Publication Date

January 1, 1990

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

Meetings, meetings, meetings! As this issue goes in the mail to members, the annual meeting in San Francisco will be a week in the past, and a new decade (by popular if not mathematical reckoning) will be under way. Looking back on the last weeks of the old year, your headquarters staff saw a crowded schedule of large and small meetings, a number of which are the subject of the following paragraphs.

In early November the fall meeting of the Joint Committee of Historians and Archivists took place, bringing together in Washington representatives of the Society of American Archivists and the two largest historical bodies, the Organization of American Historians and the AHA. In addition to the usual activities reports from each of the three participant groups, the agenda included sessions with Patricia Battin, President of the Commission on Preservation and Access, John Fawcett, Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries, and Don W. Wilson, Archivist of the United States. The Committee pursued with the first guest the serious need for action on archival preservation and focused in the latter two meetings on its concerns about the need for more aggressive leadership by the National Archives and the fiscal constraints under which it now operates.

The Association staff participated in a press conference to launch the new book edited by Paul Gagnon and the Bradley Commission on History in Schools titled Historical Literacy (Macmillan $24.95). Notwithstanding the competition of Lech Walesa’s press conference down the hall at the National Press Club building, the reportorial interest was gratifying. Particularly interesting to the press was the upcoming second AHA-OAH Conference on History in the Schools chaired by Louis Harlan, concurrently president of the Southern, the OAH, and the AHA.

Also appearing in the same time frame as Historical Literacy is the report of the National Commission on the Social Studies (NCSS), of which the Association was also a sponsor and supporter. For more details on NCSS and on ordering the report please see page 1.

The AHA-OAH conference of eighteen representatives of the thirteen participating organizations active in the improvement of history teaching in the schools took place on November 18 in Washington. The principal function of this meeting was to improve and intensify communication within this network. Both sponsoring organizations came away with a number of proposals for new programs and a clearer sense of priorities in this area. Collaboration among the participating bodies is on the rise, and the enthusiasm for continuing these networking and planning meetings was strong. The group will focus at a spring meeting on teacher certification and student testing.

A somewhat different flavor permeated the hearing on November 16 of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Hazardous Materials! Deputy Archivist of the United States, Claudine J. Weiher, was on the hot seat before Subcommittee Chair Thomas A. Lukens, D-OH, over a contract the Archives had entered into with Philip Morris, the tobacco and foods conglomerate, for publicizing and celebrating the bicentenary of the Bill of Rights. Philip Morris Management Corporation is putting some $600,000 into the project, and members may have already seen the TV commercials implementing the agreement (see NCC News on page 8). Association staff who observed part of the hearing noted that the Archives had clearly wandered into the line of fire in the increasingly embittered fight between anti-smoking supporters and representatives of tobacco-growing areas. As the best friend (and sometimes severest critic) of the National Archives, the Association is concerned at possible erosion of legislative support of Archives funding that could result.

A brief listing of the many other meetings in November and early December will give an idea of the span of headquarters interests and attention: Annual meeting of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (President Louis Harlan and executive director); Association for Diplomatic Studies board meeting (executive director); National Humanities Alliance budget committee meeting, executive committee, and board (executive director); National History Day board of directors meeting (deputy executive director); History Teaching Alliance meeting of sponsoring organizations (executive director and deputy executive director); Ford Foundation annual Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellows’ Conference (executive director, deputy executive director, and assistant director for women and minorities); State Department’s annual meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, the Community College Humanities Association annual meeting, the Library of Congress Roundtable on the Columbian Quincentenary, and the advisory committee for the NASA History Office (all deputy executive director).

There seems to be no danger that AHA staff will be under-committed.

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