On Friday I had the privilege of giving the Big Thinking Lecture at the annual conference of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Montreal. The conference, titled Transitions, focused on the future of undergraduate education in the morning, graduate education in the early afternoon, and scholarship towards the end of the day. Chad Gaffield, outgoing President of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, was inspirational as usual, and many remarked that it was a day marked by enthusiasm, optimism, and hope.
My talk, which focused on digital scholarship in the humanities (similar to the talk I gave to the Royal Society of Canada) focused on the new. The venue, the McGill Faculty Club, and specifically the ballroom, was a reminder of the majesty and significance of the old.
I felt nostalgic for other reasons. When I arrived to McGill in August 2002 as a cross-appointment in History and Education, my first stop was lunch with the Dean at the Faculty Club. In the years that followed, I got to know some of the wonderful faculty and staff. Friday was a reminder that generosity of spirit is a good predictor of commitment to the university in general. While at McGill, I met and began working with Shakespearean scholar Paul Yachnin, and on Friday Paul was a panelist and author of a white paper on improving the Humanities Ph.D. One of the main contributors to Paul’s white paper was Anthony Pare, who hired and then supported me, in ways too numerous to count.
An idea from that talk was published as an Op-Ed in today’s Globe and Mail: “Share your research. That’s what keeps the humanities alive“. So much of what we do as scholars happens in the quiet of our offices. Friday was a reminder that of the truly great stuff that happens when we get out, and share it with others.