Greetings Cosmic Americans!
Well - I braved yesterday's delayed flights in relatively good humor and arrived back home in Hollywood last night marking the official end of the Civil War Institute 2012 conference. From where I sit, fun was had by all - squeaky mattresses and "that" dorm smell notwithstanding.
This year the CWI offered a lineup of first-rate speakers and panelists. Clever folks one and all...the conversations over beers at the end of the day were scintillating to say the least.
The topic this year was the war in 1862. Emancipation naturally figured centrally. But we broached a number of other topics as well. The use of imagery of well known leaders and the dead at Antietam, campaign strategies, military executions, the lives of civilians during wartime, and border state identity crises found a home in the general conference narrative - a narrative that spanned the social, cultural, and political landscape of the Civil War broadly defined.
Approximately 350 attendees - all well informed Civil War enthusiasts, many of whom are (or were) teachers - converged on Gettysburg with questions at the ready. As I stated at our last panel, I speak often to anyone who will listen about how important it is to be on board with the Web 2.0...how it is clearly the significant tool in terms of personal connections and the dissemination of information. We are currently living through a great educational paradigm shift in which Internet access instantaneously links academics with the public, accelerating the humanities in ways few could have imagined even ten years ago. But we need not lose sight of personal, face to face interaction. It might be the traditional (read: old) way of doing things...but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
I took quite a bit away from a week of engaging with the faculty and attendees at CWI this summer reminding me of just that and I have come to the conclusion that interaction should never be limited to one format. And thus, I suppose there will always be many ways to skin a cat (if any of my cats see this...fear not, you're safe).