Mapping History: New Directions in Interdisciplinary Research
October 3-7, 2012
What does it mean to map history? What can maps tell us about the beliefs, values, and worldviews of past societies? Thanks to the recent “spatial turn” in the humanities and social sciences, historians of geographical areas ranging from Africa to the American West are now taking a fresh look at maps as potential goldmines of evidence about the past. Because they have traditionally focused on text-based archives, however, historians are in urgent need of new methods and approaches for “decoding” the visual language, meaning, and uses of historical maps. Recent research suggests that some of the best methods available for analyzing historical maps and conceptions of space can be found in other disciplines, notably computer science (GIS) and geography. Scholars interested in historical mapping are thus beginning to demonstrate how the craft of the historian can merge in exciting new ways with the spatial, quantitative, visual, and technological methods found in a variety of disciplines.
The study of map-making is currently transforming perspectives on several hot-button fields of historical research. Scholars of modern empire, for example, are discovering that maps were powerful tools that Europeans used to gather and store knowledge about faraway lands across the globe. The science of mapping embodied the ideology of conquest; maps encouraged imperialists to see certain aspects of new lands, such as natural resources, while leaving indigenous settlements invisible. Historians working on the rise of national identities across the globe are likewise recognizing how maps were a vital means for unifying national territories, defining geographical boundaries, and supplanting local identities. Innovative urban history researchers, moreover, are using GIS mapping technology to reconstruct the social geography of cities from the past, demonstrating how maps can yield new insight into the historical dynamics of class, gender, and race. Across many historical fields, therefore, map research is yielding exciting results.
We are organizing an international conference at a beautiful ranch in the heart of the Rocky Mountain West to evaluate the current state of map history and the impact of cross-disciplinary methods on the field. The conference will foster a workshop-style atmosphere in which a diverse group of historians and interdisciplinary scholars share how maps have opened up new avenues for their research. Conference organizers will encourage participants to be as rigorous and specific as possible in presenting their methodologies for analyzing maps. Individual sessions will be organized around research fields in which maps have recently become popular, including urban history, imperial history, economic history, and border studies. Most papers will be circulated before the conference, giving participants ample time to prepare for discussions. In addition to invited scholars, graduate students in history will be invited to attend. This will offer them a unique opportunity to participate in discussions about cutting-edge research to familiarize themselves with a professional conference setting. As in the past, this conference will produce new knowledge, in the form of books and articles, as well as a dynamic new area for cross-disciplinary collaboration at MSU.
Dates: October 3-7, 2012
Venue: 320 Ranch (http://320ranch.com; Southwest Montana, near Yellowstone Park)
Sponsoring institution: History and Philosophy Department, Montana State University
Organizing committee: Professors Catherine T. Dunlop and Billy G. Smith
For more information: Email: email@example.com
John Tyndall and 19th Century Science
June 19th-20th, 2012
With Funding from the Provost's Office, the Department of History and Philosophy, and the National Science Foundation, hosted the Ninth Michael P. Malone Memorial Confernece on "John Tyndall and Nineteenth-Centruy Science." The conference brought together some of the past and current participants of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project to discuss issues raised by the NSF-funded project. It also included a workshop for the editors of the anticipated twelve volumes of Tyndall's letters, currently under contract with Pickering & Chatto. The conference was held at the 320 Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. Faculty and graduate students were invited to participate.
To learn more about the John Tyndall Correspondence Project, visit their website Here.
2009: IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID
The Sixth Annual Michael P. Malone Memorial Conference
Hosted by Montana State University and Stanford University
During 2008-2009, the economic crisis in the United States and the rest of the world has dominated the news and created hardship for millions of people. One of the intellectual tragedies of the biggest economic calamity since the Great Depression was the inability of most economists to predict the simultaneous bursting of several economic bubbles, even though there is a historical record of such regular events stretching back to the seventeenth century and perhaps earlier. What better time to have staged a conference about economic history in the hopes that scholars might learn valuable lessons from the past that can be applied to the present and future?
Accordingly, MSU’s department organized a conference entitled “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” MSU invited Stanford University to co-sponsor the conference. In early October 2009, historians, philosophers, archaeologists, and economists gathered at the 320 Guest Ranch to participate in lively discussions and debates regarding economic history and theory extending across broad chronological and geographic ranges. By shedding light on the state of economic history, MSU hoped to enrich faculty and students' analytical capabilities and to prepare better to meet the challenges of the future.
College of Letters and Science, Montana State University
Vice President for Research, Creativity, and Technology Transfer, Montana State University
Department of History & Philosophy, Montana State University
Department of Political Science, Stanford University