Thursday night, 9 June 2016 The Mormon History Association Conference 2016: Practice started with a reception and entertainment by The Lower Lights, a 10-piece folk/gospel band that was outstanding. As the lights were dimming, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich took the seat behind me. Behind me, people! Once the program was over, I stood up, turned around, put out my hand and said, “I don’t know how often a grad student or post-grad student tells you that your work inspired their work, but I am one of them!” She laughed, shook my hand, and said, “Well, thank you, Kari!”
Professor Ulrich’s dissertation was based on Martha Ballard’s 18th century diary. She studied and studied the cryptic entries and took what she learned from them and combined this knowledge with what she had gleaned from maps, court records, and other contemporaneous sources to make a more complete picture of life in 18th century Maine. As a second semester graduate student, I knew we were going to watch a documentary about Ulrich’s research process, so I skimmed though as much of the book as I could over a few days to prepare. While I watched the film, I took notes on what kinds of things she learned about Hubbard’s town and constructed a sort of template from my notes.
My first research endeavor superimposed this template onto an ancestral narrative instead of a diary. It was a serious break through for me when I realized I was actually going to be capable of performing primary source research and that I had found something I was not only interested in but that I believed was worthwhile to pursue. I felt overwhelming gratitude to Prof. Ulrich for her inspiration and I think I always will.
Friday, 10 June 2016 I started my day at 6:45 am for a Newcomers Breakfast. This was just for people who were first-time members and presenters. I met some very interesting people and had a fascinating conversation with Kathleen Flake of University of Virginia who told me about a very exciting archival collection being donated to UVA whose acquisition she is chaperoning. It will be the only collection like it east of the Rockies and brings with it exciting volunteer opportunities.
The conference plenary speaker was skyped in from the London School of Economics.
Anthropologist Finella Cannell spoke to us from her office in England and followed with a question answer session. Above you can see Kathleen Flake in the preview window transmitting the questions to Dr. Cannell.
After a break out session, we had a luncheon and panel presentation on global relations in the LDS church. It was accompanied by a multi-media display. My favorite example was presented by Wayne Crosby who spoke about how individuals are making efforts to preserve their and their local church unit’s history.