SALEM — Two doctoral students in history from Peking University in China had lunch this week at Red's Sandwich Shop. Gao Hao had the open-faced barbecue sandwich, while Huang Shuo chose the Cuban, which is stuffed with roast pork, onions and pickles.
There should be a lot of dining scenes like that the next few days as the World History Association descends on the city for its 18th annual conference.
More than 400 scholars and teachers from the United States and around the globe, many accompanied by family members, have signed up for the four-day event, which begins today.
Hosted by Salem State College, the historians will take part in workshops, panel discussions, lectures, film presentations and sightseeing tours.
While the conference is based at the college, many of the historians and professors will eat and sleep in the city and in neighboring communities. A shuttle bus will run between the college and downtown.
"We have managed to fill up a couple of hotels," said Alfred Andrea, vice president of the World History Association.
City officials are thrilled that Salem was chosen to host the conference and even put up a banner to welcome the visitors.
"It's very good for business," said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. "It's essential for Salem to position itself for these smaller conference groups because the spinoff from something like this ... is fabulous."
There are presenters and participants coming from 34 countries and almost every continent.
"We've got folks from Japan, India and China — from all over the globe," said Dane Morrison, a professor of early American history at Salem State and one of the conference's keynote speakers.
The organization of academics and researchers met in London last year and has held past conferences in Morocco, Korea and Italy, as well as Milwaukee and Long Beach, Calif.