Publication Date

May 1, 1991

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

In a period of just over four weeks all three of the Association’s divisional committees as well as the Joint Committee on Historians and Archivists held their spring meetings in Washington. We will report them in chronological order.

The archivists and historians representing the Society of American Archivists, the Organization of American Historians, and the AHA convened on March 15–16. Much of their discussion focused on plans for an in-depth study of the proper role of history education in the training of archivists and of the balancing necessity for historians to be familiar with archival principles and practices. The newly appointed head of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, Gerald George, met with the joint committee to discuss NHPRC plans. Each member society represented on the committee reported on activities. A series of actions was developed in response to a report a British county archives has begun levying a substantial charge for access to be applied only to foreigners. Late developments on the legislative and judicial fronts were summarized regarding the ongoing effort to establish reasonable “fair use” principles for scholarly use of published and unpublished manuscripts.

The Teaching Division in its April 6 meeting, after reviewing several initiatives to establish a fitting memorial to its late, much-loved leader Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau, dealt with a number of subjects relating to prizes in the teaching area. It selected a winner of the Asher Award for 1991, to be announced at the annual meeting and perfected guidelines for the first awarding next year of the Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship award, deciding the order of consideration of mentor nominees from the graduate, undergraduate, and secondary school categories of teaching. Only one group will be eligible each year.

In the area of teaching publications, the Division discussed guidelines for pamphlet authors with regard to gender and ethnic diversity considerations, and will consider a first draft later in the year. It reviewed the Association’s current publications list and decided to remainder all historical pamphlets published before 1981. Consideration was also given to an OAH proposal for AHA participation in its Magazine of History and recommendations were prepared for the Council. The Teaching Division also reviewed its plans for sponsored teaching sessions at the 1991 and 1992 annual meetings.

Other subjects addressed by the Division included planning for a recruiting promotion later in the year of the newly authorized membership stressing special interests of K–12 teachers. It approved a revision of the 1982 AHA Guidelines for the Certification of Teachers of History, and recommended AHA participation in a Syracuse University project on the rewards system for faculty engaged in teaching, research, and public service. Two declaratory statements referred to the Division on the subject of the undeniable facticity of the Holocaust and on Columbus quincentenary observances were considered in detail and referred to the Council with certain recommended changes.

The Research Division met the two days following the Teaching Division session. The Research Division’s first day was taken up in reviewing 106 grant applications for the AHA’s small grants program funded by the Beveridge, Littleton-Griswold, and Kraus endowments. Twenty-two grants were awarded for a total of $11,000. The Division next turned to an equally difficult chore, deciding on a recommendation for honorary membership of a distinguished foreign historian who has been helpful to American scholars in his or her country. Recommendation of one historian annually has been authorized by the Council, and a name was chosen to be passed to the Council for approval.

A number of actions were taken, or recommended to the Council, concerning the twenty book prizes awarded by the AHA. Guidelines for the new Forkosch Prize in British history, to be activated in 1993, were approved; a sweeping modification of the Breasted Prize was decided on, plans for modifying the de Tocqueville Prize were approved; a change in the frequency of the Dunning Prize was discussed; and an offer to fund a new research award in Spanish history was reviewed.

The Research Division’s responsibilities for the annual meeting were the subject of several discussions. Its sponsored sessions at the next two meetings were discussed, possible changes in the guidelines for the Program Committees were debated, and a number of suggestions for chair of the January 1994 Program Committee were made.

AHR editor David Ransel’s recommendations for filling vacancies on the Review‘s Board of Editors were endorsed for submission to the Council.

A draft grant proposal for a major guide to Hispanic archival material in U.S. repositories was reviewed and endorsed. The Association’s lobbying activities on behalf of historical research interests were reviewed for the committee by Page Miller, as well as the AHA’s role in advocacy of continued federal statistical and information-gathering activities.

With respect to foreign scholars and scholarship, the Research Division endorsed the activity of the Conference Group on Central European History in supporting historical scholarship in reunited Germany. The Committee also welcomed the Joint Committee on Historians and Archivist’s plans to intervene in the British county archives’ plans to begin discriminatory and substantial entry fees on non-British researchers (see above). It also heard reports of a University of California, Berkeley library decision to impose severe restrictions on independent historical scholars and decided to pursue that issue with the Joint Committee.

The last divisional committee to meet this spring was the Professional Division, which convened in Washington on Monday, April 15, with a fully charged agenda. The Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct was involved in much of the Division’s activity. As an almost unique learned society code of conduct, in having enforcement procedures for review of complaints, its ultimate deterrent for potential offenders is publicity, and the question of when and how to wield this weapon against offenders was actively debated. Suggested amendments to the Standards to reinforce the ethical goals and imperatives of teaching were raised and deferred for further discussion at the next Committee session.

Many cases before the Professional Division were discussed. The Division was briefed on developments in several “old” cases and acted swiftly to resolve two newly raised cases. One voluminous case of alleged plagiarism had to be deferred until fall, since responses to material circulating to both parties in the complaint were not yet in hand.

The Division struggled anew with the thorny question of job advertising, attempting to establish practical parameters for wording EIB notices in Perspectives which would reconcile affirmative action goals with equal opportunity. While it made some progress, it is unlikely that the nation’s judiciary system will turn to us for a simple answer to an intractable problem.

The Division decided that we will publicize more effectively hotel facilities for child care at our annual meeting hotels, and voted against establishing a special retirees’ dues category in our membership structure. In the latter decision the Division found that the graduated dues structure allows emeriti/emeritae, whose income is reduced by retirement, to cut their membership dues accordingly.

Finally, the Division dealt with several problems of restrictive or discriminatory access to libraries and archives, resolving to urge the Council and staff to pursue them vigorously.