The University of Calgary played host to the 1994 Learned Societies Conference, the first time the conference had been held on campus since 1968. With nearly 8100 delegates participating, the conference was not only the largest Learneds since the annual event began in 1948, it was also the largest convention hosted in Calgary that year.
Held from 3-15 June, the Learneds Societies Conference encompassed the annual meetings of approximately 105 organizations for scholars involved in the humanities and social sciences. While each of the scholarly organizations held its own meetings, with presentation of research being the major emphasis, academics from other disciplines conducting work related to the social sciences and humanities were also expected to attend. “The reason the Learneds Societies is held on one campus is to encourage interdisciplinary work,” said Harry Hiller, director of the Conference Secretariat. “It’s not unusual to have someone in political science participating in a sociology session, for example.”
The logistics of hosting such a large-scale event were massive, with organizers arranging over 1200 conference room bookings, more than 150 catered functions from coffee breaks to receptions and banquets, hotel block bookings, extra taxi stands on campus, rental car drop offs, discounted LRT passes, campus signage from banners to room signs, microcomputer labs to allow delegates to check their email, duplication and printing services, hundreds of orders for audio-visual equipment, a day care for children of delegates, portable stages and hospitality tents, exhibition areas, 12 President’s Receptions, daily busses to the Boundary Ranch in Kananaskis County where social events took place, coordinating the volunteers who were helping ensure the event ran smoothly, and much more.
The conference provided an opportunity for the University of Calgary to support and facilitate an important scholarly event, to display its academic excellence to the broader post-secondary and research communities, and to reap the intellectual benefits of the conference. To facilitate the latter, it gave the conference secretariat a block grant to provide free registration to all interested faculty and graduate students on campus. The city of Calgary also benefited from the conference, with delegates injecting at least $4.4 million into the local economy.
The Learneds Societies Conference, now known as the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, is being held at the University of Calgary May 28-June 3, 2016, during the university’s 50th anniversary year.