Public History at the 119th Annual Meeting

Debbie Ann Doyle, December 2004

Given the "Archives and Artifacts" theme selected for the meeting, there will be numerous sessions at the 119th annual meeting that focus on questions of concern to public historians. This article highlights sessions and events that will be of most interest to public historians and to graduate students interested in learning more about employment opportunities in the field. (Numbers in parentheses indicate AHA session numbers or pages in the annual meeting Program.)

The AHA's Task Force on Public History (TFPH) completes its term of service in January 2005. Task force members and representatives of the Professional Division, Teaching Division, and Research Division invite all colleagues, including public and academic historians, to attend an open forum on Saturday, January 8, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Convention Center's Room 204 to discuss the future of public history within the AHA and develop strategies for continuing to address the interests and concerns of public historians. The TFPH, the American Association for State and Local History, the National Museum of American History, the National Council on Public History, and the Society for History in the Federal Government cordially invite public historians and anyone with an interest in public history to join them for informal conversation with colleagues at a reception in the Sheraton's East Ballroom B from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Saturday evening.

The task force has organized several sessions on issues of concern to public historians, including a session co-sponsored with the Society for History in the Federal Government on "Doing Research on the History of the Federal Government" (5); a session on "Collaborations in Public History: Pacific Northwest Historians Working Together to Present the Past," co-sponsored by the AHA Professional Division (59); a session on "Museums in the Twenty-First Century" (90), at which curators will discuss the implications of new media for museum exhibits; and "Historic Site as Prosthetic Memory" (116), a roundtable on the intersections between memory and history.

Graduate students wishing to learn more about careers in public history are encouraged to attend Friday's interviewing workshop, "Interviewing in the Job Market in the Twenty-First Century" (1), which will reflect the wide range of careers open to professional historians. Public historians are invited to volunteer to lead discussions on interviewing for positions in their field. The session is sponsored by the AHA Professional Division, the AHA Committee for Graduate Students, and the Coordinating Council for Women in History. "The Job Hunt 2005" (30), a session co-sponsored by the Professional Division, the Committee for Graduate Students, and the TFPH, will include presentations on finding employment in diverse settings. Those interested in learning more about graduate public history programs should attend the session on "Designing a Curriculum: Core Ideas for Creating and Maintaining a Public History Program" sponsored by the National Council on Public History.

The AHA's Local Arrangements Committee (LAC), which includes several local public historians, invites those attending the meeting to explore Seattle's historical, archival, and cultural resources. The LAC has organized several free or low-cost tours exploring the city's history.

AHA President Jonathan Spence has arranged a series of Presidential Sessions (p. 15) that address questions of archival preservation, access, and interpretation in various historical fields. Other sessions of particular relevance to public history include "Public Advocacy for Archives, Museums, and Documentary Editing" (26); "Secrecy and Access in the Archives: Washington, Moscow, and the Vatican" (60), sponsored by the AHA Research Division; "Legacies and Lessons from United States Cold War Archives" (69); "Subjects of History: Archives and Historical Consciousness" (101); "Presidential Libraries and Museums: Greater Access to Historical Information" (117); and "The Battlefield as Artifact: A ‘New' Gettysburg for the Twenty-First Century?" (142). The Coordinating Council for Women in History will sponsor two sessions on public history, "The Public Face of Pacific Northwest Women's History" and "Public History Committee Roundtable: U.S. Women's History and Material Culture—Emerging Trends, Promising Directions" .

The AHA is committed to increasing the presence of public history at the annual meeting. We invite our colleagues in public history to submit proposals for the 2006 annual meeting. Proposals on all historical topics are welcome and need not be directly related to the meeting theme, which will be "Nations, Nationalism, and National Histories." The Program Committee particularly welcomes sessions that take advantage of the innovative formats, such as workshops, poster sessions, and experimental sessions, being introduced in 2006. Please visit the 2006 annual meeting page for more information, the complete call for proposals, and access to the electronic submission system.

—Debbie Ann Doyle staffed the Task Force on Public History. As of January, her title will be administrative associate, public history coordinator, & convention assistant.