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David Hitchcock

Organisation, Experience, and Caffeine: Helping to Organise the 2011 Newberry Renaissance Graduate Conference


The University of Warwick and the Newberry Library share a highly useful and rewarding institutional relationship. Collaboration between all of the academic institutions involved in the ‘Newberry School Consortium’, of which Warwick is a prominent member, produces many projects, insightful papers and workshops, and even an annual graduate conference. It was my great pleasure this year to be selected as one of the postgraduate organizers of the 2011 Newberry Renaissance Multidisciplinary Graduate Conference. My candidacy succeeded via the support of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance here at Warwick. Broadly conceived, my task was to collaborate with eight other organizers before, during, and after the conference. I made two trips to Chicago for this very purpose, and as organizers we had to select papers from a vast array of submissions, and arrange them into appropriate and thematic panels. We also divided these panels among ourselves, and chaired them during the conference proper. Our true responsibilities lay in the detailed preparations that each organizer had to make in tandem with their presenters, and with our subsequent editorial responsibilities after the conference was over. Each year, the organizers select the best papers from the conference and invite their authors to publish them in the conference’s proceedings. I am currently in the process of editing two submissions for this publication, and each other organizer is responsible for two submissions as well.

I have found the entire process of conference organization, travel, and collaboration to be stimulating and rewarding. Not only did I have the chance to meet many highly qualified, perceptive, and engaging fellow postgraduates, but I also had the chance to engage in a sustained examination of how a high level, multi-day conference is organized. I’ve learned a sharper appreciation for the brevity and clarity of good paper abstracts, I’ve nuanced my own understanding of what it takes to be a good presenter, and I am thoroughly enjoying the responsibilities associated with editorship. On the whole, this was a first-order opportunity for professional development, for networking and institutional links to be forged, and for sustained and engaging academic discussions. I found my horizons broadened by papers well outside of my own academic comfort zone; I had several stimulating conversations about the intersections of my own work and that of others. This collaborative effort between the Centre and the Newberry Library is an opportunity that I was thrilled to earn, and one I will certainly recommend to scholars of the Renaissance and of Early Modernity in the future.