OI 2020 annual conference

Material World/ Virtual World:  the Physical and the Digital in Vast Early America          

The OI 2020 annual conference was scheduled to convene June 18–20, 2020, in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the campus of William & Mary.

Due to the difficulties posed for us all by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working to reschedule the conference for June 2021. All those who were scheduled to participate in the 2020 conference are warmly encouraged to attend. We will post additional information about the new schedule as we have it.

Conference theme and format

The OI 2020 conference focuses on two intersecting ways of comprehending the vast early American past: the material and the virtual.  New methods and multi-disciplinary perspectives are encouraging and advancing scholarship on both material culture and digital space, and how scholars are integrating the two.  The OI annual conference for 2020 debuts a new conference format alongside a thematic focus on the ways that digital and material scholarship are remaking our understandings of Vast Early America.

The OI’s 2020 annual conference also emphasizes important collaborations.  We want to build on, and expand, exciting new developments in the field, including those showcased at the 2019 OI annual conference in Pittsburgh on “the local and the global: scales in Vast Early America,” the recent past and future William and Mary Quarterly – Early Modern Studies Institute (WMQ-EMSI) workshops at the Huntington on digital projects, archaeology, and material culture, and the critical conversations happening right here at William & Mary, including those resulting from the 2019 Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) conference.

The conference will begin with a set of “leading stories,” methodological, theoretical, or subject specific foci introduced in an opening plenary that will then continue as organizing themes through subsequent workshops and other sessions. The program committee will group submissions according to these themes. The leading stories and initial workshops will be expanded upon and explored through seminars (to consider work in progress), lightning rounds (for early work in development), and guided conversations (about interdisciplinary conversations and shared trajectories). 


*We invite proposals for leading stories in the form of a methodological, theoretical, or subject specific roundtable for the plenary session, paired with a proposed workshop at which the plenary presenters and others, including conference participants who sign up, will share work on that theme.

Proposals for leading stories should include:  topic/ theme/ methodology.  Chair or convener, roundtable participants with discussion titles, workshop participants (may be different groups) with work to share as an oral presentation.


*We invite proposals for seminars in which identified presenters will share pre-circulated work in progress for discussion, and in which conference participants can sign up to share shorter versions of their own work in progress. These will be organized by the committee around one of the themes that emerge as “leading stories.”

Proposals for seminars should include subject, chair or convener, up to three participants with title of work to be shared (up to 15 pages each), and other potential material to share (up to 2 essays or chapters relevant to topic and to work in progress).


*We invite proposals for 5-minute presentations on works in progress that will be organized into lightning rounds under the rubric of the leading stories.

Proposals for lightning round presentations should include a description of the work to be presented and the author’s c.v.


*In lieu of a closing plenary, we will host a set of guided conversations organized around the leading stories.


Due to the experimental nature of the programming, usual OI rules about double appearances will be suspended. That said, the program committee will work to ensure that the maximum number of participants can be included on the program so as to ensure the widest possible participation.

The proposed formats for the 2020 conference are a departure from the Omohundro Institute’s regular practices but we expect them to yield exciting results. We encourage scholars from all areas of #VastEarlyAmerica to apply. If you are unsure what format your proposal should take then please indicate that in your abstract and submit it in the category you think might fit it best. The committee will review all proposals and reassign categories as necessary to create the best program possible.

Program committee:

Jody Allen, William & Mary
Sara Bon-Harper, James Monroe’s Highland and William & Mary
Jillian Galle, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Ashley Glassburn, University of Windsor
Audrey Horning, William & Mary and Queen’s University, Belfast
Susan Kern, William & Mary
Ann Little, Colorado State University
Bertrand van Ruymbeke, Université de Paris
Buck Woodard, American University