Publication Date

May 1, 2000

It is difficult to encompass in mere words and within the necessary brevity of an encomium in Perspectives, the many significant services performed on behalf of the historical profession by Page Putnam Miller, who is leaving the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History after more than 20 years of an exemplary career as executive director.

In a recent Perspectives column Robert Darnton affectionately and aptly referred to her as an “An argus-eyed reporter-lobbyist.” Page has certainly been a keen reporter, and kept a continual, close, and knowledgeable watch on the deliberations on Capitol Hill and in other corridors of power and reported with dedicated zeal any development that might affect the historical profession. Her regular NCC Update column in Perspectives and the Washington Update broadcast more frequently over the H-Net lists are succinct compendia of information about events, decisions, and discussions that may bear upon the professional lives of historians. But she has been more than an indefatigable reporter. As the citation for the Troyer Steele Anderson Prize awarded to her at the 2000 annual meeting of the AHA put it, she has also been “a superb advocate, enabling the Association, the discipline, and a large portion of the humanities community to speak with a unified voice on the myriad policy and funding issues that affect the ability of historians to continue to make contributions through history and research.”

Page works with some 53 consortium member groups to help them respond intelligently and effectively to federal initiatives, provides testimony at congressional hearings, and leads a great number of advocacy coalitions. The NCC has addressed a number of vital issues over the past years such as funding for the NEH; funding for and oversight of operations of the National Archives and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission; access to electronic records; historical preservation; declassification policy; and federal copyright and telecommunications policies. She has played a key role in enabling the profession to influence government policy, most significantly in the struggle to liberate the National Archives and Records Administration from the General Services Administration. As one of the scholars who nominated her for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Award of the Society for History in the Federal Government (which Page received in March 1999) wrote, "her work to make the National Archives and Records Administration an independent agency … struck a blow for access to federal records for historians and archivists." Another commented that her work on behalf of cultural resource management "has carved a larger place for historians in the shaping of policy and studying out of historical work." Page was also recognized for her efforts to ensure that historians in government service were put on par with anthropologists and other scholarly specialists.

Page has also played an important role in shaping the way the profession can use the legal system to protect its interests. She coordinated, for instance, the efforts of the AHA and other organizations such as Public Interest in the landmark case last year that ultimately secured the release of thousands of pages of the grand jury testimony in the investigation of Alger Hiss.

As her predecessor in the office of the NCC's executive director, and as a close friend, I can only marvel at what Page has been able to accomplish over the years from her one-person office (a thought echoed also by Stanley Katz, vice president of the AHA's Research Division, who has worked closely with Page). Her successors will find her example worthy of emulation but difficult to follow.

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