For Future Reference, Conference Organisers

I’ve been trying not to write this blog post for about a month, but sod it. I’m doing it. Because this morning folks on Twitter were happily retweeting one of archaeology’s biggest conferences stating that childcare was available on site during the conference. Hurrah for inclusivity, let the parents roar, was the tone of the approving RTs.

But actually, for future reference, conference organisers:

  1. Childcare on a different campus (this event is being held at my alma mater, so I know- I would be amazed if the conference isn’t on one campus where the archaeology building is, at least a 10-15 minute walk from the nursery) isn’t on site. This is not a 2 minute nip out of my session, breastfeed or check in with my child and go back. That’s fine, but don’t say it is on site when it’s not. You will have stressed out parents to deal with in the long run.
  2. Childcare that we can only organise less than a month before due to your late deadlines and correspondingly late session details isn’t exactly reassuring. If you were attending all three days (and hence spending your ££s on accomodation, meals and the full whack of childcare) then you could book early. But if you were thinking of one day, it was impossible to book in until almost the last minute. This leads me to…
  3. How much spare capacity do the Early Years care providers have? This conference is over three weekdays, not the weekend when many conferences run and extra provision is available. So a last minute rush a month prior to the conference, with a wide range of age groups (all with different staff ratio requirements) is not helpful to your childcare team either. Do they put on extra staff? They have to. So my child is with new staff in a new place, if I can get them in. Super.
  4. Surprise surprise, that’s not a hugely appealing option. So my husband has booked a day off work on the middle day, and he’s having our girl. I believe they are going to the zoo. I wanted to submit abstracts for a couple of sessions, but knowing this was the scenario, I felt I could not do this and then pull out. Either way, my career loses. LUCKILY one session I really wanted to go to on the final day is going to be live streamed. This, more than anything else, really helps conference-going parents. Because…
  5. IT ALL COSTS MONEY. And unnecessary money at that. There’s no One Day Rate this year, so me going to this conference means paying full whack. As an unwaged person, I get a lower rate, but it’s still pretty substantial for a single day. It’s more than said zoo’s annual pass. And I think its substantial- me, a very middle class relatively well off woman. Checking my mofo’ing privilege here, if I’m moaning about this, there will be other people who simply cannot afford it. They cannot go. And they certainly cannot afford to go for 3 days, get their partner to have the kid(s) or pay for childcare ON TOP, and pay out for a B and B, let alone a hotel. At least with livestreaming you can watch it back later for free.

So please, while I have the utmost sympathy for the person running the TAG Twitter, and the poor souls running around organising the thing (been there…) can we keep fighting for improvements in access for parents rather than celebrating the bare minimum of provision? Here are some straightforward solutions:

  1. Be upfront about the distance parents will be from their child.
  2. Early deadlines, early announcements, early booking.
  3. A ONE DAY RATE.

Not difficult.

Normal Etruscan services will resume shortly.

 

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Timelines

are strange beasts.

 

In many ways, they are an absolute staple of history and archaeology writing, from the very first time you start to scrawl about the past in primary school. They grace rulers and classroom walls, depicting the linear march of events. They are the bald, raw, aspect of things-that-happened-long ago.

In my old position in archaeological travel, we provided guests with sets of “field notes,” each with a timeline for the relevant periods explored or countries visited on the tour. Yet before that, I used up good PhD space criticising periodisation, and arguing that putting labels on chunks of the past was unhelpful.

Now, I’ve come to the point of compiling my own timeline for my new popular book on the Etruscans (publication date tentatively next October; Etruscan death demon themed launch party planning commenced). The full text has been sorted for a while, but the publishers have asked for a timeline for clarity as part of the front matter. Fair enough.

The exercise, however, has made me realise just how subjective timelines are. What do you include, and what do you leave out? It’s made me confront my conflicted views on textual sources and their application to the Etruscan world: do I want to put in the date that Herodotus thought his exiled Lydians showed up in Italy? What does that say about what I believe?

While I wrestle with this, you might enjoy a more lighthearted approach. With tumultuous events happening in the world, what funny or unusual things would you put on a timeline of the historical period you are interested in? I mean, I’d like to put in “most poorly executed Etruscan red-figure vase made.” And maybe, “Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli stops for a spot of lunch at Murlo.”

Go on. It’s better than reading the news.