The 40th Annual Midwest Conference on Andean and Amazonian Archaeology and Ethnohistory

On February 25-26, 2012, The Field Museum and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chiacgo (UIC) jointly sponsored the 40th Annual Midwest Conference for Andean and Amazonian Archaeology and Ethnohistory.  In addition to being a long name, the Midwest meetings are one of the premier venues for Andean archaeologists to present their work to a smaller audience before presenting at the SAAs (which are in Memphis, TN this year.  Next year, they're in Hawai'i, so I am certainly glad I will have some dissertation data prepared by then!).  Since I am part of the joint UIC-Field Museum program, as well as an Andeanist, the role of co-organizer/liaison/all-purpose guy was thrust upon me.  With the help of the department's administrator, Birgitta Rota, we were able to organize a successful two-day conference with over 30 paper presentations, 16 posters and over 125 guests.

While the task seemed easy at first (I had been responsible for maintaining the website all along), I was quickly initiated in the headache that is event planning--a world Birgitta was already too familiar with from her own experiences.  A change of lecture halls, catering arrangements, name tags, the tasks keep piling up until you feel that you have a grasp on things...then something disastrous happens.  The conference was held in the James Simpson Theater, which is a rather grandiose space.  The theater seats 750, has large columns that add a dramatic flare, and there are porticos along the sides of the seats.  We thought that the walls along the sides of the theater would be a great place to hang posters so that guests could wander around out of view of the stage/podium and the poster presenters could have adequate space during their allotted times.  Well, there is a nice coat of white paint on the walls and Scotch tape would not be adequate to hang the posters.  Therefore, we purchased 3M non-stick tabs for the posters and had presenters hang the posters themselves.  This terrible idea resulted in about 3 loud "CRASHES" during papers and my new role as "the-guy-who-runs-along-the-outside-of-the-theater-re-taping-falling-posters."

Despite the hassles, the conference was a huge success and a wonderful experience.  You just won't see me planning any weddings in the near future!