Thank you for your interest in Person Memory Interest Group meeting that was scheduled to be held in Wisconsin in October 2020.
First, the good news. The award committee has selected two winners of the 2020 Ostrom award: Anne Maass and Gün Semin. We are thrilled to recognize these outstanding scholars for their lifetime contributions to the field. Please feel free to reach out to them personally with kind words during these hard times.
Now, to the more difficult news. We are concerned about the feasibility and responsibility of hosting a group gathering in October. In the United States, estimates indicate that waves of COVID-19 infection will continue through July. Some of our universities are already considering having a fully online Fall Term. It is hard to imagine a country ready for normal gatherings come the start of the new school year.
This worry is compounded by the fact that many countries have not yet seen peak infection rates. While we could maintain optimism that the U.S. may be ready to host such an event come the Autumn, our international makeup creates the possibility that many regulars would be unable to attend PMIG 2020 due to restrictions in other countries. Air travel could be severely restricted, and high risk attendees would likely be reticent to attend.
Additionally, the unique and cherished nature of our small-group conference makes us feel there is a danger to hosting that is less prevalent at larger conferences. Larger conferences may have the capacity and flexibility to employ social distancing measures that keep attendees safe. In contrast, a signature aspect of Person Memory is that it is intimate, built around small group discussions and community. To hold Person Memory without these characteristic features would not be the same.
Finally, there is the financial component. Unlike other organizations, Person Memory operates with no financial safety net. Organizing a conference for October means a commitment of deposit funds now. The deposit, should it be lost, would hurt this particular group in ways that are more damaging than to other organizations. We appreciate the fact that many of you might be very enthusiastic about the meeting and would signal a real desire to come that would mean minimal financial losses for PMIG. But the future is too hard to predict for all the reasons outlined above. Your intentions today might not reflect tomorrow’s reality.
With all that said, our decision is to cancel the PMIG meeting for 2020. We will plan to honor the 2020 Ostrom Award Winners at PMIG 2021. We are sorry to bring bad news, but we feel that this decision was necessary to protect the health of our attendees and the culture and financial stability of our organization.
Jackie Chen and Gordon Moskowitz