This July, Wyoming is celebrating its 125th statehood anniversary. To kick off the celebrations, the Wyoming State Historical Society, in collaboration with the State Historic Preservation Office, hosted a conference in Laramie June 11-13. It was a great success, if you ask me! More than 200 people attended the conference, and we had a wide variety of programs, speakers, and topics. I was a member of the program committee and the planning committee, and it was a great experience to plan this event along with a vibrant group of representatives from different agencies around the state.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to contribute to three panels. The first one explored aspects of the history of the University of Wyoming, and I presented a brief history of the university, highlighting some of the major events and personalities. We had a great turnout for this session, and it was a lot of fun!
The second panel was scheduled for 8.30 on Friday morning, and it was called “Wyoming Entertainment.” The line-up of speakers was absolutely cool! It was so awesome to be on a panel with the illustrious Chuck Rankin from the University of Oklahoma, who gave an absolutely fascinating and funny talk about Wyoming humorist Bill Nye. What a great idea to present a paper on a humorist; it’s just bound to be hilarious! My own talk focused on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show abroad, in a sense taking Wyoming’s entertainment and bringing it to the world. The third contribution to the panel was a virtual tour through a selection of Wyoming’s hole-in-the-wall bars. It was fabulous! I was shocked to see some people I would least expect to know all of those establishments! (That’s you, Linda!) It was quite possibly the most entertaining panel I have ever been to in my entire conferencing career. Apparently, it’s not that difficult to convince people to go virtual bar-diving at 8.30 am either! We had a great turnout for this session.
The third panel I participated in was focused on Oral Histories, and I spoke about an oral history project that I directed a few years ago. It was the first time I presented a paper on this, and it was a little emotional. I interviewed Wyoming National Guard soldiers who deployed to Korea in 1950, and they endured significant and intense combat. I described their deployment and then talked about three issues that I encountered during the project: dealing with trauma, earning a close-knit group’s trust, and getting past their humility to hear stories of valor and bravery, which they all had but were reluctant to share. I apologize to the three male attendants in the room who were trying to hide their tears. During this talk, I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking, a reaction that I thought I had under control ever since I graduated.
On Saturday, the events took place at the Wyoming Territorial Prison. We had several speakers and events, and the dinner was followed by one of my absolute highlights from the conference: a country dance with a live band! The Country Club Band from Cheyenne provided the music, and they were awesome! Well, almost as awesome as my colleagues from the American Heritage Center, who all danced the night away. NOBODY can say that archivists don’t know how to have a good time! Thanks to my friend Dave, who is a wonderful dancer, I even learned some country waltz and two step moves (at his expense, or that of his feet, I have to admit). It was a beautiful venue, fun times, and the best ending to a fantastic event. Yay Wyoming, and happy birthday!