Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dabbling in Academia

What am I getting myself in for? Last night I drove from the college where I work, to another college almost an hour east, in order to volunteer away the next two months. I’m horrified and psyched at the same time.

There are a lot of Medieval Academic blogs out there. In fact, Medieval academic blogs have their own category on my RSS feed. I’ve never taken a college-level class in Medieval or Renaissance history, but my academic background always skirted around the edges of history, and I’ve taken graduate level courses in American Historiography, Material Culture, and Museum Studies. I pride myself that I am able to keep up with most academic texts, and I will admit to an unabashed love of college/university libraries. Last spring one of the blogs I read had a call for papers for a conference on Medieval and Renaissance topics that was to take place in April, right here in New Hampshire! I was so surprised! I have looked at all the colleges in NH and none of them offer graduate level MedRen courses. Colleges do not need graduate level courses to host a conference, but still I was not expecting to see something like this in a relatively short distance.

When I saw the call for papers I looked up the conference’s website, which was fairly limited, but included a large number of photos of college students in bad “medieval” garb. I have heard and sometimes seen the divide between academia and reenacting, the photos intrigued me, did stuffy academics barely tolerate the bad costumes? Were they wearing the bad costumes? I emailed the contact person on the call for papers about possibly interviewing her for the Living History Podcast, and said that I would be happy to volunteer my services at the conference itself. I have no idea what the professor must have thought of my email, I mentioned my employment at another college, and my reenacting experience, but I did not submit a resume. I know reenacting’s reputation, I did not want to seem like I was busting in to the middle of some place I did not belong. The professor emailed me back, but then did not respond to my second email for a few months. Then I wrote her, but when she wrote me back I did not respond for a few months. We were not very good at communicating.

Finally yesterday evening we did manage to connect. I drove to Plymouth State and we met for a half an hour. Our meeting was really good. The professor was super nice, and happy to hear about what I thought I could contribute. She told me about some of the great things they have planned for The Forum (that is what they all call the conference.) It turns out, what she really needs is an assistant, someone who has administrative skills and event management experience. I am an administrator with event management experience! And The Forum is totally in an area of my interest! But Plymouth State is almost an hour from where I work, and over an hour from where I live. I am not in a good position geographically.

After we met, we headed to a meeting of the Medieval Society club, the student club that is the source of the photos, and would help out at The Forum. The MedSoc (Medieval Society) meeting was also interesting. It was an organization run by students who had a lot of other priorities, and more enthusiasm than actual knowledge, but with guidance had potential. Oh how I wish there was one of those at the college where I work. I could be such a great resource! I have tons of extra clothing, a huge library of books, and have access to my biggest resource: Stephen, knows more and is a better teacher and leader than I am.

So here I am, with an opportunity to do what I love, albeit in a volunteer capacity. But it is such a long drive, and a lot of it would happen on weekday evenings. I need my sleep to be at all functional. At this point the conference is only two months away, and I’m not likely to get really involved until it is a month out, right? Right?

Please tell me I won’t regret giving away the next two months.


  1. I don't think you're going to regret it at all. Despite the potential driving issues it sounds like a fantastic opportunity!

    I totally understand where you're coming from regarding the possible stigma of being a re-enactor with no "official" medieval book learning background (I had similar concerns when I signed up to audit a college level metallurgy course just on my blacksmithing background). But it sounds like you won over the professor and I have no doubt you have plenty to offer at this conference.


  2. Hi Alena! This is SO COOL. Yes, you must do it, even if it is on a volunteer basis. There is nothing like doing what you love. And you never know where it might lead. IMO It's what I've done with the hearth cooking, and all because I love it so much. Twice now, I've started as a volunteer and ended up being paid. But it's just an extra bonus. And I have to travel great distances to do it. But I don't care. As long as I'm physically able, I'm there! Life is too short to not. Is there any possibility of finding a cheap motel in between this & home? Be worth a try (I think--obviously). Anyhoo...go for it! It sounds like fun. HUZZAH!
    Carolina :o)