Publication Date

January 1, 1993

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

In the 1992 hiatus between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Washington had a more than ordinarily distrait atmosphere, since the Christmas shopping season coincided with the interregnum between administrations—or rather the Lame Duck days of an outgoing government. Headquarters staff had an eerie preview of the prevailing mood when two representatives went to call on a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget to lobby for enlarged National Archives and National Historical Publications and Records Commission appropriations just five days before the November 3 national election. There were very few OMB employees to be seen in the New Executive Office Building, and periodically tiny children in Halloween costume would wander through the offices!

On November 18, the Association's elected Committee on Committees held its annual marathon conference call to nominate individuals to fill thirty-nine vacancies occurring in our appointive committees plus over a dozen chairs of these committees. The discussions are always intense, as the committee members have spent hours going over their briefing books and pondering their choices. In addition to 39 first choices, an equal number of "back-up" candidates must be identified in the event that some of the primary choices turn out to be unavailable to serve. The AHA's appointive committees include four standing committees, twenty-four prize and fellowship committees, three joint committees with other organizations, four special and ad hoc committees, and ten delegates to as many organizations in which the AHA participates.

By the time this column is read by our members, the annual meeting in Washington will have come and gone. Members who came to the meeting are aware how much planning and hard work goes into mounting these large operations, not only by the staff but by friendly organizations in Washington. Local Arrangements Committees are always deserving of special gratitude, and Washington is particularly blessed with talented volunteers. We should also mention a handsome offer by the leadership of the National Archives to open its facilities specially on December 26 for any early arriving AHA participants in the annual meeting, even though we advised that such users would probably be too few to justify the expense.

The last of the AHA's divisional committees to hold its fall meeting was the Research Division, which met in Washington on November 14–15. Charged with oversight of all the AHA's many book prizes and of the "show-and-tell" portion of the annual meeting, the division always has a number of items of business on these topics. No less than six prizes required some action to clarify or amend their terms, and appropriate recommendations were adopted by the Research Division to go to the Council for approval. Concerning annual meetings, the Research Division agreed with the earlier Professional Division view that the requirement that those appearing on the program at annual meetings be AHA members should not be changed. It confirmed also the other division's recommendation to make our December 1992 meeting more accessible to History of Science Society members meeting concurrently nearby. A short list of possible program committee chairs for the 1996 meeting was also compiled, which will be refined over the next six months.

The Research Division then focused on reshaping two policy papers, which it is sending via the other two divisions to the Council. The first policy paper is an update on the general guidelines for establishing new prizes and their administration by the Association, while the other is a redraft of a twenty-year-old paper outlining in detail the areas of responsibility for the divisions.

Finally the division dealt with two important tasks delegated to it every year. It recommended to the Council the choice of a foreign honorary member to be announced in December, following a practice begun in 1885 with the conferral of that honor on Leopold von Ranke. It also made the difficult decisions on awarding Bernadotte Schmitt grants to ten of the eighty-three applicants for these small research grants for work on Eastern hemisphere topics (see page 12).

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