Publication Date

September 1, 1991

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

This issue of Perspectives is prepared during the “slack season” of summer, when many of our members are away from their usual posts, either vacationing or researching or both. For the Association headquarters, the slack season includes both a great deal of work and squeezing in some vacation time for the hard-working staff. In summer our books are closed on the prior fiscal year, and a professional auditing firm spends a couple of weeks going over our books—their report is printed in the annual meeting Program you will shortly receive. Summer also sees the Program Committee sending to headquarters staff the program sessions it has designed and the receipt of the program events from those affiliated societies’ meeting jointly with us in December. All two hundred-plus items and a rash of luncheons and receptions must be slotted into meeting rooms at the headquarters hotel in Chicago. The staff and Local Arrangements Committee chair spend agonizing hours on this, and then the final program is prepared for desktop publication.

In summer our publications staff goes into a rash of overtime work preparing the new edition of our Directory of History Departments and Organizations, the new edition of Grants, Fellowships, and Prizes of Interest to Historians, the annual list of doctoral dissertations in progress, and several of our regular teaching and professional pamphlets.

A certain amount of tidying up after the previous spring’s Council and division meetings must also take place. The spring Council meeting is reported on page 8, but we should take note here of the Professional Division’s mid-April meeting, which also came too late for the May issue.

Much of the Professional Division’s time was absorbed in considering cases, which have been referred to it under the AHA’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct. A number of informal cases were also considered and letters authorized to make suggestions or otherwise present the Division’s views. Most of these cases were concerned with questions of hiring or advertising of vacancies. Some Professional Division actions that required Council approval are reported in the article on the Council’s spring meeting. Two other Association committees also met in the late spring. On May 20 the Committee on Minority Historians convened for its first full meeting. This committee was originally envisaged as a joint body with the Organization of American Historians’ analogous committee, but the OAH decided it preferred to operate alone. The AHA’s committee includes member representatives from the African-American, Native American, and Latino communities. Its first meeting focused on projects involving minority faculty development and on mentoring for high-school age minority students to encourage them to pursue advanced studies in history. It also began work on the design of a possible pamphlet series about the profession and of a directory of minority historians.

The Membership Committee is also a representative one. It includes members from various types of academic institutions and public history organizations and from different parts of the country, and includes women and minority historians. Its June 1 meeting adopted plans to honor both fifty-year and twenty-year members, focused on impediments to developing habitual membership, and decided on ways of expediting data gathering on new members’ special interests. It approved redesigning the AHA membership card, and came up with suggestions for enlarging institutional memberships. It noted that the growing scope and utility of the AHA’s Directory of Departments could be further enhanced by tailoring solicitation of renewals closely to the fiscal year, especially for smaller institutions and two-year colleges. It asked the staff to look into cross-referencing the Directory list of history department faculty with membership rolls to provide a sharply focused recruitment tool.

Two important historical celebrations with pleasant social overtones took place in Washington during the summer at which Association staff were present. The White House scheduled the third in its series of presidential lectures on June 3. In this series, President Bush invites a distinguished historian to give a talk on a past president, in the East Room, to an audience of senior government officials and other guests. The first of these lectures a year ago featured David Donald on Abraham Lincoln, and last spring David McCullough spoke on Theodore Roosevelt. This time Robert Remini delivered a sparkling talk on Andrew Jackson, centering around his White House occupancy. As always, the lecture was followed by a pleasant reception for all hands. The Association’s representative suggested separately to both the President and Mrs. Bush that a good future event in the series could be designed around the first White House tenants, John and Abigail Adams, thereby heeding her injunction to him to “remember the ladies.”

Another almost equally pleasant occasion took place June 26 in the newly redecorated Library of Congress Jefferson Building. Librarian James Billington hosted a reception to celebrate the publication of Senator Robert Byrd’s second volume on the history of the Senate. These magnificent tomes are a reworking of a series of speeches to the Senate given by the Senator over the past several years on the history of the institution. Handsomely produced by the Government Printing Office and based on extensive scholarly research by the Senate Historical Office, the two volumes are a splendid bicentennial monument to the U.S. Senate early in its third century. Senator Byrd’s remarks on the occasion will appear in the October Perspectives and show what a powerful and dedicated member of the discipline he is.