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Two dozen suggestions for attending your first
International Conference on the History of Cartography

by Bert Johnson

Bert Johnson is a past president of the Washington Map Society. He attended the last three ICHCs in Athens, Madrid, & New England, and looks forward to Budapest. A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2004-2005 issue (#61) of The Portolan, journal of the Washington Map Society.
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So youíre thinking about attending the ICHC in Budapest in July 2005. Great! With each ICHC, more Washington Map Society (WMS) members attend. Registration packages can be obtained on line from the next organizers. Here are some useful lessons learned from the last ICHC, offered by the WMS ICHC Class of 2003, who contributed to this article: Richard Betz, Charlie Burroughs, John Crain, John Docktor, Evelyn Edson, Ralph Ehrenberg, Dick Pflederer, Tom Sander, Melissa Severy, and Ray Wolf. Our thanks to Tony Campbell for his review and suggestions.

Deciding to Go
Before You Go
For Cost Control
At the Conference
After the Conference

Deciding to Go

1. Understand it. This is not a map fair. ICHC is an intellectual enterprise based on papers, posters (a display on a panel and tabletop by attendees), and special events, e.g., receptions, exhibits, dinners, etc. It is often the only way you can view the map treasures of leading libraries and archives. It is not for everyone, but if you have an appetite for research or learning about research in the history of cartography, ICHC is for you.

2. Do it. If you are even thinking about attending, go! Youíll be glad you did. It provides a unique opportunity to meet leading scholars, curators, and specialists from around the world. Whether you are a map scholar, lay historian, or collector, ICHC will provide a forum in which you will meet others with the same or similar interests.

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Before You Go

3. Over prepare. Follow the event announcements and the periodic updating of the ICHC website. Speak with veterans of past ICHC meetings. Read articles on past ICHCs (for example, in back issues of The Portolan, journal of the Washington Map Society) to get an idea of what will be happening. Articles appeared about the 2003, 2001, and 1999 meetings.

4. Research the program. Several months out, the web site will post the tentative schedule of papers and presenters. Pick those you particularly want to hear, but expect the dates and times to change (sometimes quite a bit).

5. Research the accommodations. Information is often available on line regarding the hotels and university housing, their comfort level, their proximity to the venue, etc. Needs vary widely from one attendee to the next. (See For Cost Control)

6. Register your affiliation as ďWashington Map SocietyĒ . Some members will understandably list the school or library that sends them to the event, but for many of us, WMS is our main affiliation. Show the flag.

7. Bring business cards. Not the ones from work (unless it is somehow related) Ė use your PC to print cards with your personal data, WMS affiliation, or whatever. These are useful for exchanging names and addresses, in place of scraps of paper that get lost.

8. Pack for both dress and casual events. Attire for the papers varies by individual from suits to shorts, but all ICHCs have functions at which a nice jacket and tie or business attire is appropriate (but no one will ask you to leave for reasons of attire).

9. Pack to return home with more than you brought. Everyone goes home with books, posters, exhibit catalogues, etc. Plan accordingly. A collapsible, hard plastic tube (try an art supply store) is useful to carry posters and maps you may acquire.

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For Cost Control

10. Register early. The conference is not that expensive (US$200-250), but you can save US$50 or so by early registration. Check the cut-off date for the discount in the announcement. Itís usually in late January or early February for the conference in July.

11. Explore travel options early. International airfare structures are a challenge. Check the on-line travel services, but realize that an experienced agent who deals with reliable consolidators can often get substantial savings. Shop around.

12. Stay in university housing. ICHCs reserve rooms at nearby universities at a much lower cost than the hotels. They are more basic but can be a good choice, especially if youíre traveling alone. They can also be a good way to meet other conferees.

13. Find a roommate. Depending on the country, double rooms are sometimes more expensive than singles, but divided in half they are still much cheaper.

14. Find alternate accommodations. Some attendees find less expensive hotels on their own, lodge with friends or family, or use hostels.

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At the Conference

15. Check the final program immediately upon arrival. Once you register, study the program schedule as soon as possible. Locate the high priority targets you identified from the web site, and see when they are scheduled. Mark the listing for all items of interest to ensure you donít miss them by accident. This is particularly true when there are concurrent sessions. Itís also a good idea to mark the people you want to meet. If you have trouble identifying them, ask one of the old hands or organizers.

16. Expect a demanding schedule. The papers are presented all day long, and the evenings usually have an event planned, sometimes followed by a late dinner. You turn in late, wake up, and do it again. Burn-out on the content is seldom a factor, but physical and mental fatigue, usually by the fourth or fifth day, often is.

17. Make full use of time outside of sessions. Sessions usually run 75-90 minutes, followed by a 30-minute break, followed by another session. There are also receptions and events in the evening. Use these to ask presenters about their papers, meet authors youíve read, or chat with strangers. These sessions are the glue that holds the ICHC community together, much more than any one paper. Become a part of it.

18. Donít feel cowed by the ďbig namesĒ present. These events are quite egalitarian and the big names enjoy meeting new people and discussing their work or yours. Donít be intimidated by academic status or language. ICHC people are genuinely friendly.

19. Be sociable. This is a great way to meet people from all over the world who share your interest in maps. Some may be members of the WMS or other groups to which you belong, or past speakers from meetings you have attended, but donít just hang with folks you know. Youíll miss half the fun.

20. Tell people about WMS and other societies to which you belong. If a member of the WMS, carry several WMS membership and/or Ristow Prize trifolds in your brief case, note book, etc. If someone has an interest, offer one, but donít be a pest. If a member of other organizations, promote them too. We are one big community.

21. Attend the Farewell Dinner. Itís a bit pricey, but itís worth it. The work is over, the mood is mellow, and the organizers have put their best foot forward. Still, if cost is a concern, skip it. Many persons on a tight budget do.

22. Consider the tour. There is usually an enjoyable tour after the conference but if cost is a factor, skip it. Less than half the conferees take the tour.

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After the Conference

23. Share your thoughts. Tell others about it. Contribute to the articles in The Portolan or other organizational publications.

24. Stay in touch. You canít stay in touch with everyone you met, but you may want to drop a card or an email to some of them. Theyíll be back in two years, and so will you.

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