Executive Director's Report 2006
I am pleased to report once again that the American Historical Association’s vital signs are healthy. The report of our auditors documents, for example, a surplus—though a modest one—in the operating budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006. But an Association such as ours cannot be judged by its financial well-being alone, important and encouraging as that is. I am happy to report, therefore, not only that we had a 4 percent growth in individual membership over this time last year (see Table 1) but also that we have been able to efficiently maintain the many services that we provide to our members while launching several new programs of relevance to the profession and continuing to defend the practice of history through proactive advocacy efforts.
Services to Members
The Annual Meeting: Preeminent among the many services the AHA provides to its members is the annual meeting. Under the capable stewardship of Sharon K. Tune, AHA’s assistant director for administration and convention director, the annual meeting—an unparalleled opportunity for historians from a variety of fields to meet and interact—has been growing, both in terms of scholarly attendance as well as the number and type of academic sessions. The total attendance at the 121st annual meeting held January 4–9, 2007, in Atlanta, was 4,722 (including more than 80 scholars from abroad). Registered participants could choose from the 319 sessions (223 from the AHA Program Committee and 96 from affiliated societies), 9 breakfasts, 10 luncheons, 43 receptions, and 65 meetings (annual, business, committee, etc.) that were on offer. They could also view the exhibits displayed by 98 companies in 150 exhibit booths.
In keeping with the Association’s goal to accommodate a greater diversity of sessions and formats, the 2007 AHA Program Committee increased the number of sessions. The printed Program too appeared in a larger format—as a letter-size book—to make the text more legible and to allow for the use of more graphic elements to facilitate quicker reference by users.
One important component of the annual meeting, especially for new recipients of PhDs and to PhD students on the verge of finishing, is the Job Register. The 2007 meeting was no exception. The interviewing facilities provided by the AHA were used by 194 search committees, who conducted more than 1,500 interviews in the designated interview suites and at the Job Register tables located in Salon II of the Marriott Marquis Ballroom. In addition, more than 70 search committees made their own arrangements (that is outside the auspices of the AHA) to conduct interviews.
The Divisions: The vice presidents of the three divisions of the Association report elsewhere about the various projects and programs that their divisions launched or sustained through 2006. Noteworthy among these are:
The Teaching Division’s revision of a major statement, “Liberal Learning and the History Major,” and the summer workshop the division held for directors of graduate study;
The Research Division’s project to bring together a wide range of scholars to discuss, in an Action Thematique setting, sites of encounters and cultural production. This project will focus on the real world transmission of academic research in K–16 schools and museums;
The Professional Division’s continued efforts to examine the complex issues relating to adjunct and contingent faculty, especially their role in teaching and their life and work.
Publications: The American Historical Review, our flagship journal, continues to be one of the leading forums for the dissemination of historical scholarship that cuts across narrow subdisciplinary boundaries. The editor of the journal reports at length elsewhere, but, as he points out, the five issues of 2006 contained one presidential address, 17 articles, 3 forums, and a new feature, the “AHR Conversation,” as well as 911 book reviews. During 2006, the Association launched negotiations with the University of Chicago Press to take over the production and distribution aspects of the journal (in its printed and electronic forms), as such an arrangement promises to confer substantial benefits, including better international circulation and marketing, as well as access to the expertise in the latest technologies of periodical production.
Perspectives, our newsmagazine, continues to thrive and grow, striking a useful balance between providing news and notices about the Association and serving as a forum for dissemination of new ideas about teaching or researching history, while also serving as the most important vehicle for job advertisements.
In 2006 we published—sometimes in collaboration with other organizations—nearly a dozen pamphlets in our popular series on women and gender, history and technology, and global and comparative history.
While we carefully nurture our print publications and also allow them to grow, the AHA has continued to take advantage of the evolving technologies of the Internet, continually enhancing the Association’s own offerings on the web site. The web pages dedicated to History Doctoral Programs have now been substantially overhauled and the pages mainly intended for graduate students have also been enriched with new content and features. In September 2006 we launched our blog, AHA Today. Carrying something of interest to the profession almost everyday, the blog is attracting an increasing number of visitors.
The Association is a member of, and works with, the National Coalition for History, the primary advocacy coalition for the history and archives communities. But the AHA itself is often called upon to directly intervene in specific cases or take up positions on public issues or otherwise become involved; and it does so, as such interventions are a crucial, if implicit, part of its mission to promote historical studies. Among the many such issues the Association took up in 2006 are: the case of Waskar Ari, a Bolivian scholar who had been denied a visa to re-enter the United States to take up a position at the University of Nebraska; the increasingly complicated intellectual property rights problem of “orphan works”; the issue of denial of visas to 55 Cuban scholars who had been scheduled to participate in a meeting of the Latin American Studies Association; the question of protecting the records of truth commissions in Guatemala and El Salvador; the issue of reclassification of records at the National Archives; and the case of the exclusive commercial deal between the Smithsonian Institution and Showtime Television, Inc.. The details of some of these efforts on behalf of individual historians—but over general principles—and about issues of significance to historians are available in reports published in Perspectives; while in some cases the AHA has been successful in securing resolution, some cases are, unfortunately still outstanding.
Coalitions and Collaborations
Apart from the National Coalition for History, the AHA is a member of many other coalitions in which too it plays an active role.
In 2006, the AHA played a key role in the national search process to find a replacement for Bruce Craig, director of the NCH, who relinquished his position after several years of illustrious service. He was succeeded by Leland White, who has more than 20 years experience in association advocacy work as well as advanced degrees in law and history.
As a member of the National Humanities Alliance, the AHA has been active in the cause of the humanities, most notably through participation in the National Humanities Advocacy Day. I also served on an NHA task force on open access and scholarly communication.
The AHA (represented by me and Robert Townsend) has been involved in a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to develop comparable information across disciplines about human resources in the humanities. We worked with the Modern Language Association, the American Political Science Association, and other groups to develop templates for gathering information that could be analyzed separately by the individual organizations but also for humanities fields in general by pooling information in a combined database.
Additionally, I have represented the AHA on the executive committees of the Conference of Administrative Officers of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Center for Research Libraries (the area studies collections of which are of particular interest to AHA members), and a subcommittee of CISH (the International Congress of Historical Sciences), which was charged with developing ways of opening up the program to a wider group of participants.
The National History Center
One of our major initiatives in recent years, the National History Center has continued to develop, complementing the work of the AHA in many ways, and accessing sources of funding not typically available to professional associations. The Center streamlined its administrative structures in 2006 and also arranged two seminars—on history education policy and on decolonization—and sponsored several sessions at the 2007 annual meeting that are expected to eventually result in anthologies of historiographic essays.
All the many activities of the Association are made possible only because of the hard work, enthusiasm, and professionalism of the staff of the headquarters office at Washington, D.C. Though numbering only about 20 at any given time, they each wear many hats to multitask as they implement the policies and programs envisioned by the Association’s Council and officers; and it is they who sustain the many services the AHA provides to its members. To them, and to the equally diligent and productive staff at the offices of the American Historical Review at Bloomington, Indiana, I offer my sincere thanks.