James A. Rawley Conference in the Humanities, 2011

On April 8th & 9th, I attended the 2011 James A. Rawley Conference in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The title of the conference this year was “Communities, Kinship and Culture: The Formation and Expression of Identities,” and I presented a paper entitled, “Fashioning the 1950s ‘Vassar Girl’: Vassar Undergraduate Identity and Dress, 1947-1960.” I won the Best Graduate Paper Award at the conference this year, which was a real honour.

You can see the conference program HERE.

The key note speaker was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who talked about her upcoming book, “A House Full of Females,” which is an object centred exploration of 19th century Mormonism. It was truly fascinating and I am always completely struck by her creative and entirely original approach to the study of history and material culture.

I really enjoyed presenting and the feedback and new ideas that came through as a result have been really helpful in developing my work. I actually set up two garments at my presentation, which were both referenced heavily in my paper: a 1952 official Vassar College blazer (that will next be seen in the Vassar College Costume Collection’s exhibition this summer) and a circa 1959 black velvet Lanz dress.

I loved being able to have the garments there with me – there is something so much more satisfying to present with a powerpoint AND the garments that inspired this whole research topic.

What I enjoyed about the conference was seeing the parallels between seemingly disparate papers come through. The discussions were so enriching and it was a really wonderfully organised two-day event. It began with the key note speech and a reception on the Friday night, which allowed people to meet and talk prior to the day of panels and then on Saturday, the panels ran concurrently throughout the day. I’ll admit that it was a difficult choice knowing which panel to choose most of the time but there was some phenomenal research being presented. There was also a lunch for speakers and faculty which allowed everyone to talk in a relaxed setting and Awards were presented. So I want to extend a big thank you to everyone at UNL for such a great event.

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