Executive Director's Report 2002

With the convening of its annual meeting in Chicago in January 2003, the American Historical Association marked 117 years of service devoted to research and teaching in the field of history. Encompassing all fields of history and supported primarily by more than 17,000 individual and institutional members, the AHA continues to publish the nation’s premier historical journal, the American Historical Review, founded in 1895, as well as Perspectives, the field’s leading forum for news and discussion of professional issues, and which is now in its 41st year. The Association’s annual meeting regularly brings together four to five thousand teachers and scholars to discuss advancements in historical research and in presentation of historical scholarship to students and to the public. The annual meeting also facilitates, through the Job Register, information exchange and interaction between job seekers and search committees, complementing the useful employment information provided throughout the year by the AHA’s growing web site and Perspectives.

New and Ongoing Services

The year under review was a year of solid accomplishment for the AHA. Over the last two years we have been able to expand our services to libraries dramatically, making a site license for electronic subscriptions to the AHR available as a part of their subscription packages. We are very pleased that, at a time when budgets for many libraries have been substantially reduced, subscriptions to the Review grew modestly. Patrons of libraries that subscribe to JSTOR, a nonprofit organization that provides an electronic archive for several hundred scholarly journals, have been able to access back issues of the Review going back more than 100 years. In 2002 the Association negotiated with JSTOR to add the option of a subscription for our individual members at a modest annual fee of $15.

We have used our growing online capabilities to provide new services to members in other ways as well, increasing our contacts with members via e-mail, and notifying them when publications (AHR, Perspectives and the annual meeting Program) are posted online, as well as membership renewal notices. We improved availability of and access to online information such as job listings, directories of members and dissertations in progress, and application forms and details for AHA grants and fellowships. We also provided dynamic, interactive web pages that included a “Panel Finder” for historians looking to set up sessions, submission forms for session proposals, and online surveys about employment, women, and minorities.

The Work of Volunteers

The accomplishments of the American Historical Review, as well as the work of the Council and the Professional, Research and Teaching Divisions are described separately in this report. Elected officers of these divisions, as well as staff in Washington, D. C., and Bloomington, Indiana, who support them deserve a special thanks.

Among the American Historical Association’s many other resources are the volunteer efforts of our members. During 2002 several hundred historians served on regular prize and service committees, as referees or authors of book reviews and articles for the AHR, or as members of task forces on special projects or for special conferences. This work is not compensated except with the satisfaction these members can derive in knowing that their work contributes significantly to the continuing vitality of the historical profession and to the promotion of history and historical scholarship, which are the Association’s goals.

The AHA’s Finances

For the fiscal year ending June 2002 the operating budget for the AHA concluded with a surplus of $46,539. The market value of the Association’s investments declined for the second year in a row, reflecting the overall decline in the stock market. Although our budget guidelines have allowed us—in keeping with the practice of most nonprofit associations—to include in our operating budget 5 percent of a rolling three-year average of designated investments, we have, in fact, typically moved a smaller percentage from investments into operating accounts. As a result, the expected decrease in investment income for the next two to three years should not materially affect our operating budget.

Partnerships

Much of the work that the Association does, it does in partnership with many other organizations, including the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (NCC), the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), and the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA). This is particularly true in the case of the National Coordinating Committee, which under the leadership of Bruce Craig has now received 501 (c) 3 status from the Internal Revenue Service as well as a new name—the National Coalition for History—that more adequately reflects its mission. During 2002, the NCC was particularly valuable, as usual, in monitoring developments at the National Archives, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Library of Congress, and the National Park Service, as well as records-related issues across the federal government.

While the National Coalition for History mainly targets issues of concern to historians, the National Humanities Alliance is a larger consortium of organizations focused on the National Endowment for the Humanities and issues of concern to humanities scholars generally. The Alliance convened (March 22–23, 2002) a number of scholars and other friends of the NEH from around the country for the third annual Jefferson Day. Events included a legislative briefing, a reception for new NEH Chair Bruce Cole at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the 2002 Jefferson Lecture, which was given by Henry Louis Gates Jr. In addition to its efforts on behalf of the NEH, the Alliance also monitors, usually in a coalition with other groups, federal copyright and information policy, funding for international education, and the upcoming authorization of the Higher Education Act.

The Consortium of Social Science Association (COSSA) has been particularly valuable to AHA in its reporting on, among many other issues, the implications of the growth in numbers and importance of Institutional Review Boards in higher education and other institutions. Because of the inclusion of oral history research under the purview of IRBs in most colleges and universities the information regularly provided by COSSA has been important to AHA in its efforts to help historians meet this challenge. Former AHA Council member Linda Shopes (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) continues to monitor this issue for us.

COSSA continues to conduct congressional seminars and monitor federal support for social science research as well as government regulations that have an impact on the various fields, including this year the interagency effort on terrorism, human subject research, and UNESCO, among others.

The AHA is also a partner in the Veterans History Project administered by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. The project, which held its first partner meeting on May 14, 2002, received major private funding from the American Association of Retired Persons and others. The Oral History Association and other historical groups are providing training in oral history interviewing to volunteers (for a more complete description of this congressionally mandated effort to document the military service of 20th-century veterans see the May 2002 issue of Perspectives).

Since most of our members work in higher education in one way or another, we regularly gather data about history departments, history graduates, and other conditions affecting historians’ careers. During 2002 we were actively engaged in a major study of graduate education, ably led by Colin Palmer of Princeton University and Thomas Bender of New York University and staffed by research director Philip Katz. The study, now largely complete, involved a survey of doctoral departments in our field, extensive consultation with our own members and of other historical organizations, as well as site visitJuly 9, 2007 2:59 PManuary 2003 the AHA Council endorsed the final draft of the report and encouraged staff to ensure that it has a wider dissemination.

AHA has also participated in a program at the Council on Graduate Schools (CGS). The CGS’s study of the professional master’s degree in the social sciences—launched in fall 2002 with major support from the Ford Foundation—is an effort to learn more about master’s programs that are not viewed as preparation for the doctorate and to determine whether there might be a growing market for such programs. The CGS is particularly interested in public history programs, which we were able to identify for them. The AHA has also served as a resource for the National Academy of Sciences, which is now considering the criteria by which the next review and ranking of doctoral programs in history and other fields will be conducted. With the withdrawal of NEH funding from the federally sponsored Survey of Doctorate Recipients, the annual studies of history departments and doctorates done by Robert Townsend, AHA assistant director for research and publications, are now seen as one of the few reliable databases of information about humanities graduate education.

The AHA is also involved in a project sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and which is aimed at developing statistical indicators for the humanities similar to those that exist for the sciences. One outcome of the project is the development of a template that can help professional associations to collect data consistently and compare the data across fields, thereby offering the kind of information that has long been absent for the planning needs of the humanities community. The Academy’s report, Making the Humanities Count, was released this spring and outlines this need as well as recommendations for the future. The AHA continued to work with the Coalition on the Academic Workforce to focus the attention of higher education administrators, accrediting associations and the public on the relationship between overuse of part-time faculty and student learning. A small grant from TIAA-CREF has allowed researchers associated with the Coalition to investigate the relationship between high numbers of temporary faculty and student learning.

In the context of the growing attention being given by the federal government to precollegiate history education, the AHA has made a major effort not only to strengthen legislative support for the $100 million Teaching American History program but also to increase the likelihood that the money will be well spent. We have engaged in a joint initiative with the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) to develop “benchmarks” for professional development for K–12 history teachers, bringing together a small focus group of teachers and higher education faculty to think about how students learn historical methods. These were requested by the Department of Education staff responsible for implementing the Teaching American History grants and will, we hope, be useful in their evaluation of proposals and funded projects. Another collaborative effort with the OAH and the NCSS to gather comprehensive information on the status of precollegiate history education in the United States has been completed (see the summary report in the May 2003 issue of Perspectives).

Another way in which the American Historical Association carries out its mission of promoting historical scholarship is to pursue special projects aimed at nurturing a new areas of research or technology. For its “Crossing Borders” initiative, the AHA received a third grant from the Ford Foundation in 2002 to support a research conference and seminar for community college faculty. In partnership with Columbia University Press and with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we were able to hold the fourth competition—this time focused on U. S. history up to 1900—for the Gutenberg-e prizes. The prizes are offered to PhDs in history interested in publishing their doctoral dissertations online and the project has been an extraordinarily useful learning laboratory for exploring how the presentation of historical research can be enhanced by new technologies for doctoral dissertations.

Finally, let me point out that a strict adherence to the calendar year when compiling the annual reports (and the shifting of the annual meeting date from late December to the first week of the following January) meant that recent annual reports carried reports on meetings held more than 18 months before publication. To overcome this apparent anachronism, we are reporting this year on two annual meetings—those held in San Francisco in 2002 and Chicago in 2003. Future annual reports will include only the most recent annual meeting.

Arnita Jones is executive director of the AHA.