Looking Back at ‘Turning Points,’ the APH conference

The Association of Personal Historians’ annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri concluded on Sunday, October 21. The next day, more than 150 professional personal historians were wending their way back to corners of the Earth as far-flung as Australia and Denmark, their minds brimming with ideas and their hearts filled with the warmth of connecting with friends old and new.


Personal historians giving one of many standing ovations after (and during) the conference presentations.


Mary Ann Mayers’ workshop on project management was just one of more than 25 instructional and informative presentations during the conference.







Thanks to Conference Host Mary Harrison’s stellar work lining up local keynote speakers and entertainment, Event Planner Paula Yost’s excellence at negotiating a comfortable and affordable setting, and Conference Director Marianne Waller’s thoroughness and thoughtfulness in arranging the educational program and myriad other details, the St. Louis conference was an outstanding experience.

What made it outstanding for me in particular? Let me count the ways.

  1. The thought-provoking discussions of our board during its annual meeting. As the association’s president, I deeply appreciate the other 14 board members’ perspectives. The five new incoming board members who attended (two of them by Skype, a first for APH governance) have me excited as well.
  1. The in-depth learning I took away from a two-part workshop, “Oral History: One Topic, Many Voices,” led by Barbara Tabach and Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner. I’ll put their information and observations to use before the week is out. I was lucky this “just-in-time” learning coincided with a new community history project I’m involved in.
  1. And finally, dancing Saturday night away to the blues stylings of Ingrid Berry Clay and her band (who’s that other St. Louis entertainer with Berry in his name?) was the perfect way to shake out the jams after a long week of sitting in meetings, workshops, and plenary sessions. Whether you are 15 or 55, nothing beats taking to the dance floor with people you’re not afraid to cut loose with.

That’s what I most enjoyed about the St. Louis “Turning Points” conference. What about you?

~~~ APH: Life, Stories, People ~~~

Conference photos by APH member Brina Bolanz.

17 thoughts on “Looking Back at ‘Turning Points,’ the APH conference

  1. There was much to enjoy about this year’s conference! In addition to seeing old friends, my favorite parts were the first and last keynote speakers: Lynne Jackson and Ruth Ann Hager, who spoke about the story of slaves Dred & Harriet Scott and their lawsuit for freedom; and Halliday Douglas who showed a video, “The Experiences That Shaped Us,” with interviews of leaders in the Saint Louis Civil Rights movement - created by his 6th grade students! How moving and inspiring to see this future generation of personal historians!

    1. What struck me as a common theme with both images and sound is that you should save them in an uncompressed file (.tif or .psd format for images, record as .wav or .aiff files for audio files, because these types of files are not “lossy” (don’t lose bits of data every time you save them). Then you may have a middle stage file on which you make changes, and you may export files in a file type that is compressed because it won’t take up so much space on a hard drive (.jpeg for images and mp3 for audio). Or something like that!

  2. Yes, it was a great conference. I too, walked away from the two sessions on oral history presented by Barbara Tabach and Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner with much more information and ideas for future projects.

    What turned out to be great timing for me was the workshop on archiving given by Brina Bolanz as I have a big project in front of me to use all those new techniques and archival products.

    I also found the Print Show & Tell to be very interesting and informative and have had follow up conversations about the methods used in the APH Forums.

    Watching Jane Shafron and Tim Pierce take videos throughout the conference was a great experience too. There is always something to learn from witnessing how others operate.

  3. For me, the particular features of the St. Louis conference that seem most memorable were the opening and closing talks. To have the great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott talk about the work she’s done to bring their story to life, and then to have see the video that 6th grade students created of their interviews with local civil rights leaders — what a compelling perspective of Saint Louis and national history from almost 200 years ago, from 50 years ago, with such enthusiasm and talent heading into the future.

  4. I agree with Fran’s and Marty’s comments — the beginning and ending presentations were superb!

    But I also enjoyed the chance to talk with colleagues and learn from their experiences, to meet delightful personal historians from Denmark, Australia, and Canada (to say nothing of meeting those from my own USA), to see samples of others’ work, and to come away with a renewed sense that our work to preserve people’s stories is a gift that we give to our clients, their families, and their communities. What a privilege!

  5. It was indeed an exceptional conference - my first APH one. Having Jason Womack as a Keynote Speaker was enlightening. He demonstrated true professionalism through-out the time he spent with us. I love his idea of working in 15 minute increments. I’m enjoying his book too. Listening to the Dred Scott story was inspiring - as a Canadian I too was familiar with a bit of his story. Congrats to the conference planning committee. You did a great job.

  6. It was truly a great conference: beautifully planned in comfortable digs, and good service at the hotel (stolen credit card — lousy! — notwithstanding). This was my third or fourth conference (too old to remember), and this time I could really see where the effort went in making this a rewarding and pleasurable experience. Clearly, good, long, detailed planning by those who knew what we were looking for, and the plans paid off big-time. My big take-aways? New strategies for asking interview questions, more resources for design and production, and the good catch-ups with friends. I’m honored to be part of this group …

    1. I’m thrilled to get such positive feedback about the conference, both here and in comments APHers have made to me. I did want everyone to know that the 19 volunteers on this year’s Program Ranking Committee contributed greatly to the success of the conference. They spent many hours evaluating eight keynote and 50-plus workshop proposals-and their conclusions about which ones would work best this year guided Marianne, Paula, and me in our decisions. Thank you, Ranking Committee!

      1. Mary, I want to add that St. Louis was just as friendly as you said it would be! The shuttle drivers from the hotel were so helpful - especially to those of us who were unfamiliar with using MetroLink. I wish I had come TWO days early so that I could have explored even more of your beautiful city!

  7. Dear new friends!

    Thank you for wonderful days in Saint Louis with you. I had a lovely time
    and I am so glad to have met so many nice people having so much to offer the
    world. You are role models for me, and I’m so proud to be member of an
    association like this.

    Before the conference, the listserv was “only” names and words. Now, reading
    it reminds me of smiling faces, warm hearts and great personalities. It has
    really come to life. A wonderful feeling. 😉


    1. Kirstin,
      So glad you were able to join us!

  8. It was an outstanding conference. Kudos to everyone involved in making it happen. It’s hard to pick a favorite session, but the presentation on Sunday by teacher, Haliday Douglas, and his students was so inspirational. Their experience interviewing the local leaders in the Civil Rights Movement is a history lesson they will remember forever and so will we.

  9. During my thirty-six year health care career, I attended hundreds of educational conferences and seminars. None were finer than the APH Conference in St. Louis last week. The keynote speakers were outstanding, and every workshop was filled with learning, sharing, and networking opportunities. I came away with a brain loaded with new ideas and skills, and a heart full of new friends and colleagues. Everyone there, newbies and seasoned veterans alike, seemed eager to support each other as we develop professional skills in this wonderful field of personal history. I am especially grateful to those who participated in “show and tells,” both formally and informally. Seeing what others are accomplishing was so motivating. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference!

  10. I really enjoyed meeting so many APH members in St. Louis. It’s great to put faces with names and I enjoyed seeing the great variety of books people brought with them.

  11. Enjoyed the conference as well! Well planned and executed. Thanks conference committee!
    I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with many of my friends and colleagues; some I only see at conference, some I’ve never met until last week!
    I agree Sarah, dancing the night away was a true and unexpected pleasure of St. Louis. Thanks Mary Harrison for finding such fun talent!

  12. What a terrific conference, from the lovely venue to the excellent keynote speakers and workshops. It was such a treat to meet so many APHers face-to-face and to hear the stories about their work with ongoing projects. Truly inspirational! Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it great.

  13. This conference was a life-altering experience, for me and my husband. Both of us left St. Louis feeling much more motivated to get Family Tales, our new business, off the ground. I now have a better idea of what a business plan is (thanks to Paula Stahel’s wonderful seminar), which will help break an old pattern of procrastination that held us back way too long. And the workshops were helpful as well. We have never met a nicer, friendlier group of people.
    I came to this conference sorely needing both information and inspiration. Neither were in short supply. Thank you.