In 1948, luminaries in politics, economics and medicine gathered on the CU Boulder campus for a forum that was supposed to be a one-shot tribute to the budding United Nations.
The 12 events on UNESCO, atomic energy and Palestine proved so popular, however, the university invited Howard Higman, a sociology professor, to make the Conference on World Affairs an annual event.
From the first brochure to newspaper clippings about the next 70 years of conversation, archivists at University Libraries kept track of it all.
“Every single year provides a new outlook, a new subject, new speakers showing what a slice of life was at that time,” said archivist Jane Thaler.
The archives boast old black-and-white photos of a packed Macky Auditorium and video and audio tapes of high-profile speakers such as Patch Adams and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I feel like I’m in a cathedral!” then-Sen. Joe Biden joked ascending the Macky Auditorium stairs in 2007. He then dove into a far more serious topic: “America’s Interests, Iraq’s Future,” a talk preserved in the archives.
As he advocated a plan to end the war in Iraq, Biden asked a question that lingers a decade later.
“How do we disengage [our military in Iraq], leaving something other than chaos?” he asked.
Biden was about to become Vice President Joe Biden, taking a far greater role in the course of U.S. foreign policy.
Thaler thinks because archives at CU Boulder are accessible to the public, all of the photographs, brochures and tapes of plenary talks such as Biden’s could someday see new life.
“One hundred years from now somebody is going to use this in their PhD dissertation,” she said.
Luckily, if you’re interested, you don’t have to wait that long. You can see some of those archives online here.
You can also visit the archives in person from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at Norlin Library.
The 70th Conference on World Affairs runs through Friday, April 13. You can see the full schedule here.