Women in the Archives Presentation Formats

The Women in the Archives conference series seeks to bring together participants from a wide range of disciplines and academic domains to think about gender in relation to archival and scholarly practice in the digital age. We want to cultivate opportunities for vibrant discussion, both by making time for participants to meet and talk informally, and also by offering presentation formats that defamiliarize scholarly discourse and move us beyond habitual ways of presenting our work. In doing so, we’re aware that we also raise issues about academic credit (what will this look like on my CV?) and professional anxiety (how do I make a poster?!) that aren’t simple to address. But we’re sure that the only way to encourage change is to try it ourselves. Women in the Archives is a welcoming and relaxed conference where we hope participants will feel comfortable experimenting. Please feel free to contact us with questions and we’ll be happy to help.


Although they are more familiar at scientific conferences, posters have recently emerged as a new presentation format in the humanities and are starting to show up at conferences like MLA and AHA. A poster is an excellent way to present work in progress or to describe a project or publication. As a highly visual format, it offers the opportunity to present texts or images that you want readers to be able to study at length, and it’s also a more interactive presentation format, since it offers the opportunity for extended conversation with readers.

The poster format is very flexible. It can be a single poster (maximum size of about 30“ x 36”) but it can also consist of several smaller pieces of paper grouped together, if that is more convenient to produce or carry. You can also create a handout to accompany the poster, if you want to provide extra detail or extended examples.

A few tips if you haven’t created a poster presentation before:

  • Don’t try to pack in too much information; remember that people can ask you questions or consult a handout
  • Don’t make the type too small; people should be able to read it from a few feet away
  • Use white space! Don’t feel you have to fill every inch.

Pecha Kucha Sessions

The pecha kucha session format originated in the architecture and design community, but has become increasingly popular in the past few years in the academy as a way of enlivening and defamiliarizing scholarly interaction. You can read about it in detail here but the essentials are brevity and swift pacing. Each presenter has a fixed number of slides (about 20) which proceed at a regular rate, about 20 seconds per slide. The total presentation is thus about 6-7 minutes altogether. Although this would be a terrifying format for a job interview, at a friendly conference it has the effect of helping presenters to focus on the essentials of their argument, and of heightening the energy level of the session. Pecha kucha presentations are highly condensed and although they are brief, they pack a lot of punch: as a contribution to a conference, they are as substantive and important as a conventional paper.

If you don’t generally use a lot of slides and can’t imagine what you would put on them, here are some ideas:

  • a series of key terms or concepts that are central to the narrative of your presentation
  • a series of interesting visual details from specific artifacts you’re working with
  • images showing the spaces that contextualize your work
  • a series of provocative quotations that constitute a commentary on or conversation with your presentation
  • a series of topic sentences or questions that motivate your presentation