This August 28-31, the joint American Association for State and Local History and International Coalition of Sites of Conscience Annual Meeting will convene in Philadelphia to learn, engage in fellowship, tour, and address this year’s theme, What Are We Waiting For?

Depending on the work at hand, this theme serves different purposes. It is a call to action, a challenge to embrace difficult work now. It is also a cautious whisper, a reminder to slow down and get it right. Although different issues warrant different responses, consideration of the question is essential in light of the challenges our field, communities, nation, and planet are facing.

Philadelphia is the perfect location to examine a theme that contains contradiction for it holds a central place in American history and reveals many of its own oppositions. The city hosted the creation of our nation’s founding documents: The Declaration of Independence and Constitution, both produced by enslavers on what was formerly Lenni-Lenape Indian land. A city famous for celebrating the history of liberty and for being a “free city” during antebellum years, Philadelphia is also the city that bombed black activists in a residential neighborhood less than forty years ago. It is home to extreme wealth but also rife with poverty.

Those joining us will have many opportunities to see colleagues who both accelerate needed change as well as slow down to achieve greater impact. Philadelphia has long served as host to pathbreaking work in public history. Its buildings were the first documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey, and it is the nation’s first city to be designated as a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities. It has pushed beyond its famous colonial stories to address change and welcome diverse histories embedded in its neighborhoods and regionwide. Yet, as we write this invitation letter, the city’s history museum is slated to close and deliberate community-wide discussions are underway about the future of its collection. This city is used to slow planning to get things right but also trying new approaches when the situation demands change.

Come to Philadelphia for the 2019 Annual Meeting and join us to examine how getting the timing right can make the difference between success and failure, between building relationships or breaking them down. Should we dive in, get better organized before starting, or take time to consider an entirely new direction? What Are We Waiting For?

Don’t miss being a part of the experience. Join us in Philadelphia and leave with a deeper sense of purpose and timing!

Jackie Barton, Program Committee Chair, Birch Wood Consulting
David Young, Host Committee Co-Chair, Delaware Historical Society
Bill Adair, Host Committee Co-Chair, Pew Charitable Trust

Learn more and register for the 2019 AASLH Annual Meeting.