History Cooperative Takes Off

Robert Townsend, May 2000

At a Washington, D.C., press conference, the American Historical Association announced a major new initiative to publish the American Historical Review online. The AHA will partner with the University of Illinois Press, the National Academy Press (NAP), and the Organization of American Historians (OAH) under the rubric of the History Cooperative.

Issues of the AHR and the Journal of American History are now available at the Cooperative's web site. To allow users time to familiarize themselves with the online journals, access to the site will be open until January 2001. Thereafter, access will be restricted to members and subscribers of the journals.

AHR editor Mike Grossberg described himself as a reluctant convert to online publishing, but added that he was confident the Cooperative would allow the AHR to "maintain the journal's mission and standards within this new medium."

Leaders of the four organizations described the project as a truly collaborative effort, to wed the best in historical research with the most sophisticated publishing technologies. According to Michael Jensen, director of publishing technologies at the NAP, "The Cooperative is built on a partnership model that we hope will become more prevalent for nonprofit scholarly publishing in this decade. Exploring that model with such respected partners was just too good an opportunity to miss."

The University of Illinois Press and the National Academy Press bring complementary skills and experience to the project. The University of Illinois Press provides the staff and management know-how required to oversee the day-to-day operation of this busy web site, while the National Academy Press contributes cutting-edge web tools and programming techniques developed as a leader in scholarly publishing.

The Cooperative will include the text from issues published in 1999, in addition to new issues as they are published. One of the biggest challenges for the Cooperative will be constructing sophisticated search tools that would allow users to search all the articles and book reviews and obtain meaningful results. Experts in the Cooperative will work with users to "identify what historians would like to see in a search tool."

The Cooperative unveiled the project at the OAH meeting at the end of March.

The leaders of the Cooperative also plan to invite other historical journals to join the Cooperative over the coming months and years.

—RBT