This article was originally published on the Amphora blog on January 6, 2016.
If you’re new to academic conferences, or to the joint annual meeting of the SCS/AIA, you may be thinking that the Exhibit Hall is mostly for buying books. And if you’re at the start of your career and/or on a modest budget, you may think that there’s nothing for you in the Exhibit Hall as a result. Au contraire! Here’s a short list of things you can do there—completely aside from buying books—that can be beneficial to your career, fun, interesting, worthwhile, and generally good things to do. The Exhibit Hall is generally open about nine hours a day for the two full days of the conference, plus a half day on either side, so there’s plenty of time to try these in small bits. As a press exhibitor myself (full disclosure) I spend many hours in the hall, so I have a chance to see the variety of exhibitors who transport their materials or goods or information to the conference, often from international origins, in hopes they’ll have an opportunity to talk with you.
One set of possible activities relates to developing your own publications, whether long or short. Odds are you’ll need to write at least one book in your career, plus a number of articles and book reviews. You may find yourself editing a volume of essays written by others, or involved in an honorary volume (maybe a festschrift, or a volume honoring a campus event, or perhaps documenting a campus collection of antiquities). Examining the journal and book offerings in the Exhibit Hall at this or other academic conferences is a real step forward in terms of developing your own scholarship in those different categories.
- Think of the book and journal displays as a live L’Année Philologique. The publishers who are present highlight the titles they’ve published in the last twelve months, usually flagged NEW with tags or stickers, and they often bring catalogs or other descriptive material they want you to have. A tour of the hall should reveal any new titles in your area that might further your research, enhance your bibliography, and inform your discussions with colleagues or students. Or a survey may give you the names of scholars you could meet or contact to discuss your shared interests.
- On the other hand, a tour of the hall may reveal the opposite, that nothing new has come out in your area recently. This might help you market your work to a publisher as being in a fresh area or on a new topic or question.
- Perhaps you’ll see one or two titles you might like to review for a journal or a website. Make sure to note the publication information of the books in question – author, title, ISBN – so you can identify them later.
- This is a good opportunity to acquire information about the publishers who are present, to help figure out where you might like to send your first book-length manuscript. Which presses are there? What does their exhibit look like? Do their books look similar to what you have in mind?
- If a press is not present, that may suggest they don’t publish a lot in classics or archaeology, which might save you the trouble of a failed submission. But it might also be a sign they’re international (and therefore face especially high charges to ship books and staff to the conference), or possibly they are newly active in an area. Check the lists of presses exhibiting through the distributors and representatives in the room rather than via their own booths -- you can usually spot the names of presses the distributors represent by looking at their order forms.
- This is also a good chance to meet the presses’ staff members. Do they seem knowledgeable? Do they know their lists at all well? Can you get contact information for them or for absent colleagues of yours?
- If you work in an unusual area, such that you think it might be hard to place a journal article or a book manuscript, you might get a quick sense from booth staff as to what areas they are pursuing right now. Remember book and journal staff are generally working months ahead of what you’re seeing as published, so it can be a good idea to check on their interests sooner rather than later.
- Journals information can be found in two particular ways: some journals have free-standing booths or tables, while others are on display through the publishing houses that produce or serve them if they’re electronic. You might try making a tour of the Exhibit Hall and seeing how many classics journals you can find—odds are you’ll work with most of them in the course of your career.
- Most of the presses and some of the other for-profit vendors will have order forms (usually with a conference discount) and price lists that are likely of interest to your campus or departmental libraries, or maybe colleagues who could not attend this year.
A second category are displays connected to teaching or pedagogy and to professional travel.
- An examination of the display booths may reveal new textbooks, whether related to language learning or to other classroom activities. Many textbook vendors will help you place orders for examination copies, or will ship them to you after the conference; some will have online materials to examine at the conference or later.
- There are likely to be pedagogical materials and classroom materials other than textbooks, or maybe new software relevant to your teaching program. Generally present are a few publishers who specialize in classroom materials, and you might want to pick up their catalogs and sample materials, and add yourself to their mailing lists (this is an option with most groups who are exhibiting).
- It’s often the case that reference works are on display, whether digital or print. Some publishers will have apps or other software materials there that you can examine in person, whether you’re thinking of a personal purchase or recommending that your school acquire it. Sometimes you’ll have a chance to examine new versions of programs you may already know.
- Some years there are displays from organizations that facilitate academic or pedagogical travel to countries of interest, particularly in the Mediterranean basin, and sometimes in Africa or Europe.
Exhibitors in the hall also include a number of associations that are allied to the SCS or the AIA or both.
- Not every allied group exhibits every year, but this is generally a good chance to learn about the several archaeological schools in Italy and Greece (American Academy in Rome, American School of Classical Studies in Athens, and the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome also known as the Centro, to name a few), as well as other international groups like the Vergilian Society, College Year in Athens, and so on. Other exhibitors come from European schools. Some additional allied associations with exhibits include the Women’s Classical Caucus, the Lambda Classical Caucus, and sometimes the Association for Ancient Historians, and of course both the SCS and AIA themselves. The other classical associations, like CAAS or CAMWS, and the American Classical League, often have representatives present to explain what their societies (and their own annual meetings) offer.
- Think of the hall as a way to meet like-minded individuals. You might see their names on printed materials (including sample journal issues or book blurbs), you might hear a discussion of or see someone looking at a book that is interesting to you. Often the AIA/SCS arranges for food and/or coffee in the area, and chairs – a good combination for making new friends or reading some of the materials the exhibitors have on offer.
- Last but not least, the AIA and SCS are associations run by various groups and committees, composed of people much like you. Talking to their representatives is likely to shed light on was in which you could volunteer your time, if you like doing that, or prizes and funding that might be relevant to your situation, or special interest groups perhaps related to your teaching or research.
Quite a few groups exhibiting are present every year. Others appear only at intervals, or when the SCS is in geographically convenient areas. Many exhibitors have ads in either the SCS or AIA program, or both, and you can generally find them either by looking at their corporate advertisements, or at the lists of exhibitors / advertisers that appear in the programs. Each year’s hall is a little different, and a thoughtful visit will repay your examination of the vendors you judge relevant to your interests.
(Header Image: Mosaic from the Villa of T. Siminius Stephanus in Pompeii depicting Plato's Academy. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. nr. 124545. Image by Marie-Lan Nguyen via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0)