Presidential Sessions 2005

AHA Staff, November 2004

Presidential Sessions have become—from the 2003 meeting when they were introduced—a regular and popular feature of AHA annual meetings. These sessions, organized by the AHA president, are intended to devote special attention to broader historiographical issues while also addressing the relative absence of senior scholars at annual meetings. It is important to note that these sessions are in addition to the regular panels selected by the Program Committee. Explaining his selection of presidential sessions for the 2005 meeting, Jonathan Spence, the 2004 president, writes:

The idea of forming the January 2005 annual meeting of the AHA around the theme of archives and artifacts came together in my mind during April and May 2003, as I tried to digest the shattering news coming from Baghdad about the destruction and looting of countless rare objects and manuscripts from the National Museum of Iraq, and the National Library. Subsequent news that many of the objects believed lost or stolen had in fact been spirited away by curators and staff determined to preserve them attenuated the distress, but left many questions dangling in my mind. This meeting of the AHA will, I hope, enable us to focus our thoughts as historians on the availability of archival treasures that we sometimes take too much for granted.

The plenary session on Thursday evening, reflecting my own professional interests across more than 40 years, will concentrate on China, on its archives and its artifacts. The three speakers all have deep knowledge of China’s past, including governance and rebellion, religion, espionage and policing, and the curatorship of priceless art within a museum setting. The Friday morning presidential panel will shift the focus to problems of theft of rare archival materials, and the conflicts over provenance and legality that arise when the documentation of the past intersects with the market place. On Friday afternoon, the presidential panel, in the form of a roundtable discussion, will look at the many levels of reality that lie behind the apparently simple phrase "missionary archives," as the range of scholars ponder the contributions and some of the difficulties provided by these collections to their own studies of China and India, the Pacific region, and studies of gender.

The Saturday morning presidential session will examine a very different set of themes under the general rubric of "Cartoons, Gardens, and Lost Art," and will use a primary focus on Japan to explore the many meanings of cultural artifacts along with the ideologies of art history and film. Finally, in the fifth session, a group of scholars will reflect on some of the earliest artifacts we possess, the cuneiform materials of the Ancient Near East and Mesopotamia, and in taking us back to our beginnings, they will round off what we hope will be an invigoratingly intersecting set of sessions.

The session numbers indicated below refer to the session numbers as listed in the annual meeting Program.

Thursday, January 6: 8:00–10:00 p.m.

Plenary Session: Storing China’s Past: Archives, Artifacts, and Art

Sheraton, Grand Ballroom C

  • Chair: Jonathan Spence (Yale University and AHA president)

  • Panel: Mimi Gates (Seattle Art Museum)
    Susan Naquin, Princeton University
    Frederic E. Wakeman Jr. (University of California at Berkeley)

Friday, January 7: 9:30–11:30 a.m.

Session # 2. Stolen Public Records: Challenges in Archival Theft, Institutional Acquisition, and Reacquisition

Sheraton, Grand Ballroom C

  • Chair: Bruce Craig (National Coalition for History)

  • Panel: Peter Blodgett (Huntington Library)
    Scott W. Petersen (Holland & Knight, LLC)
    Gary M. Stern (National Archives and Records Administration)

Friday, January 7, 2:30–4:30 p.m.

Session # 29. Unexpected Angles: The Potential and Challenges of Missionary Archives—A Roundtable

Sheraton, Grand Ballroom C

  • Chair: Jon Miller (University of Southern California)

  • Panel: Ryan Dunch (University of Alberta)
    Jane Samson (University of Alberta)
    Rhonda Semple (University of Northern British Columbia)
    Martha Lund Smalley (Yale University)

Saturday, January 8, 9:30–11:30 a.m.

Session # 58. Cartoons, Gardens, and Lost Art: The Historical Study of Cultural Artifacts

Sheraton, Grand Ballroom C

  • Chair: Robert Sayers (National Endowment for the Humanities)

  • Papers: From "Japonisants" to "Otaku": The Anime Subculture in Global and Historical Perspective
    Susan J. Napier (University of Texas at Austin

  • Unearthing Religion, Art, and Politics in the Japanese Garden
    Mark Lincicome (College of the Holy Cross)

  • "The Rape of Europe": Art History from Book to Film to Classroom
    Lynn H. Nicholas (Independent Scholar)
    Bonnie C. Cohen (Actual Films, Inc.)

  • Comment: Patricia Graham (University of Kansas)

Saturday, January 8: 2:30–4:30 p.m.

Session # 87. Mesopotamian Archives

Sheraton, Grand Ballroom C

  • Chair: Sarah C. Melville (Clarkson University)

  • Papers: Cuneiform Archives in Theory and Practice
    Steven Garfinkle (Western Washington University)

  • Cuneiform Archives in the Ancient Near East
    Daniel C. Snell (University of Oklahoma)

  • Comment: Benjamin R. Foster (Yale University)