Conferences of the
Council of Geographic Names Authorities
in the United States
Designed to be educational the annual conferences provides workshops, academic papers, and discussions that bring decision makers from federal and state agencies, academia, and the public together. The conferences are the only avenue where the state and federal geographic names authorities can meet to share information on place naming principles, policies, procedures, and other aspects of toponymic issues. Each year the annual conference provides the primary forum for exchange of common-interest information with respect to the official designation of names for relevant geographic features and cultural entities within geographical areas over which the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (USBGN) and state authorities have responsibility. An official meeting of the Domestic Names Committee (DNC) of the USBGN provides an informative forum for the state authorities to observe the committee’s deliberation of geographic names issues; a true learning experience. Representatives of the State authorities use the conference to seek information and/or advice from the USBGN and associated federal agencies. The forum provides the opportunity for COGNA to make recommendations to the USBGN and/or associated federal and state agencies. Members from academia and anyone with an interest in any aspect of geographic names are invited to present research papers and conduct workshops to share information about geographic names.
The annual conferences of the Council has convened under different names since its inception in 1977. The tradition of an annual meeting began under the heading of the Intermountain States Geographic Names Conference as an informative meeting. In 1979 the meeting name was changed to the Western States Geographic Names Conference, leading to the forming of the Western States Geographic Names Council (WSGNC) in 1982. In 1998 the WSGNC was reorganized to the Council of Geographic Names Authorities to accommodate the expanding role of the conference and establish an organization that included all State Geographic Names Authorities in the United States.
The annual conference of COGNA is open to anyone with an interest in any aspect of geographic names. In attendance at the conference are representatives, deputies, members and staff of state authorities, the USBGN, other state and federal agencies; advisory groups; academia; and representatives from federal or state/province agencies of other countries. The following items are normally included in each conference providing information for anyone with an interest in geographic names.
1. A meeting of the DNC, USBGN
2. The State/Federal Round Table Workshop
3. A meeting of the hosting state’s geographic names authority
4. The annual business meeting of the Council
5. Geographic Names workshops
6. Academic papers
7. Educational-Toponymic Tour.
Overview of Conferences
Conferences are designed as training sessions to be beneficial and enjoyable to anyone involved with geographic names. The programs offer information, both of local interest and practical interest to those who work with geographic names.
People around the world are discussing the value of their place naming practices. Central to these discussions are the concerns of having their place names recognized as “official”. However, this topic usually creates as much tension as it does questions. Who is the authority that decides what is recognized as “official”? Does the process change if the Indigenous place names are within federally recognized Indigenous lands? How does government sanctioned naming standardization marginalize Indigenous naming practices? How can people pronounce printed characters with which they are not familiar? How does this impact emergency rescue personnel? Conference officials try to provide answers to these questions.
The goal of each conference is to facilitate a discussion of topics in regard to the standardization practices of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (USBGN) and other geographic names issues.
Conferences provide a unique opportunity to explore and discuss the combined knowledge and expertise with all of whom have a vested interest in the inner workings of the USBGN and state boards or committees.
The conferences are open to the public for registration fees. Registration fees included all conference materials, welcome & closing receptions, and admission to all daytime conference sessions. Conferences conclude with an optional and educational-toponymic field workshop.