In September, I participated in the Michael Malone Conference, hosted by the Department of History and Philosophy at Montana State University. The focus was on recent scholarship that puts Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and other exhibitionary forms in transnational context, with special emphasis on the show’s tours of Europe between 1887 and 1907.
We met in Bozeman for a keynote lecture, delivered by Bob Rydell (MSU) and Rob Kroes from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. They are the authors of Buffalo Bill in Bologna: The Americanization of the World, 1869-1922, a fascinating study about the process of globalizing American mass culture. Bob spoke about an Italian journal that featured a caricature of Buffalo Bill riding a frog on its front page, and Rob focused on the fascinating history of exhibiting exotic peoples in both Europe and the United States.
The next day we drove through Yellowstone National Park and into Cody, where we visited the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum and managing editor of the papers of William F. Cody, Jeremy Johnston, talked about both the museum and the papers project to the conference participants, and Jaap Verheul from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, gave a fascinating overview of a new digital project he initiated. He talked about how Digital Humanities methodologies can be used to analyze how Buffalo Bill was represented in the collection of digitized newspapers in the National Library of the Netherlands. The day ended with a presentation of MSU faculty member Walter Fleming on “‘Laying Out Ten to See a Dead Indian’: Wild Westing and Those Who were left behind.” And then, of course, I couldn’t let the Europeans try all the local beers on their own. 🙂 The Irma was really the last stop of the day!
We left Cody the next morning and drove through Yellowstone again, ending up near Big Sky, MT at the 320 Guest Ranch. The first item was the Roundtable Discussion with contributors to The Popular Frontier: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Transcontinental Mass Culture, an essay collection edited by BYU Professor Frank Christianson, who is awesome. Participants were Monica Rico (Lawrence), Renee Laegrid (Wyoming), Robert Rydell, and myself. (Really everybody was pretty awesome!) After an interesting discussion during which I decided to rewrite half my paper (or close to it), we calmed down with a few drinks and a fantastic dinner. I really do like these Dutchies! Dinner was followed by a movie, or better yet, a presentation by MSU faculty member Andrew Nelson entitled “‘I Was Afraid I was Going to Make a Fool of Myself’: Buffalo Bill at the Movies.” This was followed by some more drinks and a really good time. Although, a country barn dance would have been nice! 😉 After a long and cozy conversation with a very smart and pleasant colleague, I went back to my two-bedroom-would-have-shared-with-three-other-people cabin by the river.
The next morning was filled with two panels; the first examined “Cultural Connections” of the Wild West from a local to a global scale, and the second panel examined “American Orientalism in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East.” I left the ranch at 1pm and got back to Laramie at 11pm that night.
Overall, a fantastic experience! Not only did I gain a broader understanding of my own research topic, but also met some wonderful new people and reconnected with longtime colleagues.