Annual Meeting

Public History at the 118th Annual Meeting

Debbie Ann Doyle | Dec 1, 2003

Thanks to the Washington area's wealth of museums, archives, and libraries, there will be numerous sessions on public history at the 118th annual meeting. Public historians will participatein sessions at the meeting hotels and in museums around the city. Attendees will find a reason to venture out into the January weather to attend off-site sessions, open houses, and special tours of a variety of local institutions, most easily accessible via the Metro.

The AHA's Task Force on Public History (TFPH) will report on its discussions on how the AHA can better address the interests and concerns of public historians and outline its major ideas at an open forum on Saturday, January 10, 12:30–2 p.m. in the Marriott's Maryland Suite A. The task force invites all colleagues, including public and academic historians, to discuss the future of public history within the AHA. The TFPH, the National Museum of American History (NMAH), the National Council on Public History (NCPH), and the Society for History in the Federal Government (SHFG) invite public historians and anyone with an interest in public history to a reception in the Coolidge Room of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 5:30–7 p.m. on Saturday evening.

Off-site Sessions: Attendees will have the chance to discuss a major new exhibit at our best known history museum. On Friday, January 9, the task force and the National Museum of American History invite colleagues to an open forum on the topic, "Interpreting the Nation's History at the National Museum of American History" in the museum's Information Age Auditorium (1–3 p.m.). The forum, chaired by Director Brent D. Glass, will provide an opportunity for history professionals to comment on the museum's concept for a new permanent exhibit exploring the sweep of American history and the challenges of developing a national narrative.

A session, "The Material Culture of Nationalism at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History" (64) will take place in NMAH's Carmichael Auditorium on Friday, January 9, 3–5 p.m. (Session numbers are listed in parentheses below; for details about time and place, please consult the online annual meeting Program.) The museum will host a series of sessions on "Armed Forces Interactions with American Science and Technology: From the Revolution to the Twenty-First Century," in NMAH's Carmichael Auditorium. On Friday, sessions will focus on "Life Sciences and the Armed Forces" (31) and "Government Support for Military Technological Innovation" (32). A reception Friday afternoon, 4:30–6:30, cosponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Commission on Military History, will feature a tour of the exhibition West Point in the Making of America, 1802–1918. The series will continue on Saturday with sessions on "Military Influences on Science" (95) and "Scientific Influences on the Military" (125). On Saturday, January 10, the TFPH and the AHA Teaching Division will co-sponsor a session at the new local history museum, located near the Mt. Vernon Square/Convention Center Metro stop, entitled "The City Museum of Washington, D.C.: Serving and Creating Community" (124). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will hold a session, "Teaching the Holocaust for Secondary Teachers" in the museum's Classroom A, 2:30–4:30 p.m. on Friday, January 9. Meeting attendees will be able to visit the museum's permanent exhibit without a timed ticket. In addition, the Local Arrangements Committee has arranged special tours or events at a variety of local museums and historic sites, many tailored to fit the "War and Peace" theme. (See the "tours" list.)

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: A Roundtable" (34), a session sponsored by the Professional Division and the TFPH, will include presentations on finding a job in diverse settings.

Other sessions focusing on public history include a presidential session, "Presenting History to the Public: The National Park Service" (33); "Access to Federal Government Records after 9–11" (30); "Sounding Out American History: Recording and Documenting the Voices and Soundscapes of America's Past and Present" (22); a panel discussion on "State Budgets and the Crisis of Historical Infrastructure in the United States," co-sponsored by the Professional Division and the TFPH (67); "Bringing History to the Table: The Role of Historians in Contemporary Political Debate" (68), sponsored by the AHA's Research Division; and "September 11, 2001: Collection, Exhibition, and Education" (69), sponsored by the AHA's Teaching Division.

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 2005 annual meeting, which will focus on the theme of "Archives and Artifacts." Please visit our Web site at for more information and the complete call for proposals.

—Debbie Ann Doyle is AHA Administrative Associate & Convention Assistant. She staffs the AHA's Task Force on Public History. Debbie received her PhD from American University in August, 2003

Tags: Annual Meeting Public History


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