Executive Director's Report 2004
At the advanced age of 120 years the American Historical Association continues to be a sound and significant organization. With its membership numbers steady, its budget in the black, a stable and highly professional staff, a respected publications program, and a devoted core of officers and committee members who volunteer their efforts to improve the health of the discipline, the AHA has many assets.
The Association’s “new” constitution, now some 30 years old, provided for a clear focus—on scholarship, professional issues, and teaching—that continues to serve the discipline well. Among the oldest and largest of the discipline-based societies, with 115 affiliated societies, the American Historical Association plays an important leadership role among professional associations and learned societies in the field.
The three divisions of the Association have been active under the guidance of their able vice presidents. Their reports, which follow, will provide details of the programs, plans, and activities that the divisions undertook during 2004. I would like to draw particular attention, however, to the Professional Division’s energetic efforts that resulted in a new Statement of Standards of Professional Conduct; the Research Division’s pioneering attempts to transform the annual meeting’s scholarly apparatus; and the Teaching Division’s laudable role in ensuring the completion of the work of the Committee on the Master’s Degree.
The headquarters building at 400 A Street in Southeast Washington, D.C., just a couple of blocks away from the Library of Congress, in a rapidly appreciating real estate market, continues to be a major asset to the Association and is worth our efforts to maintain it. In January 2004 we began a long-planned and much needed interior painting project, which was completed with as little dislocation of staff and interruption of services as possible. It also fixed significant damage from water leaks.
Personnel changes have been relatively few. Carl Ashley, a new PhD from Catholic University, joined the staff in the position of web site content editor; Heather Pensack replaced Laura Dillon as executive office assistant; and Elizabeth Thomas became assistant controller. David Darlington was promoted to associate editor of Perspectives, Debbie Ann Doyle was promoted to administrative associate and convention assistant, and Miriam E. Hauss was promoted to marketing and development manager.
The AHA has renewed its agreement with the Library of Congress, which has housed the Association’s archives for many decades. We also engaged part-time professional help to assist us in preparing Association documents for eventual transfer to the library.
The AHA and the Internet
We began the year with a new domain name—historians.org—for our web site, and a new design that is intended to be more user friendly. The site content is being continually expanded with the addition of new features and new material. The noteworthy growth of the AHA web site has also meant that we had to find faster and more efficient ways of connecting to the Internet.
The audit report for the period of July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004 shows revenues of $3,237,252 and expenses of $3,148,777, leaving a modest surplus $88,475. The Association’s net assets for the period ending in June 2004 were down by $110,340—from $4,606,118 at the end of June 2003 to $4,495,778 at the end of June 2004. This decline was related largely to a drop of $203,120 in long-term investments during the same period.
The Association’s investments are overseen by a Council-appointed Board of Trustees, drawn mainly from among professionals at investment firms in New York City. With a view to maximizing the returns on the Association’s many investments, the trustees decided in December 2004 to move AHA investments to Lazard Investment Management.
In addition to its monthly newsmagazine Perspectives (available also online), the annual Directory of History Departments, Historical Organizations, and Historians, in 2004 the AHA also published History Education in the United States: A Survey of Teacher Certification and State-Based Standards and Assessment for Teachers and Students by Sarah Drake Brown and John J. Patrick and Thinking History by Peter N. Stearns. An electronic version of The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century by Thomas Bender, Philip N. Katz, and Colin Palmer, (originally published in print by University of Illinois Press) is now available on the AHA web site.
The American Historical Review
The American Historical Review is, of course, the flagship publication of the AHA, and continued to be one of the premier journals of the field (see page 13 for the editor’s report about the journal). A great deal of the credit for this must go to the editor, Michael Grossberg, who relinquishes the editorship in 2005 after having served two invaluable terms at the helm (1996–2005). The position of editor of the AHR is a difficult one to fill, given the need to combine the interests of both the AHA and of the history department at Indiana University, which provides part of two faculty positions as well as many other resources. I must, therefore, record the AHA’s special thanks to Roy Rosenzweig, vice president for research, who chaired the editor search committee and to Martha Howell, David Ransel, and Lynn Struve who also served on it. John Bodnar was creatively helpful as always and we thank him as well. I am happy to welcome Robert Schneider of Catholic University of America as the next editor of the AHR. He will take up his new position in Bloomington in summer 2005. In this context, I take particular pleasure in placing on record the deep gratitude of the AHA for the continuing and incalculable support that Indiana University has extended over several decades to the AHR and its staff.
The History Cooperative has served for several years now as an important vehicle for providing electronic access to the American Historical Review and a number of other scholarly journals in the field of history. This year we were able to expand the range of offerings presented in the Cooperative database by including conference proceedings. Proceedings from two AHA conferences—“Interactions: Regional Studies, Global Processes, and Historical Analysis” (2001) and “Seascapes, Littoral Cultures, and Trans-Oceanic Exchanges (2003)—supported by the Ford Foundation and co-sponsored with the Library of Congress are now available online at the History Cooperative. I should specially thank the University of Illinois Press for helping in many ways to ensure that the History Cooperative remains such a thriving intellectual enterprise on the Internet.
Attendance at the Seattle annual meeting (held January 6–9, 2005) was excellent, with 4,492 registrants. The meeting pre-registration was high and all but one hotel was sold out by the end of December 2004. We had engaged in intensive marketing efforts for the Seattle annual meeting, including securing an arrangement whereby teachers can receive continuing education credit for meeting attendance and a special registration for undergraduate and high school teachers who wish to bring up to five students to the meeting.
Special thanks go not only to the 2005 Program Committee, which developed a stimulating scholarly fare for the meeting, but also to an unusually active Local Arrangements Committee led by Maureen Nutting, and to Miriam Hauss for her marketing efforts targeting the Seattle meeting.
The Association actively supports the National Coalition for History (NCH), the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) and the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA).
The NHA’s annual Humanities Advocacy Day (March 15–16, 2004) generated more than 150 congressional visits. Subsequently 127 senators and representatives signed “Dear Colleague” letters in a successful effort to win a $3.5 million increase to the NEH budget. In November 2004 a new Congressional Humanities Caucus, led by Reps. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and David Price (D-N.C.), was announced.
During the past year the History Coalition has focused particularly on funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the “Teaching American History” initiative now funded at $120 million, and the appointment of a new Archivist of the United States.
Through COSSA and in other forums, the AHA has participated in conversations on human subject research, which increasingly affects oral history projects in higher education and other institutions.
The AHA has been involved also in advocating freer access to presidential records (signing on to an amicus brief in an ongoing case about the Presidential Records Act) and the promotion of freer scholarly exchange (by expressing concern over the denial of U.S. visas to 61 scholars from Cuba who had been invited to attend the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association in Las Vegas).
The report of the Committee on Graduate education was published in 2003 by University of Illinois Press as The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century and is now in its second printing. It has been the subject of much interest among doctoral departments, some of which have ordered copies for all faculty and begun to use its recommendations in their planning. The report also contained several specific recommendations for the American Historical Association, two of which we have begun to implement this year. The first is a web site providing basic information on doctoral programs and linking potential graduate students with departmental web sites. The second relates to the development of professional programming for directors of graduate study. The first of these was a workshop organized at the beginning of the AHA’s annual meeting in Seattle.
The Committee on the Master’s Degree in History has also completed its report. The AHA has also been awarded support from the Johnson Foundation for a Wingspread Conference on the master’s degree in history. We expect to bring stakeholders from different sectors of the profession where MAs in history are employed as well as those in involved in master’s level training together to discuss how MA training in history can be improved and what steps the AHA and others might take to make that happen.
The work of the Committee on Graduate Education and of the Committee on the Master’s Degree benefited enormously from the research and writing skills and the dedication of Philip Katz, who served as research director for both committees. He resigned in November to become director of public policy at the American Continuing Education Association.
The National History Center
I am especially happy to report that the National History Center (which had been formally launched in 2002) has made rapid and remarkable progress during 2004. The center inaugurated its scholarly activities with special sessions it sponsored at the 118th annual meeting in January 2004 and has several programs planned for 2005. It also made noteworthy progress in its attempts to raise funds. In December 2004, the Internal Revenue Service granted the center 501 (c) 3 status under the Internal Revenue Code. This will allow the center to financially separate from the American Historical Association on June 30, 2005. After that date, the National History Center can directly receive tax-deductible donations.
This project, launched in 1999 with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to encourage and facilitate the conversion of doctoral dissertations into electronic books, has been a fascinating effort to explore how historical research can shape and be shaped by new electronic technologies. We and our partners have learned a great deal from this project and are now exploring ways of continuing it after the Mellon Foundation’s support ends in its present form.
Conferences and Cooperative Efforts
Earlier this year the AHA was asked to become involved in a conference on “Race and Human Variation” sponsored by the American Anthropological Association. The conference, which was supported by the Ford Foundation, brought together scholars from the sciences and social sciences to develop and deepen understanding of the subject, leading to a future museum exhibit and other public programming which will be funded by the National Science Foundation. Historians Thomas C. Holt, Neil Foley, Gary Okihiro, and Evelyn Hu-Dehart were among the participants (see Noralee Frankel’s article in the December 2004 issue of Perspectives for a report about the conference).
The AHA was a co-sponsor (along with the Library of Congress) of an international conference on history textbooks. The meeting in June 2004 brought together U. S. scholars with those from India and Western Europe for a two-day exploration of the many issues and elements that shape the development of history texts.
For several years the AHA has been cooperating with the “Humanities Indicators” project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an effort to develop sound and reliable information about the health and status of humanities fields in the United States. A major breakthrough this year was the publication of a report entitled “Foundation Funding in the Humanities” in cooperation with the Foundation Center. An earlier report, “Making the Humanities Count: The Importance of Data,” had set forth the need to develop more comprehensive data on the state of the humanities.
In addition to the academy project, I continue to represent the AHA on various boards and advisory committees, including the Intellectual Property and Advocacy Committees of the National Humanities Alliance, the Policy Board of the National Coalition for History, the Board of the Center for Research Libraries, the Board of the Center for Arts and Culture, the Executive Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies, the Conference of Administrative Officers, and the Board and Budget Committee of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and serve as a delegate of the Friends of the German Historical Institute.
Whatever may be the accomplishments of the AHA, it is, above all, an association of its members. Our membership figures (14,176 on March 31, 2004) are reasonably good, although we always hope more historians will join the AHA.
I should take this opportunity to congratulate all our members who received honors during the year—not only those who received the grants, fellowships, and prizes offered by the AHA, but also the many who received awards from other organizations.
Finally, I would like to thank the officers of the Association, the staff, and the numerous volunteers who serve on the Association’s committees. It is only because of their unstinting help that we are able to run the AHA.
Arnita Jones is the executive director of the AHA.