Why We Are Changing the Utah History Conference
By Jennifer Ortiz, Director, Utah Division of State History
After lengthy discussions with our board, staff, and community members, we’ve decided to move our traditionally held annual History Conference to an every-other-year model beginning in 2023. Moving the conference to every-other-year allows for our small, but mighty, team to better plan for future conferencing opportunities via strategic partnerships, to increase our capacity for more networking and in-person events in the off years, and to create a sustainable work model for our team. We also anticipate that this change will allow for us to better prepare for the future Museum of Utah, to be opened in 2026, and to allow for deeper scholastic exploration and community engagement through the Women’s History Initiative, Peoples of Utah Revisited effort and other programs.
We’d love to have you join us this year at the American Association for State and Local History conference in Boise on September 6th to 9th or enjoy the history track at the Utah Museum Association’s conference in Vernal on September 20th to 22nd. These are great opportunities to network, enjoy scholarship, and recharge your history batteries.
Most exciting is our upcoming joint conference with the National Council on Public History (NCPH) in April 2024 which will bring together hundreds of public history practitioners from across the country to Utah.
Utah Historical Quarterly editor Holly George has said, “partnering with the National Council on Public History is a remarkable opportunity for the Utah Historical Society and its members, who will get to meet with, and learn from, public historians from across the nation. It means new ideas, new techniques, and expanded networks. The spring 2024 conference also will allow Utah history research, field trips, and historic sites to enjoy a national stage.” Holly is serving as one of the conference’s programming co-chairs and will help shape its content.
University of Utah professor Greg Smoak is serving as the Local Arrangements Co-Chair. He says that, “The 2024 joint meeting of the National Council on Public History and the Utah Historical Society brings together two organizations that are near and dear to my heart! As Past President of the National Council of Public History, I am thrilled that hundreds of talented public historians from across the Nation, and indeed, the world, will share their work in Salt Lake City next April. I am just as delighted for the opportunity to showcase our state and the important work of the Utah Historical Society for those visitors, particularly at this moment with the UHS opening on a new chapter in its history.
In 2025, we will bring new ways to gather and discuss Utah’s history.
And in 2026, we will host our conference on the Capitol campus to highlight the opening of the new Museum of Utah, the state’s first dedicated state history museum.
To summarize the next three years of conferences, our schedule will look as follows:
- 2023: Off Year (but join us for AASLH in Boise or at UMA in Vernal)
- 2024: Joint Conference with the National Council on Public History (Salt Lake City)
- 2025: Off Year
- 2026: Capitol Campus Conference
I hope you are as excited as I am with these opportunities! And trust me, in the coming years we will have additional opportunities to promote our shared history.
Another change we are making is moving our Historical Society Awards from our conference to its own event. We’ll schedule it in January as part of our Utah History Month. This will provide another opportunity to highlight the achievements of our scholars and community history projects that are groundbreaking. Our awards will elevate work happening on the ground and encourage year-round acknowledgement and participation in history work. Stay tuned for more developments on this year’s History Awards!
Please help communicate to your peers these new ways to connect, highlight scholarship, and develop stronger cultural partnerships. Together, we’ll make history stronger in Utah.