Executive Director's Report 2000

By Arnita A. Jones

The year 2000 was a good one for the Association, beginning with a very successful annual meeting in Chicago and closing with modest membership gains and a healthy budget surplus. In addition, we have been able to continue strengthening and enhancing our basic membership services and ongoing programs and to launch an important study of graduate education.

Financial Status

Last year was a very good year financially for the AHA. The "Statement of Activities" as reported by the auditors shows a change in net assets of $513,756. While $334,757 of this amount is due to gain on sales of securities or unrealized gains on investment, $178,999 is due to a surplus of revenues over expenses in our regular operations during the last budget year.

During the 1999–2000 budget year, the Association was able to complete the transition from a cash method to an accrual method of accounting, allowing our auditors to inform the Council that our financial statements for last year are in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. Previous audit statements have included the disclaimer that membership and subscription revenues were not deferred until earned as required by generally accepted accounting practices.

The transition to an accrual basis of accounting began several years ago. However, until last year the income from individual membership and institutional subscriptions continued to be reported on a cash basis. For the 1999–2000 budget year we were able to install new software that overcame this difficulty, allowing our auditors to calculate the amount of deferred membership and subscription revenue at both the start and the end of the year. In order to convert the membership dues income statement from a cash to an accrual basis, the auditors had to allocate (in addition to income received and earned in 1999–2000) all income earned in 1998–99 that should have been deferred because it had not been earned. They also had to defer all membership income received in 1999–2000 but not yet earned.

To avoid double counting the membership income received that should have been deferred had an accrual system been in place in 1998–99, the "Statement of Changes in Net Assets" found in the audit report shows an adjustment for overstatement of membership dues revenue and subscription revenue in prior years in the amount of $619,486. This reduction in our "unrestricted" net assets was largely offset by the $513,756 gain from operations and investments for 1999–2000. Our total net assets (including "Unrestricted," "Temporarily Restricted," and "Permanently Restricted" assets) increased by $169,825 as of the end of the 1999–2000 fiscal year, from $4,185,300 to $4,355,125.

The transition from one system of financial accounting to another makes it difficult to compare the current audit with those for previous years. But we now have this process behind us and can provide
members in the coming years with more accurate reports that can be compared more easily.

Washington Office

Our staff of 21 in the Washington office has been relatively stable during the last year. One of our most important assets is the many decades of cumulative experience of our staff in serving the needs of our members. Keeping experienced employees in a relatively high-salaried metropolitan area can be a challenge for a nonprofit association, but it is an important component of providing high-quality membership services. Our expanding publications program requires good copyediting as well as historical expertise, while the need to offer a full range of Internet-based services—membership renewal, annual meeting preregistration, or web-based publications—requires that we constantly have to devote resources to upgrading our information technology skills.

We continue to make progress in upgrading the AHA's double townhouse on Capitol Hill in Washington to a more modern work environment, repairing a leaking skylight and installing new windows during the past year. The building at 400 A Street, S.E., is an historic building in an ideal location well worth our continuing investment. Accordingly, we have developed a schedule of needed improvements and have now managed to bring our capital improvement set-aside fund to the Council's goal of $100,000.

Membership

As of the end of December 2000, the AHA membership totaled 17,657. Within this total are 14,369 individual members and 3,288 institutional subscriptions. For individuals this number represents a very small increase over previous years, with membership in the higher income range categories growing while numbers in the lower categories are decreasing. The number of student members has dropped from 3,543 in 1997 to 2,834 at the end of 2000. Institutional subscriptions continued a modest but worrisome steady decline over recent years. In 1997 we had 3,714 institutional subscriptions, compared with 3,288 in December 2000. The numbers for the Institutional Services Program have remained relatively steady, at about 600.

We gained 1,947 new members via the Association's web site during the last year, with such memberships clustered in the student and other low dues categories. The web site now also includes 8,058 members in our Online Membership Directory. Members are increasingly using the online member services option to update their addresses and/or membership records or to preregister for the annual meeting.

Publications

The Publications Department continues to work on several pamphlet series—Historical Perspectives on Technology, Society, and Culture in cooperation with one of our affiliates, the Society for the History of Technology; Women's and Gender History in Global Perspective in cooperation with the Committee on Women Historians; Essays on Global and Comparative History; and Teaching Diversity, in cooperation with the Committee on Minority Historians.

In 2001 we also look forward to the publication of two pamphlets that relate to serious professional concerns: "Becoming a Historian," by Melanie Gustafson, a revision of an earlier work and a new, completely revised pamphlet on "Careers for Students of History." This last publication is a joint effort of the AHA, the National Council on Public History, and the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina.

Perspectives continues to grow both in content and advertising revenue. This popular publication now includes regular columns on teaching, film and media, graduate education, public history, and other professional issues facing historians. Perspectives display advertising has more than doubled in the last five years and continues to grow substantially in the current fiscal year. Employment advertising in Perspectives has increased as well, with billings during the first four months of the fiscal year nearly equaling those for the entire 1999–2000 fiscal year. While we think this added revenue reflects a general satisfaction with the publication on the part of our membership, we hope and believe that it reflects a more robust employment market for the historical profession as well.

The History Cooperative will be more fully described in the report of Michael Grossberg, the editor of the American Historical Review. Washington office staff cooperate largely on technical issues relating to subscribers, as well as issues involved in connecting the online current issues now on the Cooperative web site with the JSTOR database, and with efforts to develop outside sources of funding for the Cooperative. We also believe that the History Cooperative can eventually become an important vehicle for disseminating other publications of the Association besides the Review.

Finally, we have redesigned and augmented two of our basic publications. We have included for the first time in the Directory of History Departments and Organizations basic information on those of our members who chose to be listed as well as members of history departments in higher education and other institutions in the United States and Canada. We worked hard at containing both the costs and physical size of the publication and urge members to advise us on whether they wish to have the individual membership information included with this annual publication on an ongoing basis.

A limited edition of the Annual Report was for years published on behalf of the AHA by the Smithsonian Institution, but the Smithsonian discontinued that publication several years ago. While components of the old Report were published separately in other Association publications—the annual meeting Program and Perspectives—they had not been brought together under one cover again until last year, when a special supplement to Perspectives was designed and distributed to all individual and institutional members. We also invite members' comments on providing the Annual Report in this format.

Representation and Advocacy

Much of the work of the AHA is done through its three divisions and several standing committees, all of which are described elsewhere. Other important membership services are provided through several coalitions in which we have regularly participated for many years. The National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (NCC), formed by the AHA, the Organization of American Historians (OAH), and several other organizations in 1976, now numbers 61 member organizations. It monitors federal records, educational, and cultural issues of interest to historians and archivists. This year the NCC underwent a significant transition in its leadership with the retirement of Page Putnam Miller, who had headed the effort for 20 years. After a national search, the NCC Policy Board named as her replacement Bruce Craig, who was a senior historian with the National Park Service and who holds a PhD in history from American University. Craig has continued the popular regular reports on federal issues that are directed through H-Net to large numbers of historians and archivists.

The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) is a coalition that includes humanities professional and library associations as well as independent and campus-based humanities institutes and organizations. It focuses its efforts primarily on support for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and intellectual property issues of interest to humanities groups. Last year for the first time NHA instituted Jefferson Day, an advocacy initiative on behalf of the NEH that resulted in visits by members of its constituent organizations to more than 80 congressional offices. This effort was also instrumental in raising the visibility of the NEH and other federal humanities programs on campuses throughout the nation, as members of NHA organizations worked with their campus government-relations offices in scheduling congressional visits.

Through the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) the AHA has been able to monitor a significant level of federal government activity in relation to the performance of Institutional Review Boards (IRB) that oversee the protection of human subjects in research. Since IRBs can have a significant impact on historians who use oral history as a part of their research methodology, Council member and former Oral History Association president Linda Shopes has taken the lead in representing AHA in discussions with several other COSSA groups on new rules promulgated by the new and upgraded Office of Human Research Protection. We are also carefully monitoring efforts by nonprofit and for-profit groups to develop standards for accreditation of IRBs.

The past year saw a significant shift in our long-standing efforts to cooperate with a number of other associations interested in the improvement of history teaching. Since 1984, when the AHA, the OAH, and the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) created the History Teaching Alliance, we have worked together on efforts to encourage college-school collaboratives, summer seminars, and other initiatives to revitalize history education. More recently these efforts have been melded together under the leadership of the National History Education Network, which was housed at Carnegie Mellon University and received substantial support there for several years. Supporting organizations of the network have reluctantly concluded, however, that the existing financial resources no longer can support a separate office. We are currently in the process of reorganizing the network to permit use of the existing endowment as a small grant program for projects that promise to carry out its basic goals. The first project funded under the new arrangement is likely to be a three-day seminar for teachers to be held in Washington in the summer of 2002 under the joint sponsorship of the AHA, the OAH, and the NCSS.

In addition to activities connected with the projects described above, I have represented the AHA at meetings of the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences committee relating to humanities databases, the Preparing Future Faculty project at Arizona State University, the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Oslo, the Association of American Universities/Association of Research Libraries conference to develop a set of "Principles for Emerging Systems of Scholarly Communication," a prize committee of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the District of Columbia Historians, the Society for History in the Federal Government, the Committee on the International Exchange of Scholars, the "Schools and Scholars" conference sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Imagining America—a conference on college/university and community partnerships, the first annual meeting of the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage, an annual meeting of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, and—closer to home—at advisory group meetings of the Sewall Belmont House located on Capitol Hill and George Mason University's new public history doctoral program.

Prizes

The Association received donations for two new prizes this year. The J. Russell Major Prize for the best work in French history—which will be awarded for the first time in 2001—was made possible by a generous donation from his widow, Blair Major. The John E. Fagg Prize for the best book in Latin American history will be supported by a bequest from the estate of Professor Fagg.

We have now completed our second Gutenberg-e Prizes competition in which we offer $20,000 to recent PhDs and independent scholars for transforming their dissertations into electronic monographs. Under the leadership of AHA Past President Robert Darnton and with the collaboration of Columbia University Press, we are learning a great deal about both the difficulties and great promise of exploiting electronic technology for scholarship in history. With generous supplemental support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Columbia University Press was able to convene two workshops for winners from the first competition.

Special Initiatives

Ad hoc projects are some of the most important work the AHA does. New this year is our special initiative on graduate education, which received generous funding from the Carnegie Corporation this past summer and which is overseen by a committee led by Colin Palmer of Princeton University and Thomas Bender of New York University. During the fall we advertised the search for a full-time research director and held a planning conference in Washington for the committee and other advisors. Philip Katz, formerly associate director of the New York Humanities Council, has been named research director. The offices of the project are located at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey.

The AHA has been working hard on another issue critical to the future health of the historical profession: part-time employment. With nine other discipline-based associations involved with the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, we participated in a survey to collect data on the nature and use of part-time faculty, their pay and benefits, and the numbers of classes they teach. The report, "Who Is Teaching in U.S. College Classrooms?" was released in November 2000. It received prominent attention in the Chronicle of Higher Education (including a follow-up listserve discussion) and in the publications of the participating disciplinary organizations.

The AHA also continues its collaboration with the Library of Congress, the Community College Humanities Association, and several area studies associations planning the March 2001 conference on "Interactions: Regional Studies, Global Processes, and Historical Analysis." We are also optimistic that we will receive supplemental funding for this project for a second summer seminar for community college faculty on the theme of "Empire."

In this, my second annual report as the executive director of the American Historical Association, I want to thank the staff at the Washington office, as well as a very supportive group of officers who have been more than willing to apply their energy and expertise to the Association's needs. Thanks should go also to American Historical Review editor Michael Grossberg and his staff at Bloomington, Indiana, and to the many AHA members who gave of their time to serve on committees and other efforts and to write for our publications.

Arnita A. Jones is executive director of the AHA.