Publication Date

February 1, 1988

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

By the time members receive this issue, the 1987 annual meeting in Washington will be just a memory; a pleasant memory for those who attended, which creates feelings of relief and accomplishment for the headquarters staff. The Sheraton Washington and the Shoreham hotels, old haunts for annual meetings in Washington, outdid themselves in handling the very large crowds smoothly. We heard fewer than usual complaints about overheated or underheated, overcrowded or under-attended rooms and many satisfied comments.

Best of all were the figures on registration. The Washington meeting drew 4,005 registrants, a 56 percent increase from the prior Washington meeting in 1982 and the largest turnout since New York City in 1971, when our membership was substantially larger than today.

Members may be interested in the annual meeting figures for the past few years:

1976 Washington, DC 3632
1977 Dallas 2132
1978 San Francisco 2579
1979 New York 3208
1980 Washington, DC 2635
1981 Los Angeles 1800
1982 Washington, DC 2567
1983 San Francisco 2241
1984 Chicago 2702
1985 New York 3652
1986 Chicago 3077
1987 Washington, DC 4005

It is evident, even allowing for differences in relative popularity of the more frequent sites, that somewhere between 1982 and 1984 a steady decline in attendance at our annual meetings “bottomed out.” Total AHA membership figures seem to confirm the J-curve hypothesis also, having reached a low point in early 1984 at 11,533. Since then we have grown steadily to the present 13,169.

The final growth statistic that members might relish is the evidence of expansion in the job market, which understandably wanes and waxes in close relationship to annual meeting attendance and AHA membership totals. The Job Register is an ancient part of AHA annual meetings. Over the decades it has evolved from the old-style slave market of the 1950s to the modern, Equal Employment Opportunity-linked, interviewing facility of today. This year in Washington there were eighty-five institutions making use of Job Register interview facilities in connection with some 200 posted positions. That is a doubling since 1985 and a substantial increase even since the 1986 annual meeting. Similarly the number of positions advertised in the Employment Information section of Perspectives has been increasing steadily in the last two years. Comparable periods in academic year 1986–87 show a 9.6 percent increase in advertised positions over 1985–86, but for September 1987 through January 1988, the increase in positions is over 23 percent above the previous year.

To sum up happily, AHA membership, attendance at annual meetings, and the job market are all expanding, auguring well for the future of the profession.

Other activities in and around Washington before the annual meeting may also be of some interest. December 11 saw a meeting of the Oversight Committee of the History Teaching Alliance, attended by representatives of the three sponsoring organizations: the Organization of American Historians, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the AHA. The Alliance has not only made the transition from its Washington base in a corner of the AHA headquarters to more permanent and larger quarters at the University of Florida but is continuing to grow and to attract support from funding agencies and participating school districts and colleges.

The swearing-in ceremonies for the newly appointed Archivist of the United States, Don W. Wilson, are reported elsewhere in this issue (see p. 11).

The Association was represented at a special convocation of Georgetown University, which conferred an honorary degree on Dott. Giovanni Coria, prime minister of Italy. Headquarters also participated in meetings to advance the planning for scholarly activities to mark the bicentennial of the French Revolution.