SAH 2020 Virtual Conference Recap: Part One

May 14, 2020 by SAH News

The Society of Architectural Historians hosted its first-ever virtual conference, April 30–May 1, 2020.  It was a huge success on all levels. Over 1,000 people registered—members and non-members alike—and the event set a precedent for virtual programming at SAH. Below is a quick recap of the virtual conference thus far. There is still more to come! Roundtables are scheduled from May 19–28 and registration is free and open to the public. We will share Part Two of the Virtual Conference Recap in next month’s newsletter.

Virtual Conference Stats

  • 1,001 registered attendees
  • 45 countries represented
  • 201 session chairs and speakers participated live
  • 269 – Highest number of unique attendees in a session (PS06 Architectural History Education Now)
  • 1,034 views of recorded presentations (as of May 14, 2020)
  • 2,486 views of keynote talks (as of May 14, 2020)

Keynote Talks

On April 29, SAH presented the keynote talks, “Seattle’s Inventions and Reinventions” by Margaret O’Mara, University of Washington, and the 2020 Eduard F. Sekler Talk, “’Home of the Oppressed’: Democracy, Slavery and American Civic Architecture” by Mabel O. Wilson, Columbia University GSAAP, the State of SAH Address by then-president Sandy Isenstadt, and a Welcome from the Conference Chairs with Conference Chair Victoria Young and Local Co-Chairs Ann C. Huppert, University of Washington, and Thaisa Way, University of Washington/Dumbarton Oaks. The talks are recorded and freely available for all to view.

Paper Sessions

On Thursday, April 30, and Friday, May 1, SAH presented 36 paper sessions virtually. Six concurrent sessions ran in three tracks each day. People from all over the globe logged in to attend the sessions and watch the paper presentations, which were pre-recorded and shared via Zoom. Eighty-four percent of the speakers who were scheduled to present at the cancelled in-person conference in Seattle stayed on board through the Society’s transition to virtual. Of those, 95% were able to participate live, joining from locations across the world at all hours of the day and night. The live Q&A at the end of the sessions was full of engaging, robust discussion. Attendees typed in their questions and the session chairs moderated the discussion among the speakers.  

A special thank you to our webinar hosts for the time and effort they spent learning how to run sessions through Zoom. We could not have executed the paper sessions so smoothly without their help: Helena Dean, Beth Eifrig, Christine French, Sandy Isenstadt, Christopher Kirbabas, Kathryn O’Rourke, Jackie Spafford, Carla Yanni, and Victoria Young.

Many people commented that although they truly missed the face-to-face interactions of the in-person conference, they were grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many colleagues on screen, learn from the comfort of their home, and have meaningful conversations during this time of isolation and uncertainty.

One of the benefits of the virtual format was that people were able to view many more papers than they would’ve been able to at the in-person conference. Ninety-two recorded paper presentations were made available for registered attendees to view post-conference through the end of May.

#SAH2020 Tweets

Virtual Exhibit Hall

SAH thanks the exhibitors who committed to exhibiting at the SAH 2020 Seattle conference, and we hope you’ll check out our virtual exhibit hall for curated selections of books, promotional discounts, and more.


SAH 2020 Virtual Conference programming continues through May with roundtables, a workshop, and a Chapter Delegates meeting. These virtual meetings will be held from 9 am to 10:30 am PDT beginning Tuesday, May 19. All programs are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Learn more and register now.