By Karin Wulf
Welcome to 2021, a year like every other in which we know that the early American past we learn, listen, read, research, speak, teach, view, and write will be incredibly important. And yet, like the year that’s just ended, that importance seems turbo-charged for 2021.
We know that 2021 will be like the year that’s just ended in another way—the pandemic is not abating, here in the United States our democracy is challenged in new ways, and the next months could be very difficult indeed. At the OI we are preparing to meet these ongoing and new challenges by starting the year on a deliberate pace. Like our colleagues at William & Mary, we are taking time to catch our breath, catch up, maybe even get ahead. We’re consciously scheduling fewer meetings in January and aiming to reduce our email output a bit as we assess the programming we’ve been doing and what we have planned for you in the coming months.
Here’s what’s on deck as we work to respond to new and ongoing needs. We’re continuing to adapt our programs, and to provide an increasing number of online events; you can reserve a space or catch up with past events on the OI’s events site. Among events this month Professor Cate Denial of Knox College will be back with a second teaching workshop. We have heard from lots and lots of folks about how helpful Cate’s first workshop was, and we look forward to this second installment.
We are also taking seat reservations for topical tables at the new, virtual OI Coffeehouse. Last month we heard from so many of you proposing terrific ideas for hosting tables, and we’ve selected nine to start on February 8. You can read about each of these nine tables and apply to reserve a seat here. (The deadline for seat applications is midnight this coming Friday, January 15, so apply now!) We have also asked some of you to kick us off for the next round of tables in the early Spring as we expect the Coffeehouse to be an ongoing OI program.
How will the Coffeehouse work? The Coffeehouse will be open for two hours a week for eight weeks starting February 8. Lots of us appreciate the camaraderie of working in a coffeeshop, either on our own with ambient company or alongside collaborators. The OI Coffeehouse is a virtual community workspace; each table has a theme or topic and a set of expectations and practices established by the host or hosts. Some have specific topics on which everyone is already working or will be hoping to learn; others have general topics and expect to be a supportive environment for individual writing. Each table can accommodate 8-12 seats. We hope you’ll pull up a chair and join in.
Your feedback has been critical as we have navigated the pandemic, and it will continue to be so as we launch new programs and refine others. Please stay in touch, please stay safe.
Karin Wulf is the Executive Director of the Omohundro Institute and a professor of History at William & Mary.
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