August 8th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

Conference in a nutshell

After three intense days, the conference is over. It's easier to refer to it as "the conference" than by its name, for I'm not really sure how much of the name I need to include to be sure I've covered the whole thing. The handouts proclaim that it was this - "Circulating Knowledge": Fifth Joint Meeting of the BSHS, CSHPS/SCHPS, and the HSS. Even then, however, all the society names are still abbreviated, so there's also a longer version of the title where all the names of the societies are spelled out. I'll just call it "the conference".

In summary, it was good. I learned a great deal, mostly about things well outside what I usually study, and I met a great many interesting people with whom I hope to keep in touch. I ate good meals and went back three times, with a large group, to the Henry House Pub, one of the best pubs I've ever encountered (this coming from someone who doesn't even drink beer). I caught up with many old friends, for, as many good conferences are, this one was a reunion for me of people who graduated in years past from my current department. I met friends of friends, both academic and non. The weather was lovely half of the time and pouring rain the rest. I learned about fraud, preserving corpses with wax in their blood vessels, nineteenth century science education for teenagers, ancient Greek logic, preserved laboratory fish, and manuscript stemma.

My paper went well. The audience asked good questions, some thought-provoking, which was a pleasant change. I'm always hungry for more content feedback than I usually receive. As usual at non-medieval conferences, I was in a token medieval session, but the three disparate papers in the session at least had the commonality of being textually-based. We were exceedingly efficient as well, and finished half-an-hour early, even with a few questions for everyone.

The University of King's College was a wonderful venue. It is a splendid example of a well-off university spending its money in sensible and satisfying ways. The facilities were in perfect shape, the classrooms nicely designed, the faculty innovative and quirky, the maintenance staff friendly, and the technical staff as efficient as I've ever seen - they would come no more than sixty seconds after being called and promptly fix whatever the problem was.

It was my first dedicated History of Science conference, and it was a good one.
Fishy Circumstances

On to Lunenburg

The coastline between Halifax and Lunenburg is absolutely lovely. If I hadn't been driving, I could have admired even more of it. Instead, we made a few stops along the way after a rather late start which allowed me to fit in an hour at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, quite a nice museum with some very striking works temporarily up for their Acadie Monde exhibit, in honor of the 400th anniversary of Acadians. One of the pieces in particular, a five minute video intercutting a country-ish song with a silent movie version of Evangeline, was particularly moving.*

Peggy's Cove is a highly touristed village, but it's entirely worth it for the barren, smooth expanses of marine rock which form the town's landscape. The waves crash with raw power against the shores. Wild roses cling to the rocks in abundance, as do the first collection of orchids I've ever seen in the wild. The lighthouse is the advertised highlight, and there is something wonderful about its petit white form perched on the smooth rocks, but it was secondary compared to the beauty of the landscape. The cove itself is narrow and secure, and very lovely, the town dipping down to it, with just enough room for a few boats. We both took a great many photos.

The road was slow, but that's because it was the scenic one, passing through hamlets and villages. We stopped briefly in Chester, a lovely place, but too cold and windy for the way we were then wrapped up. Somewhere along the route, clouds hung low over the road, almost fog. Most of the day was clear and blue, with a brisk sea wind blowing in. We had meant to stop in Mahone Bay, a nicely preened community with three photogenic churches clustered at its heart, but the afternoon was growing too late and I really wanted to just arrive by then.

Lunenburg is a Unesco world heritage site. It's pretty, but I don't yet know the story behind this particular designation. Dinner was at a friendly pub with good food and an impressive selection of drinks. (Signs on the walls advertised Growers, Okanagen, and Strongbow!) We missed the end of the Folk Music Festival by choice - much as the performers appealed, I need an early night for the first time in many days. And so I will.

* I didn't really know who the Acadians were before coming on this trip so I'll tell you in case you didn't know either: French settlers who were ensconced in Nova Scotia and environs before the British, and were then expulsed in 1755 when they wouldn't swear loyalty to the British crown. Many went to New Orleans, forming the core of Cajun community there. In 1764, the British began to allow the Acadians to return, but that diaspora a few centuries ago has still fundamentally shaped the Acadian experience. The whole thing was made famous in the mid-ninteenth century by Longfellow's poem "Evangeline".