The ESRARA constitution and bylaws require the organization to have a meeting every two years. Our last meeting was at Falls Creek Fall, Tennessee, in 2016 so we should have had one somewhere in the eastern United States in 2018. Past ESRARA meetings have been held in Arkansas, Alabama, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kentucky, among other places. The biennial meeting typically consists of a business meeting including election of officers, a morning of paper presentations where members discuss their current research projects, and tours to local rock art site.
All of this requires a great deal of organization on the part of the local host, which typically is a university or federal agency such as the USDA Forest Service, in terms of locating a conference site, reserving hotel rooms, sending out a call for papers, leasing buses for the rock art tours, scheduling a banquet, receiving registration payments from members, and so on. I know this to be the case as my home university (Southern Illinois University Carbondale) has TWICE sponsored the meetings with the help of the Shawnee National Forest.
The 2018 meeting did not happen primarily because we could not find any members willing to step up and assume the role of host. As a result, we decided to postpone the meetings until 2020, which would give us time to locate both a host and venue.
We initially considered holding the meetings in St. Louis with the assistance of ESRARA member Amy Clark who is a Senior Research Assistant at the St. Louis Art Museum. Such a meeting potentially would have included visits to local rock art sites as well as the St. Louis Art Museum Native American art galleries, which includes examples of prehistoric art objects that contain many of the same designs seen at Mississippi River Valley rock art sites. While we were considering this, we were approached informally by members of the Kentucky Heritage Council about the possibility of holding a joint KHC-ESRARA meeting in Kentucky in 2020. This would have increased the number of people attending the meeting as well as enabling us to possibly recruit new members. We were very seriously considering accepting this proposal and putting the St. Louis meetings off to 2022 when a little something called the coronavirus came along. And everyone knows what the result of that has been to date.
I believe it is unwise to attempt to schedule an in-person ESRARA meeting until the coronavirus comes under control, which may not be until next year (2022) at the earliest. I think what we should consider doing instead is to hold the business portion of the meeting online via ZOOM later this year (2021) so that we can proceed with officer elections or appointments, receive officer reports, and begin discussion of where and when to hold the next in person meeting.
In closing, I would note that along with now-deceased ESRARA president Dr. Fred Coy and others I am one of the founding members of the organization some 29 years ago. I have always supported the organization through my role as an officer, submitting articles to this web site, corresponding with members, and sponsoring and attending the biennial meetings. I will continue to do the same going forward and urge other of our members to do the same.