Annual Meeting

Of Special Interest to Public Historians

Debbie Ann Doyle | Dec 1, 2006

This article highlights sessions and events that will be of particular interest to public historians and colleagues wishing to learn more about the field. (Numbers in parentheses indicate AHA session numbers.)

As the AHA's public history coordinator, I would like to extend a special invitation to public historians and their academic colleagues to attend the open forum on public history to be held Saturday, January 6 at 11:30 a.m. in the Hilton's Jackson Room (119). The session offers a chance to speak with members of the Professional Division (PD) about implementing the recommendations of the AHA's Task Force on Public History (2001–05). The conversation will help set priorities for the future of public history in the Association. Those attending the session are encouraged to review the key recommendations of the Task Force on Public History.

On Saturday evening from 5:30–7 p.m. in the Hilton's Madison Room (p. 166), public historians and anyone with an interest in the field are invited to a reception co-hosted by the Professional Division, the Georgia Humanities Council, and the National Council on Public History for informal conversation with colleagues.

Concerned that public history remain central to the Association's mission? Stop by the open forum on the future of the AHA to share your views with members of the Working Group on the Future of the American Historical Association, which is considering how the Association can represent the diversity of its members' intellectual and practical needs as well as the needs of historians who do not currently belong to the AHA. The open forum will take place on Friday, January 5 from 12–1:30 p.m. in the Hilton's Forsythe Room.

Several of the eight 2007 presidential sessions focus on public history. "A Conversation about Historians in Public" (1) features a roundtable discussion of Ian R. Tyrrell's 2005 study of professional historians' interactions with the public through government, media, and the schools from 1890–1970. Representatives of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Japanese American National Museum, and the National Museum of American History will lead a roundtable on "Interpreting Race in American Museums" (166), while a panel of public and academic historians will discuss the complexities of "Practicing History, Contending with Controversy: Public Historians and Academic Historians on Our Work, Early Twenty-First Century" (195).

Members of the Local Arrangements Committee have put together a broad program of events designed to encourage historians attending the annual meeting to interact with the local public history community. An expanded slate of tours will introduce attendees to Atlanta's historic neighborhoods and offer them a chance to go behind the scenes at local institutions such as the new World of Coke museum, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, and the future Aviation Museum on the grounds of the Lockheed-Martin plant. On Saturday, January 6 at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, there will be a roundtable on "The Life Cycle of Presidential Libraries: From Processing to Declassification to Education." Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein will chair the session, which features historians employed in presidential libraries and in the academy. An orientation session, "Learning from Atlanta—Using the Site of the AHA Meeting to Explore History and Memory" will offer context for reading Atlanta's historic landscape. The Local Arrangements Committee has also arranged shuttle buses to help attendees take advantage of the discount admission being offered by the Atlanta History Center (free on presentation of an AHA badge) and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum (half price on presentation of an AHA badge).

Public historians interested in mentoring future colleagues are invited to volunteer to lead a discussion at the PD-sponsored session on "Interviewing in the Job Market in the Twenty-First Century," co-sponsored by the AHA Committee for Graduate Students and the Coordinating Council for Women in History (24). For the past several years, the PD has made an effort to ensure that the session reflects the diversity of the history job market. The division always welcomes volunteers who can offer advice about interviewing for jobs outside the academy. To educate high school, undergraduate, and beginning graduate students about the wide range of career paths open to professional historians, the PD will sponsor Careers in History: A Workshop for Aspiring Historians on Friday, January 5 from 12:30–2 p.m. Panelists employed in universities, government agencies, museums, and nonprofit organizations will lead an informal discussion on education and job opportunities in the field.

The Professional Division will sponsor a session on developing effective internship programs entitled "Making University and Museum Partnerships Work" (139) and a roundtable on "Planning for the Civil War Sesquicentennial" (196), which will focus on efforts by public historians, government agencies, and historians in the academy to ensure that commemorative activities in 2011–15 are informed by the latest historical research.

Other sessions of interest to public historians include "The Transformation of American History Museums" (19), "Challenges Facing Public and Academic Historians in Unsettled Times" (33), and "Community and Memory in Historic Site Research and Development: Emerging Methodologies" (63).

The AHA is committed to increasing the presence of public history at the annual meeting. We invite our colleagues to submit proposals for the 2008 annual meeting. Please visit for the call for proposals and access to the electronic submission system.

—Debbie Ann Doyle is the AHA's public history coordinator.

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