Sadly, we will not be attending the 43rd International Congress on Medieval Studies held May 8-11, 2008 at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. During the congress, we will post links to bloggers and news who are there. For now, we are going to post some information for those going to Kalamazoo for the first time, about what to expect and what to attend.
The congress is held every year on the grounds of Western Michigan University, which has its own Medieval Studies graduate program.
Originally, the congress was held only at one corner of the university known as the valleys, but over the years it has grown much larger and has spread over most of the campus. The three valley buildings, however, are still used as the main housing area for attendees.
If you do stay on site, your room will mostly look like this, a fairly spartan set up. They provide you with a pillow, bed sheets, blanket, towels and soap. If you have room to take your own pillows and blankets, please do so, as this is not the best quality.
You can prepay for meals which are served in a cafeteria in the valleys, but I would advise against it - the food is really terrible, just terrible. Instead, there are a few places on the campus and many more just off of it where you can have a decent meal. The Bronco Mall, which is on the lower level of the Bernhard Center (this hall hosts the plenary lectures and a lot of other activites) has a few fast food places, including a McDonald's and Subway. This is also the place to go to access computers for either online surfing or to finish up your paper before you give it.
One highlight of the congress is the book exhibits room, which in recent years has even spread out to a few extra rooms. Around 40 booksellers are here, representing all the academic publishers that deal with the Middle Ages. Besides offering hours of browsing, the book room sees a lot of business getting done between authors and potential publishers. If you like buying books, prepare to spend your money here. Good deals can be had, especially on Sunday morning when everyone is packing up.
Finally, I should add that there are lots of sessions for you to attend. Usually 50 separate ones take place at the same time, with a wide variety of topics being talked about. This session was attended by only a dozen people, but others will draw up to 100 strong. Plan ahead on what you want to see, and figure out how to get there as it can be a long walk from place to place.
This is a very brief overview, and a later date we will add a much larger guide to Kalamazoo on the main medievalists.net site.