Tonight’s my last night on the road until next Tuesday (when I take off again for two weeks). There’s much I’d like to blog about but I’ll just post about a couple things for now:
1. One of the pleasures of being in Washington DC with my family is that I always get a few pieces of family history that I didn’t know about. My great-grandfather (grandmother’s father) had a shoe business in Manhattan and apparently did custom jobs for some famous people including Mickey Rooney. Though by that time, it might actually have been my great uncle running the store. On a related note, he is the only member of that generation in my family (on either side) to have published. One of the Burgers’ specialties was elevator shoes, and the library of congress records show a holding for a book called Why Be Short. The next generation would have publications by both my parents, aunts on both sides, and my uncle Myron on my mom’s side, for whom the Weinstein Memorial Lecture is named, and who provides the occasion for us to gather here each year in May.
After tonight’s lecture, I had the pleasure of crashing a wine tasting with my aunt and uncle (both in their 70s). Too bad the wine wasn’t all that good.
2. Before D.C., I attended a conference on the history of acoustics at the MIT Dibner Institute. The conference was great. Though there are doubtlessly other people in the world who know a lot about the history of acoustics, I was in a room with 11 of the best. It was like taking a seminar in the subject with leading people. I learned a ton that will be useful for the mp3 book this summer. Everyone was very generous and helpful.
The Dibner Institute itself is this incredibly posh space for humanists. Every year, they would have a group of fellows working there, and I gather they’ve been a major source of support for historians of science and technology. So it’s too bad they’re closing (sign of the apocalypse: Sterne gives the last lecture at the institute’s last conference). Their collections will be transferred and some of their functions will be absorbed, but a tremendous resource in the fellowships and the opportunities for collaboration and cross-fertilization will be lost. Time off to research, think and write is one of the most precious things you can have as a humanist. I’m sorry to see it go, but glad to have discovered it even if it was at the end.