring?
September on San Juan Island is traditionally a glorious occasion to spend time on the island. You’re likely to encounter sunshine and temperatures in the high-60s to low-70s with lows in the high-40s to low-50s. Though the island is the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains and receives a fraction of the precipitation compared to most areas in Western Washington, rain can always find us in the fall.

Comfortable clothing in layers and a light rain jacket is recommended. For those staying in shared tents, a sleeping bag and pillow is all of the gear you’ll need. For those packing their own lodging, you’ll bring a tent, sleeping pad, etc. to your comfort.

What about food? Are meals provided?
A small, continental breakfast will be provided each morning. Participants should expect to pack a lunch for the road and dinner will be catered each evening. Kings Grocery in Friday Harbor is a great place to resupply.

How do I get there?
The San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau has this great page on transportation to the islands:

As the above link indicates, there are many ways to get to San Juan Island. You can fly to the island from multiple locations in the Seattle area. There are a variety of ferry options. The most direct is the state ferry leaving from Anacortes, but passenger ferries are available from Seattle. The timing of all of these takes a little bit of pre-planning to some degree. If getting to the island seems daunting, don’t worry! Email site coordinator Brandon Cadwell ([email protected]) and he’ll work with you to coordinate the best plans that work for you.

Will I need a vehicle on the island?
San Juan Island has two transit services that make frequent rounds around the island. For sessions scheduled away from the national park area, the conference will have transportation chartered for all to ride. For additional excursions, you can take transit or bring a rental car. You can also rent mopeds and “scoot cars” here on the island for a special experience.

A view of the campground kitchen and picnic pavilion where attendees will stay. Credit: National Park Service.


Participants have the option of camping in shared, canvas tents provided by San Juan Island National Historical Park. Credit: National Park Service.


Header Image: A moped and scoot car from Susie’s Moped Rentals overlook South Beach on San Juan Island. Credit: Susie’s Moped Rentals.

The #CampingCon2019 Call for Presentations is open through May 1, 2019. Deadline extended to June 30! Proposals can be submitted via an online form.